DATE OF BALLGAME: Friday the 13th (the third this year)
VENUE: Nippert (game two of the three-game homestand)
BEHIND IN SEAT: 8 p.m.
THE SERIES: A lopsided 14-2-1 in favor of WVU
LAST TIME: A wacky 26-23 overtime thriller in favor of UC
According to Wikipedia: the fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia. However, Friday night will be a lucky one for either the UC Bearcats or West Virginia Mountaineers. If you want to go back in history, I'm not sure if UC has ever played on Friday the 13th seeing as they usually don't play on Friday.
I can tell you in recent history (which for this piece will be since 1990) UC's played ON the 13th of a month six times. They broke even.
Some are memorable games though....
October 13th, 1990: Tim Murphy's squad (which would struggle at 1-10) goes to Morgantown and only falls to West Virginia 28-20.
November 13th, 1993: Murph's men in their best year (8-3) go to the Astrodome and beat Houston 41-17.
November 13th, 1997: Rick Minter's best team loses at East Carolina in the rain on a Thursday night 14-7. The good news is shortly afterward, then-AD Bob Goin negotiated UC into the Humanitarian Bowl which they went onto win 35-19 to set the recent bowl activity into motion.
October 13th, 2001: UC wins at UAB 31-17 (also in the rain as I recall).
September 13th, 2003: UC shocks West Virginia in Morgantown in Chet Ervin's best game (three field goals).
October 13th, 2007: In Brian Kelly's first year, Louisville spoils the Bearcats 6-0 start with a 28-24 win at Nippert.
So, some games on the 13th have been good, some have been bad. This one, if it went bad would absolutely be a "horror movie".
As good as West Virginia is and as well as they've played against the Bearcats all these years, this year the match-up points toward the Bearcats. The Mountaineers are 7-2, but they've been "dinged up" as coaches like to say.
Looking at their last two games (a 30-19 loss at South Florida and Saturday's 17-9 win over Louisville in Morgantown) they've not been as impressive as past Mountaineer squads. Even last year, against a much better WVU team, UC was on the verge of a blow-out until the epic fourth quarter collapse that led to the eventual overtime win.
This is another sellout, but this is one that doesn't tilt toward the Mountaineers. In past seasons, the UC/West Virginia game would sell out thanks to the loyal WVU fans who would load up the truck and buy up nearly half the tickets. Finding out beer was sold here was an added extra.
Well, the beer's still here (us Cincinnatians work up a powerful thirst) but the stadium's full of UC fans now with just a smattering of the enterprising opposition sneaking in the cracks. This one's a "Ring of Red" game and should be rung up as another successful night.
UC's offense vs. WVU defense
At this point, I don't care if they start Tony Pike or Zach Collaros. (Collaros is supposed to, but that could change by the end of this sentence the way the week's gone). I think the Bearcats rack up yards and points with either one. For that matter, I think they'd still win if it was Chazz Anderson or Brendon Kay. I think the system is that sound. I think the key to a lot of it is a better running game with Isaiah Pead. (And, for the record, the student sign "You Got Pead On" last weekend was priceless). Pead is a 100-yard rusher on most teams and if Collaros is in, you've got something else to worry about. If Tony Pike plays as scheduled, WVU's secondary is suspect. He picked'em apart last year and he'll do it again. B.J. Daniels burned'em deep in Tampa for USF and the diminutive Will Stein of Louisville was also able to move the ball on them. On the defensive line, Chris Neild, Scooter Berry and Josh Taylor all were out against Louisville and when they're not in there's opportunity to run the ball against a smaller D-line. One to watch for though is Julian Miller who had three sacks vs. Louisville. And, Berry's supposed to be off suspension this week. BK has compared Miller and Berry to USF's Jean Pierre-Paul and George Selvie, but I think he's just being nice. The number to look at is 30. In WVU's two losses they gave up 30 and 41 points (USF and Auburn). I think UC's better than both of those teams and can easily rack up 30 points or more.
NOD: I'm a little curious as to when to correctly insert Tony Pike if Zach Collaros is having another All-American game. That could be awkward. Still, at home and in gear, I think UC scores over 30 and racks up another one.
WVU offense vs. UC defense
West Virginia still has awesome talent on offense. Jarrett Brown, Noel Devine, and Jock Sanders are weapons anyone would want. Brown is a dual threat and Devine is a 1,000-yard rusher. Having said that, they aren't Pat White and Steve Slaton. And, Devine went down vs. Louisville and Sanders had to pick up the slack on offense. The big thing here is how UC's defense responds to taking a second half beating against Connecticut. A similar thing happened in Morgantown last year when UC squandered a 20-7 lead in the final two minutes of the game. Pat McAfee's 52-yard field goal sent the game unnecessarily into OT and then a 27-yarder gave WVU it's only lead of the game in the overtime. Thankfully, college OT allows each team a possession (and UC won on the Pike to Alli TD). Brian Kelly was not happy with letting UConn back into the game and neither was defensive coordinator Bob Diaco. I would suspect a more intensified effort Friday night.
NOD: With Noel Devine, WVU's a potent offense. Without him, they're minus a weapon. With the uncertainty of everything, I'm sure WVU will move the ball regardless, but not as much over the goal line. Brown is good and elusive at QB, but not as much as B.J. Daniels who the Bearcats were able to eventually contain.
Jake Rogers is your Big East Special Teams Player of the Week for his four FG's against UConn. He also punted the ball fairly well (although I'm not a huge fan of the rugby kick). Also, Mardy Gilyard's returns were good even though he sometimes has some brain flatulence in the "fair catch or let it drop department". West Virginia knows that Gilyard torched them last year, so don't be shocked to see them kick away or kick to Darrin Williams (who also has "torchability"). BK also was very dissatisfied in UC allowing UConn return a punt for a score. For WVU, they've lost McAfee who was a pretty awesome kicker, but his replacements are pretty decent. Tyler Bitancurt is 8-9 on FG's and punter Scott Kozlowski averages 45.5 per boot. Tavon Austin is the big return threat.
NOD: WVU's kickers are solid, but Rogers has the "home post familiarity". Kicking to Gilyard or not, Darrin Williams and D.J. Woods are both capable of breaking big plays when the pigskin drops into their hands from the air.
Throw It Out And See Where It Sticks
I heard both Bill Stewart and Brian Kelly talk to the media this week. BK polished up his Stradivarius again and repeated the "Quarterback Song". Even though logic tells you who's playing each week, Kelly still seems to throw some doubt into the opposition. Then there's good ol' sincere Bill Stewart. He comes across as a guy you'd like to be sitting on the front porch with sipping some sweet tea. "Listening between the lines", to me it sounds like he's got an injured team. Try as he might to cover it up, he's almost too honest. (Mind you, I find that an admirable quality, but it doesn't always fly in FBS
competition.) Despite that, WVU still has enough athletes to give you a game each week. It's just that I can't say this is one of the stronger Mountaineer teams. The fact that the Bearcats haven't beaten West Virginia much historically is also a factor. This is another chance for UC to make a nationwide statement (this time on the Friday night platform). In my opinion, they fell a little short of that vs. UConn with the late defensive collapse. They can make amends to the BCS watchers with a convincing win here.