For those who haven't been paying close enough attention this week, I don't condone it, but here is a helpful cheat sheet so you can be an informed fan heading into tonight's game at Louisville.
Where: Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, (turf, outdoors)
When: Friday, 8 p.m., ESPN/700WLW (Rod Gilmore/Carter Blackburn)
Forecast: Temperature in 40s, 50 percent chance of rain, increasing as game progresses, 10-15 mph wind
2012 records: Bearcats 5-1, 1-0 Big East, Cardinals 7-0, 2-0
Ranking: Louisville is ranked No. 14 in the AP/No. 16 in Coaches
Tickets: Louisville has announced the game as a sellout
What to wear: Louisville will be in a Whiteout, so black will be best. Team will be in black as well.
Past results: Last meeting was a 25-16 UC victory at Paul Brown Stadium last season. UC has won the Keg of Nails four straight times. The Bearcats lead the overall series 29-21-1.
The last meeting involved one of my favorite Isaiah Pead runs of all time. One cut. Gone.
Need to know: This game will define the Bearcats season.
Anybody who reads this blog knows I'm not one for shocking statements. I attempt to be calculated and logical. And all logic points to this game defining how far this team can go. Such is not to say UC's season would be over with a win or loss tonight. Not at all. But with Rutgers and Louisville the clear upper-echelon teams in the conference along with UC, the loser of this game relinquishes control. Beyond that, coming off the loss to Toledo this team needs to re-establish the momentum created during the 5-0 start to begin their charge through the Big East.
Sure, a win at home against Rutgers could be enough to share or even win the title, but this game sets the tone. This game determines the realistic stakes. A loss Friday wouldn't be insurmountable, but once all the dust settles on the season this game will be looked at as the turning point in one direction or the other.
Need to know stat: The Cardinals last five games have been decided by an average of 5.6 points. Only one of those opponents currently owns a winning record (North Carolina, 5-3).
Who to know: Louisville RB Senorise Perry. The Cardinals top rusher knows how to find the end zone and does so often. He's scored seven touchdowns in their last three games and pierced the goal line 10 times on the year. While QB Teddy Bridgewater receives much of the deserved recognition, Perry's compliment along with RB Jeremy Wright sets the stage for the the QB's efficiency. He's run for over 100 yards three times. He personally dismantled Pittsburgh taking four of 12 carries to the house.
Why did South Florida hang around and nearly knock off the Cards last week? They held Perry to just 29 yards on the ground.
Defining matchup: Munchie Legaux vs. himself. The Bearcats quarterback struggled at Toledo. Butch Jones called it a "step back." Legaux doesn't need to beat Louisville, he only needs to not beat the Bearcats. Completions must be more frequent, but incompletions can be overcome. Missed reads can be tolerated. Turnovers kill. He must avoid the interceptions and fumbles that flip momentum and find the one or two big plays per game that marked the five-game winning streak.
The best news regarding interceptions is Louisville only picked off three passes all season and once in the last four games.
Delving deeper: This game may be decided by halftime. Louisville made a habit of stomping opponents out early at home, while slow starts followed UC lately. With the game on ESPN and PJCS sold out, the adrenaline will surely be pumping. Avoiding an early tidal wave will be key.
Here are the halftime scores of Louisville home games this year:
USF -- 14-3
UNC -- 36-7
Missouri State -- 21-0
The last three UC games?
Toledo -- trailed 13-0 early in second quarter
Fordham -- led 14-6 at halftime, one offensive TD
Miami -- only led 24-14 in a game they eventually dominated 52-14
By the numbers: If you are looking for a mismatch, it lies in the running game.
Last three games for both teams:
Louisville defense: 126 rushes -- 514 yards, 4.1 yards per rush.
UC offense: 118 rushes -- 733 yards, 6.2 yards per rush.
If they met in the middle, theoretically, UC would have 41 rushes for 207 yards, 5.1 per. Pretty sure the Cats would take that.
By the numbers, Part II: Bridgewater ranks third nationally in completion percentage (73.4) and only missed on four of 25 passes last week against USF.
Quotent Quotables: Munchie Legaux's confident quote stating he was better than Teddy Bridgewater caused a stir on the Twitters and inside the Louisville locker room this week.
Looking ahead: UC returns home with a noon game against 3-4 Syracuse next week. But nobody connected to UC should be thinking about anything beyond Friday night.
Words from Butch Jones: Tommy G sat down with Butch Jones on Bearcats Football Weekly to discuss Friday's game and the state of the Bearcats. Here's the link.
Hype video: Here's what happened the last time UC trekked down I-71. Now with 50 percent more Tessitore!