Thursday Night Football: South Florida at Cincinnati
by Matt Severance - 10/29/2008
It's a short week for both South Florida (6-2, 1-2 Big East) and Cincinnati (5-2, 1-1) heading into Thursday night's game in the Queen City, and perhaps having only a few days off is a good thing for both teams' short-term memories.
That's because both lost conference games Saturday, with Cincinnati committing six turnovers and falling, 40-16, to Connecticut (despite leading, 13-10, at the half), while USF had a late mental breakdown and lost, 24-20, at Louisville.
Yet thanks to the mediocrity of the Big East, neither club is out of the title race, and South Florida is a three-point favorite this week on Bodog.
Mainly because of injuries, the Bearcats offense has gone south: After averaging 37 points in its first three games, Cincinnati has been held to fewer than 20 in three of their last four games - yet is 3-1 in that stretch. And check out this stat: UC, which is -105 on the Bodog money line, has failed to convert its last 25 third-down attempts. That's almost hard to do.
QB Tony Pike, who was starting for the first time since breaking his left arm against Akron on Sept. 27, completed just 10-of-27 throws for 136 yards and one score against the Huskies, and he left the game with numbness in his hand. Redshirt freshman Chazz Anderson took over in the second half and was 9-of-20 for 123 yards and two interceptions. It also didn't help that the Bearcats only had 30 yards rushing.
Pike, incidentally, is expected to be a game-time decision, although Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly says he will make sure all the QBs on his roster are prepared to play.
"Given our circumstances at the quarterback position, I need to understand that maybe we need to get them all ready," Kelly said. "It can't be an excuse that we don't have a guy ready to play."
The Bulls, at No. 24 the only ranked team in the Big East, will be the first ranked opponent that UC (3-0 at home this year) has faced since a Sept. 5 loss at Oklahoma, but USF is battered.
Seven players left the Louisville game with injuries, including running backs Mike Ford and Jamar Taylor, leading to the Bulls' school-record low of eight yards rushing. Matt Grothe finished with 344 yards passing and two touchdowns, but he also had two costly interceptions and was sacked five times. Grothe has been sacked nine times total in USF's two losses (seven times in the six wins), and the Bulls are now 14-10 in Grothe's career when he throws an interception, 10-0 when he doesn't.
USF, -115 on the Bodog money line, had a whopping 14 penalties against Louisville, including defensive holding on a late missed Cardinals field goal that would have given the Bulls the ball back with 1:19 remaining.
The Bulls, who must win out and get help to capture the Big East title, have a two-game losing streak to the Bearcats, including a 38-33 loss in Tampa last season, and are 0-2 all-time at Nippert Stadium; UC also is 4-0 ATS in the past four meetings.
USF also hasn't fared well on Thursday night national television games, losing 26-21 to Pittsburgh this year and at Rutgers last year.
Bet on USF-Cincinnati at Bodog.