UCONN at Cincy Preview
Cincinnati, OH - For the third straight week, there's uncertainty about which quarterback will be under center for Cincinnati.
The fourth-ranked Bearcats also hope that for a ninth consecutive game, there isn't much doubt about the outcome.
Oddsmakers from online sports book SPORTSBETTING.com have made Cincinnati –16.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 68% of bets for this game have been placed on Cincinnati –16.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
Cincinnati will try to stay perfect in Saturday's prime-time affair while avenging last year's lopsided loss to Connecticut, which is still looking for its first victory since the death of cornerback Jasper Howard.
The Bearcats have prospered despite star quarterback Tony Pike reinjuring his forearm against South Florida on Oct. 15, with Zach Collaros stepping in and leading the team to easy victories over Louisville and Syracuse.
Collaros often used his scrambling ability to go 22 for 28 for 295 yards and four touchdowns on the road against the Orange last Saturday, leading Cincinnati (8-0, 4-0 Big East) to a 28-7 win.
"He's definitely a kid that understands what's going on out there," Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly said .
Considering Collaros has thrown seven touchdowns without an interception in two starts in place of Pike, the Bearcats have no reason to rush the return of their senior signal-caller, who led the team to the Orange Bowl last season and has thrown for multiple touchdowns in all six of his starts this year.
But Kelly said Pike would practice this week as he continues to heal after a plate and screws were replaced in his arm, which was broken last season.
"He's a lot closer than he was," Kelly said Monday. "It's hard to say. He's obviously got to feel comfortable in his own mind that he can be out there. We probably won't know for a couple of days."
While the spread no-huddle offense that is scoring nearly 40 points per game has gotten most of the attention and boosted Cincinnati's average margin of victory to almost four touchdowns, the team's defense has also been impressive. The Bearcats' last two opponents have combined for 17 points, and neither gained 300 total yards.
The combination has led to the program's best start since it began 9-0 in 1951 - a school record it can match with a win.
"It's an amazing feeling," linebacker J.K. Schaffer said. "We're right where we want to be."
Cincinnati needs to keep winning, however, not only to maintain its hopes of reaching the BCS title game, but also to keep an inside track for a second straight Big East championship. Pittsburgh is also 4-0 in conference play, and the teams don't meet until the regular-season finale Dec. 5.
Connecticut (4-4, 1-3) challenged the Panthers in Pittsburgh before losing 24-21 on a last-second field goal Oct. 10. That was another in a series of heartbreaking defeats for the Huskies, whose four losses have each come by four or fewer points.
Perhaps none was tougher to swallow than Saturday's 28-24 home loss to Rutgers, UConn's second by that score since Howard was stabbed to death in an on-campus incident Oct. 18. After the Huskies took a three-point lead with 38 seconds left, Rutgers scored the game-winning touchdown moments later on an 81-yard pass.
"Could we be (undefeated)? Yeah, but the reality of it is that we're 4-4," UConn coach Randy Edsall said. "And the reality of it is, we've got to understand how to finish these games off and make the plays at the end in order to win."
After facing the death of one of their teammates, the Huskies will now play the remainder of the season without starting quarterback Cody Endres, who injured his shoulder against Rutgers and will require surgery.
"If the pain continues to come I know no one on our team is going to give up or quit," running back Jordan Todman said. "There are some teams where they get broken down and they keep losing and losing thinking that maybe they'll get hot and not continue to fight, but our team's not like that. We're going to fight on the field, we're going to scratch and crawl."
Junior Zach Frazer replaced Endres on Saturday, going 21 for 46 for 333 yards and a touchdown and leading a fourth-quarter comeback, but he also threw three interceptions.
A 150-yard, two-touchdown performance by current Indianapolis Colts running back Donald Brown led UConn to a 40-16 win over Cincinnati Oct. 25, 2008. Pike returned from his initial arm injury in that game but only played the first half.
The Huskies have lost by double digits in all three of their previous visits to Nippert Stadium, where the Bearcats have won 10 straight and 20 of 22.
Posted: 11/3/09 3:55PM ET