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West Virginia vs Cincinnati
Big East Football Friday ESPN2
The Cincinnati Bearcats are coming into this game against West Virginia off
their closest win of the year. Cincinnati had to hold on for dear life in the
4th quarter to escape with a 47-45 victory over Connecticut. Up until that game
Cincinnati had looked nearly unbeatable, but that game exposed some real
concerns with their defense. They allowed UCONN to score 21 points in the 4th
quarter, and really had problems getting key stops. If they want to finish the
year off undefeated and earn a spot in a BCS bowl game they need to fix the
problems on defense because they have games with West Virginia and Pittsburgh
coming up and both of those teams are very good offensively. This West Virginia
offense led by RB Noel Devine has been putting up some solid numbers
offensively. They are 7-2 on the year and 3-1 in conference. With games against
Cincinnati and Pittsburgh still on the schedule they are still in the hunt for a
Big East title, and if they are able to pull the upset this Friday they will be
well on their way to accomplishing that goal.
Until the Connecticut game Cincinnati had looked very good defensively all year. UCONN was able to put up 462 yards of total offense against the Bearcats including 201 on the ground. That is not good news for the Bearcats, because arguably the best RB in the Big East is coming to town this Friday. RB Noel Devine suffered an injury in the 2nd half in last week's game against Louisville, but Coach Bill Stewart said he is optimistic that he will be ready for this game. He is the key to this game, so West Virginia needs him back badly. In West Virginia's last two games they have not looked very good and in those two games Devine has struggled.
In their 30-19 loss to South Florida Devine had 17 carries for just 42 yards
and in their 17-9 victory over Louisville Devine had 13 carries for 56 yards.
When Devine struggles this Mountaineer team struggles because it forces QB
Jarrett Brown to win the game with his arm, and when the running game isnít
working it makes it much more difficult for a QB to have success. The good news
for West Virginia is that Cincinnati had problems stopping Connecticut's running
game all night last week. UCONN RB Jordan Todman had had problems getting things
going till the Cincinnati game where he had 26 carries for 162 yards and 4 TD's.
This weekend the Bearcat defense has a much bigger challenge trying to stop
Devine. If he is able to have a big day it will open things up for QB Jarrett
Brown to have a big game, and it will give the Mountaineers a good chance for
THE FINAL VERDICT
Both Cincinnati and West Virginia have serious question marks coming into this game. For The Mountaineers both QB Jarrett Brown and RB Noel Devine suffered injuries in their last game against Louisville. Both are expected to return for this week's game, but if either of them aren't ready to go it will make this game that much more difficult especially if Devine isn't ready to go. On the opposite sideline Cincinnati is having its own problems, but theirs is a lot different then West Virginia's.
Coach Brian Kelly has to make a very difficult decision in who to play under center. QB Tony Pike was having an amazing season before he went down with an injury in the South Florida game. Through 6 games Pike had 15 TD's and just 3 INT's and was starting to make some noise in the Heisman race. Since he went down QB Zach Collaros has done a better job then anyone could of ever expected in replacing Pike. In the 2nd half against South Florida Collaros went 4/7 for 72 yards, but where he won the game was on the ground rushing the ball 10 times for 132 yards and 2 TD. In the next 3 games Collaros has averaged 343 yards passing and has thrown for 8 TD's. Coach Kelly has gone back and forth with his decision, but most recently he said that once Pike is 100% ready he would start, but this Friday Collaros is going to get the start, but it sounds like Pike will also get some snaps.
Both QB's are very capable of leading this team to victory, so no matter who is under center this Bearcat offense will not have any drop off with the production from the QB. Where Cincinnati will win this game is on the defensive side of the ball. When you got an offense like the Bearcat's your defense isnt asked to be dominant. They just need to be able to slow down the opponentís offense and give their offense every opportunity possible to get on the field. We expect Kelly to be dedicated to stopping Devine, because everyone knows this offense only goes as far as Devine takes it. We expect Devine to have some success, but we believe the Bearcat defense will do enough to slow him down, and that should be all this Cincinnati offense needs to get the victory.