The Bearcats are coming off their most impressive performance of the campaign, a 45-3 trouncing of rival Miami-Ohio this past weekend. It marked the first win over a FBS program this season for Cincinnati, which took down Indiana State for its only other victory. At just 2-3, the Bearcats obviously had a rough non-conference campaign, but they hope to turn things around in the Big East, where they are the defending champions.
The Cardinals meanwhile, showed they are a much improved team during their non-league schedule, winning three games and losing two by just seven points each. The team enters the tilt fresh off its most convincing win of the season, a 56-0 blanking of Memphis last weekend. It marked the first shutout for Louisville since a 62-0 triumph of Temple back in 2006.
In regard to the all-time series, Cincinnati holds a 27-21-1 lead over Louisville and that includes a 41-10 victory in last season's meeting.
The Bearcats had everything working for them this past weekend, throwing for 225 yards and rushing for an impressive 384 yards in a rout of Miami-Oh. Isaiah Pead had himself a game, rushing for 197 yards on 10 carries, including an 80-yard TD run. Pead, who missed most of two games because of a knee injury, rushed for 169 yards against Oklahoma in the team's prior game and he has really ignited the ground attack since his return. QB Zach Collaros can also be dangerous with his legs, but against Miami-OH, he used his arm to complete an efficient 14-of-17 tosses for 216 yards and three TDs. It was another strong performance for Collaros, who has converted 63.2 percent of his pass attempts, with 12 TDs against just one INT for the season. DJ Woods and Armon Binns provide Collaros with some nice weapons in the passing game and they have combined for 53 catches, 839 receiving yards and eight scores. Last weekend, Binns stole the spotlight, as he grabbed five balls for 115 yards and a pair of TDs.
On defense is where the Bearcats have had some issues, but last weekend the unit stepped up and held Miami-OH to just 269 total yards. The group was especially strong versus the run, limiting Miami-Oh to just 42 yards on 25 carries. Unfortunately, the pass defense wasn't nearly as stout, surrendering 227 yards. That has been the case all season long for the Bearcats, who are giving up 267.6 ypg through the air compared to just 84.8 ypg on the ground. Creating turnovers has also been in issue, as Cincinnati has logged just five takeaways thus far. JK Schaffer has been the unit's most consistent player and he leads the team with 49 stops, including four last weekend.
The Cardinals had their way with Memphis over the weekend, as they ran for 299 yards and threw for 275 more in a lopsided victory. Louisville averaged 10.2 yards per play, as the offense, which is managing 461.4 total ypg for the season, showed off its firepower. Bilal Powell led the charge with 204 yards and a pair of TDs on just 18 carries. It was an electric performance from Powell, who has now rushed for 689 yards and seven scores. He is averaging 7.6 yards per carry for a ground game that is churning out a healthy 218.9 ypg. Adam Froman also enjoyed his finest effort of the season last weekend, as he tossed four first-half TDs while finishing with 235 yards on 12-of-16 pass attempts. He had just five passing TDs through the first four games, so hopefully last weekend's performance will give him a boost heading into the Big East season.
Louisville posted its first shutout in four years, so obviously the defense was dominant in the win over Memphis last weekend. The Cardinals surrendered just 223 total yards and that includes only 39 rushing on 34 carries. It was certainly a nice improvement for the run defense, which has been abused at times and is permitting 147.6 ypg for the season. The Cardinals brought down the Memphis' QBs five times and the defense continues to shine in this area with 18 sacks for the season. Darius Ashley led the way with 6.5 tackles and his first two sacks of the campaign. Rodney Gnat got into the mix with a sack of his own and he has been the team's top pass rusher with 6.5 sacks on the campaign.
Both teams are coming off impressive performances, as each built up some confidence heading into Big East play. The Bearcats are a bit more potent on offense and their stout run defense should give the Cardinals all sorts of problems, so expect them to come away with the victory.