Week 14 - Cincinnati at Connecticut

Posted Nov 28, 2012

Week 14 Fearless Prediction - Cincinnati at Connecticut

Cincinnati (8-3) at Connecticut (5-6) Dec. 1, 3:30, ABC

Here's The Deal:Without any warning, Connecticut has started playing like a team that doesn't want its season to end on Dec. 1.

At the beginning of November, the Huskies were all but dead, losers of four straight in which they produced only 33 points. Yet, the program has captured back-to-back quality wins, by the Big East measuring stick, beating improved Pitt at Rentschler Field and Louisville at Papa John's Stadium this past Saturday in triple-overtime. Beating the Cardinals on the road was a very big deal for a program unaccustomed to signature moments since Paul Pasqualoni took over last year.

Cincinnati has been bowl-eligible for almost a month, yet continues to play well for head coach Butch Jones. The Bearcats are coming off a matter-of-fact blowout of South Florida, and still have a shot of winning a share of the Big East title. However, the BCS bowl representative will come from the Rutgers-Louisville winner, leaving Cincy with a less appealing destination, such as the Belk Bowl in Charlotte.

Why Cincinnati Might Win: Connecticut is going to have a very difficult time moving the ball on this Bearcats defense.

The league-worst Huskies attack struggle to move the ball on everyone. But now it must face Cincinnati after starting QB Chandler Whitmer had his bell rung a week ago, and suffered a possible concussion. The Bearcats continue to be stout on D, holding their last three opponents to exactly 10 points. They've allowed more than one touchdown pass twice all season, a credit to the play of cornerbacks Deven Drane and Camerron Cheatham. LB Greg Blair continues to be a tackling machine from the middle, amassing a Big East-best 115 stops.

Why Connecticut Might Win: Cincinnati has been good, but Connecticut will have the tougher defense on Saturday afternoon.

With few exceptions, the Huskies have been air-tight this fall. They lead the Big East in sacks and run defense, and allow only 18 points a game. Each level boasts an all-star candidate, from DE Trevardo Williams up front and Sio Moore and Yawin Smallwood at linebacker to corners Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Dwayne Gratz in the secondary. The Bearcats have made fewer mistakes since Brendon Kay supplanted Munchie Legaux under center, but fewer big plays as well. If Kay is unable to elongate the defense, it's going to allow the athletic linebackers and safeties to press up in order to shut down RB George Winn.

What To Watch Out For: In this type of a game, where every point is crucial, field goal kickers, and special teams in general, will play a prominent role in the outcome. Cincinnati PK Tony Miliano has hit 13-of-18 field goal attempts, but just 8-of-13 beyond 30 yards. Connecticut's Chad Christen has been spotty as well. He's just 14-of-21 on the season, though hasn't missed in four weeks. The weather will be cold and gusty, one more reason why the on-target kicker could wind up being the difference in a close, low-scoring game.

What Will Happen: Connecticut is in East Hartford, with something at stake. Cincinnati is 800 miles from HQ, with little to gain this weekend. The outcome will rest heavily on motivation.

The Huskies and the Bearcats will partake in a vintage, late-season Big East game, delivering more big hits than points. Neither team will gain much traction, relying on turnovers, special teams and field position. Connecticut will knuckle down on defense when it matters most, repeatedly keeping Cincinnati out of the end zone when it mounts a drive. At 6-6, the Huskies will be bowl-bound, helping take some heat off Pasqualoni.

CFN Prediction: Connecticut 23 … Cincinnati 17
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Cincinnati -5.5 O/U: 39
Must Watch Rating (5 – Crossfire Hurricane, 1 – Comic Book Men: 2