5 Keys to Cincinnati – South Florida, Big East Week 13 Predictions

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Conference realignment has sent Big East schools into a flurry over the past few days but at least for three hours tomorrow night we can focus on a football game as opposed to how much money TV execs are willing to pay universities to broadcast their amateur sports programs. This week the Bearcats host the South Florida Bulls for an intriguing Friday night matchup. The fact that they will be playing under the lights should swing the game in UC’s favor as they are damn near unbeatable in those conditions at Nippert Stadium.

Even if this one was being played at noon, the Bearcats would still be heavily favored in this game as they have a marked advantage on offense, defense, and within the coaching staff. After bringing in loads of talent each and every season, head coach Skip Holtz has found just about every possible way to lose including surrendering a 20-point halftime lead and losing in the last 3 seconds of the game. It’s really quite remarkable and I’m sure Skip could make millions hosting coaching seminars teaching how to not manage football games. And in about a month Skip might just have plenty of time on his hands to get started on that program.

Anyways, looking ahead to the immediate future the Bearcats continue to chase a 10-win football season which would be the fourth year in the last five that Cincinnati football has reached that mark. It would be a remarkable accomplishment for this program but in doing so UC needs to win out and it starts this Friday with South Florida. Five keys to getting this done:

1) Manage The Health Of Brendon Kay

The Cincinnati Bearcats are cursed. No matter the season UC is forced to deal with a quarterback injury at some point during the year. This time around Butch Jones has to gameplan around an injured Brendon Kay who was really starting to hit his stride until the Rutgers Scarlet Knights knocked him down to Earth last week. At the same time they also battered his non-throwing elbow to the point where he was even questionable to start this week. Since then he’s been upgraded to probable but it’s tough to say how his elbow will fare against live competition who are going to try their damnedest to knock him out of the game. This will be something to watch tomorrow night.

2) Throw It Until The QB’s Arm Falls Off

Brendon Kay will get the start against South Florida but there is a possibility Munchie Legaux might see some looks if #11 starts getting banged up. Regardless of who is leading the offense Cincinnati’s coaches should take note that the Bulls give up over 263 yards through the air per game (last in the Big East) and have only picked off opposing quarterbacks twice this year (also last). Only Temple is allowing opposing signal callers to pass for more yards per attempt and have a higher QB rating, and you saw how the Bearcats torched them earlier this season. The point is, South Florida is extremely vulnerable against the pass and should be exploited because of this.

3) Pray B.J. Daniels Doesn’t Have A Miraculous Recovery

Seriously. Over the course of his career B.J. Daniels has put up mediocre-at-best numbers as a college “quarterback”. I fully believe he is a fullback being tasked at passing the football for the Bulls but for whatever reason Daniels puts on his Aaron Rodgers pads and throws for a gazillion yards against UC. I’m not sure what Cincinnati did to him in a past life but it’s freaky how the USF QB just shreds the Bearcats whenever he plays them. As such it’s a blessing he will be firmly implanted on the sidelines Friday night. Even more importantly South Florida is down to its third string quarterback Matt Floyd. Even if Cincinnati’s defense doesn’t bring its A-game they should eat him alive.

4) Improve Against Stopping The Run Early

The Bearcats were gashed against Rutgers’ strong rushing attack last week to the tune of 234 yards. Much of that occurred on early downs which made it easy for the Scarlet Knights to convert on later downs. It’s clear Cincinnati’s defensive line is missing Derek Wolfe, John Hughes, and Walter Stewart but will have to make do. UC is talented up front but their lack of size and the grind of playing 10 games in a row is starting to take its toll. This week Cincinnati plays another run focused team. Over 50% of their running plays are made on 1st down so if the Bearcats can stuff the run on 1st down it will make put more pressure on the offense to convert on later downs. This will be especially true tomorrow night considering USF will be playing a backup’s backup against Cincinnati.

5) Finish Drives

No one can deny that Cincinnati’s offense is among the most dangerous in the Big East but they have had a problem scoring points. Essentially the Bearcats are leaving points on the field by making critical errors late in drives. That issue was especially noticeable last week when UC drove into Rutgers territory eight (8!!!!) times and came away with only a field goal. The other seven? 3 punts, 2 failed 4th down conversions, 1 interception, and a missed field goal. The Bearcats clearly moved the ball well but, man, no wonder they lost. This week it should be much easier for UC to move the football but it will be all for naught if they can’t put points on the board.

Big East Games – 2012 Record: 36 – 14 (72.0%)

Temple v. Syracuse: The wheels have fall off for the Owls as the grind of the Big East conference is taking its toll on the team. They’re well coached but have another difficult test this week in the Syracuse Orange who are riding high from a victory on the road at Missouri last week. It helps that the Owls have this one at home but I think the visiting team wins this one. Syracuse 45, Temple 13

Louisville v. UConn: There’s not a whole lot to say here. After being upset by Syracuse the Louisville Cardinals have had two weeks to stew over the loss and take their frustration of not being undefeated anymore the UConn Huskies. This could be a bloodbath. Louisville 48, UConn 12

Pittsburgh v. Rutgers: This has to be the game of the week. Both teams are playing very good football behind first year head coaches who are starting to hit their stride. The Scarlet Knights appear to be the most complete team in the Big East right now but I’m thinking the Panthers do just enough at home to pull off an upset. Pittsburgh 28, Rutgers 24