UL at Cincy Preview
Cincinnati, OH - After three different quarterbacks started for Cincinnati last year, coach Brian Kelly has enjoyed more stability with star senior Tony Pike in 2009.
Just as the unbeaten and fifth-ranked Bearcats look to establish themselves as serious national title contenders, though, they may again have to scramble for a new signal-caller.
Oddsmakers from online sports book SBGGLOBAL.com have made Cincinnati –17.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 69% of bets for this game have been placed on Cincinnati –17.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
Pike's status for Saturday's game against visiting Louisville is uncertain after he reinjured his non-throwing arm, but Cincinnati hopes whoever is under center can lead the program to its first 7-0 start in 55 years.
A backup before starter Dustin Grutza broke his leg early last season, Pike battled through a broken left forearm to lead the Bearcats (6-0, 2-0 Big East) to a conference title and an Orange Bowl berth. He has thrown 15 touchdowns with just three interceptions during the team's perfect start.
In Cincinnati's 34-17 win at then-No. 21 South Florida last Thursday, however, the plate implanted in his arm last year was dislodged. Pike had surgery to correct the problem Tuesday, but he's still expected to practice later in the week.
``It's going to depend on the next 48 hours,'' Kelly said. "He cannot go out there if he can't protect himself. We can't put him in a position where he can't feel comfortable in protecting himself. The last time (he had surgery), it took two weeks for us to feel he was ready to go. We're hoping that process is accelerated. That's why we're not going to rule him out for Saturday night now.''
Pike attempted to play through the injury, but struggled and was eventually replaced by Zach Collaros.
"When he came out (to start the third quarter), most people would not have," Kelly said. "He was in a lot of pain. It said a lot. I know it sent a message to our team that this guy is going to get out there no matter what happens."
Collaros went 4 for 7 for 72 yards and an interception but rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns, including a 75-yard run early in the second half. Either he or fellow sophomore Chazz Anderson would start if Pike can't go.
Anderson won both of his starts last season with Pike injured, going 37 for 55 for 397 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, adding two rushing touchdowns.
"Zach has a tendency to improvise a little bit more," Kelly said. "Chazz will stay a lot more to the (play's) progression. But Zach can make some big plays, where Chazz may not lend himself to it."
In addition to Pike, a staunch defense that is allowing 14.3 points per game has buoyed the Bearcats, who are off to their second 6-0 start in three years. The team hasn't won its first seven games since 1954.
That's not the most important thing on Cincinnati's minds. The Bearcats were No. 5 in the first BCS rankings, and they're hoping to run the table to have a shot at the BCS title game.
Louisville (2-4, 0-2) doesn't appear to be the biggest hurdle, especially considering that Cincinnati has won eight straight home games while the Cardinals have dropped six in a row on the road.
The Cardinals have dropped nine of 11 dating back to last year, including a 28-20 home defeat to Cincinnati - their second loss in 11 games versus the Bearcats.
A porous defense has been the major problem for Louisville, which has allowed 30 or more points in each of its losses. The Bearcats may be able to win without a big passing game, as the Cardinals have allowed more than 160 rushing yards in five consecutive games.
Connecticut running backs racked up 216 yards in Louisville's 38-25 loss on Saturday, meaning Cincinnati backs Jacob Ramsey and Isaiah Pead could be busier than usual.
The Cardinals were also derailed by four turnovers against the Huskies, including two interceptions from quarterback Adam Froman.
"We turned the ball over on our first three possessions of the second half," Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe said. "You can't do that against a good team, and you can't do that on the road."
Froman was otherwise solid, going 24 for 31 for 295 yards and a touchdown, and he appears to have solidified his grip on the starting role after taking over for Justin Burke earlier this season.
"Everyone wants to try to create a quarterback controversy. I've got a quarterback luxury," Kragthorpe said. "I wish I had two guys at every position that I felt as good about as I feel about Justin and Adam."
Louisville will hope its offense can be boosted by standout sophomore running back Victor Anderson, who has been slowed by a leg injury but is improving.
Posted: 10/20/09 4:38PM ET