After losing its first game of the season, the University of Cincinnati football team looks to rebound against arguably the toughest opponent on its 2012 schedule — No. 16 Louisville.
The two teams will battle for the rights to the Keg of Nails Trophy, which UC has held the past four years. Cincinnati leads the all-time series 30-20-1. The 52nd meeting between Louisville and UC — the longest running rivalry in the Big East — has serious conference championships implications because both teams enter the game undefeated in conference play.
The Bearcats enter Friday’s game on the heels of a somewhat surprising 29-23 loss at the University of Toledo, a game UC lost despite not allowing a single offensive touchdown. UT compiled its 29 points on five field goals, an interception return touchdown and a 91-yard kickoff return from Bernard Reedy.
UC’s head coach Butch Jones believes playing on a short week could be the best situation for his team after the loss.
“The great thing is it’s a short week,” Jones said “It’s Louisville week, one of the best football teams we’ll face all year. It’s going to be a great challenge for us going into Papa John’s [Cardinal] Stadium. Great environment. National television. Sold out. You couldn’t ask for anything more, but they present so many challenges for you.”
Louisville is also coming into the came after a bit of a wake up call, having beaten South Florida by just two points, 27-25, last week.
Senior quarterback Teddy Bridegwater, who is quietly becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the country this season, leads the Cardinals.
Bridgewater has completed 138-188 passing attempts this season for a completion percentage of 73.4 percent, which is third highest in the nation, while compiling 1,694 yards and 11 touchdowns. His quarterback rating of 165.2 currently ranks 12th in the nation.
“Offensively, when you think of Louisville, you think of Teddy Bridgewater and he can manage their offense,” Jones said. “[He’s] extremely accurate [and] knows where he’s going with the football. Not only can he beat you throwing the football, but he can beat you running the football.”
Under Bridgewater’s guidance, the Louisville offense averages 32.4 points and 405.6 yards per game; however, the Cardinals rank behind UC — 34.6 points and 467.5 yards per contest — in both categories.
UC, which leads the Big East in rushing yards per game (225.7), must establish its running game early to take pressure off of Muchie Legaux, who threw two ugly interceptions against Toledo.
Legaux is coming off only his second loss as a starter — his first since UC’s 20-7 defeat to Rutgers last season when he filled in for the injured Zach Collaros.
Legaux and the Bearcats will also be playing in one of the most hostile environments Friday in front of 50,000 people.
“It’s an us against the world mentality,” Jones said. “I think the nature of the rivalry, being in a conference, the championship implication that it brings, the national stage, the great players. I think a lot of those things add to the rivalry.”
For UC, Friday’s game will come down to containing Bridgewater as much as possible and limiting the errors that cost the Bearcats the Toledo game.
Kick off is set for 8 p.m. at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Ky.