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Tuesday Lunch: Side story edition

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There are many intriguing matchups in this year's Keg of Nails contest. Can UC's pass rush contain freshman QB Teddy Bridgewater? Will the running game be able to establish itself against the Cards' 10th-ranked rush defense? Will the Cards' OC change stagnate their sluggish offense even more?

Eh, whatever, save those for another day.

Let's talk side stories. This game is full of them.

First off, we have a game where two of the more prominent recruits of the Cincinnati area in recent years -- both of whom spurned UC for Louisville -- return to play in the city for the first time since leaving.

The first is former Winton Woods QB Dominique Brown. Brown led the school to a state championship in 2009. He at one point committed to Cincinnati, but ended up heading to Louisville.

The sophomore enjoyed his first career start last week for the Cardinals at RB. He led the team with 18 carries for 47 yards and caught three passes for 33 yards.

Second, Brown's close friend Preston Brown, who was a standout at Northwest, also left the Cincinnati area for Louisville. He committed the same day Dominique declared his allegiance to the Cardinals. Brown enters Paul Brown Stadium starting at LB -- and Louisville's second-leading tackler.

Some UC fans who involve themselves in the recruiting madness felt slighted by the Browns jumping to the Cards. Then there was a player like LB Maalik Bomar.

Bomar played with Dominique at Winton Woods. They were teammates. When Preston Brown came to visit UC, Bomar was his personal recruiter. He showed him the ropes and welcomed him in.

Now, they play for an archrival and Bomar won't hold back his feelings. This one means a little extra.

"We got guys that left the home city and say they have a new city," Bomar said. "You are coming into my backyard? You are going to get what you deserve."


The evil genius that is Twitter, not shockingly, helped exacerbate the chatter.

"I have seen some of the comments our fans have said that Preston Brown shouldn't have left for playing time but should have come here, whatever," Bomar said. "Now (Preston) is saying he has haters, or whatever, it is comedy to see this. Kids talk so much instead of being about play. We'll see where it gets him Saturday."

Bomar said he is refraining from utilizing his Twitter, rather waiting for Saturday to talk. All of these comments came across more in good fun than any actual disdain. But his point came across clear enough Tuesday.

These situations aren't exclusive to Bomar or Brown or even this season. They are at the core of what great rivalries are all about. These are two teams recruiting the same turf and fighting to prove decisions right or wrong. On an annual basis.

No Bearcats hail from the Louisville area, but you better believe many of UC's players owned offers from both schools. The availability of recruiting information makes these cases much more visible than even five years ago. And when fans get involved, the decibel level rises.

But these types of battles are what keep the fire alive in Keg Of Nails as well as so many other rivalries across the game. (At least those that haven't been ruined by realignment).

This game holds extra importance. Believe that.

"Absolutely," Bomar said. "This is a program game. It means a lot to us."


--- The other prominent story
of Saturday's game will be the Bearcats' first of two trips to Paul Brown Stadium. Bill Koch posted a blog on it as it dominated the Tuesday conversation.

Playing Homecoming games off campus hardly represents the ideal situation, but such is the case right now with UC football.

The players love Nippert Stadium. They love playing home games there. Just ask them.

"(Paul Brown Stadium) is a great atmosphere; always cool to play at a place where pro players play and a lot of great players have played," Zach Collaros said. "I have said it before and I will say it again, we love Nippert Stadium -- especially people that have been here for a while. We never had the bubble or anything, so we practiced there, we condition there, we do everything there. There is something special to being able to play at Nippert. But we are going to take advantage of Paul Brown, that atmosphere will be great, especially for our defense."

The atmosphere was more than great last season when UC shoved 58,253 into the stadium for a game against Oklahoma. That attendance number represented more than three of the final four home games of the Bengals season. That also equals about 17k more than either of the first two games this season.

The magic number to warrant a game being played at PBS as opposed to Nippert is 45,000. That means UC would make more money off the move downtown. We'll see if this game delivers the same type of crowd. Regardless, it does present a recruiting chip few teams can tote into a living room.

All that matters to the top HS players are playing in the NFL. Playing college games in an NFL Stadium plays into that dream. 

"It does legitimize the program or however you want to say it," Butch Jones said. "It is critical. It is all about first impressions, if we want to continue to elevate the program we have to get players out to watch us play. For prospective student-athletes to know you have the opportunity and luxury to play in an NFL venue...it is a great selling point."

Maybe you can view games at PBS as the new-school of UC football and games as Nippert as the old-school left behind.

In the same respect that cramped practices inside The Nipp bring out the "nostalgia" of 2009, whereas the new world of Bearcats football come inside the bubble looming above Jefferson Ave.

The same argument made for the dependance of smartphones, Facebook and technology killing the social relationships and old-fashioned conversation could apply here.

Everyone can wish for the good-ole days and resist the Interwebbings and the iWorld, but they'll be left behind in the process.

You want to be a bigtime football program, you have to step into bigtime venues and bigtime atmospheres. That's the bottom line truth of college football in 2011. You can fight for the quaint alternative, but those don't compete in big business.



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