|College Football: Cincinnati at Syracuse Preview & Picks|
|Written by Anthony Rome|
|Saturday, 24 November 2007 07:00|
Though winning a Big East title is no longer possible, Cincinnati still has much to play for in its regular-season finale.
The 24th-ranked Bearcats look to record their most wins in a season since 1953 when they visit last-place Syracuse on Saturday.
Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Cincinnati –19 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 87% of bets for this game have been placed on Cincinnati -19 (View College Football bet percentages).
Cincinnati (8-3, 3-3) has been one of the Big East's most surprising teams, but it fell out of contention for a conference championship after last Saturday's 28-23 home loss to then-No. 5 West Virginia.
With its league title hopes over, Cincinnati can shift its focus to trying to win nine games for the first time since the 1953 team went 9-1.
"For everyone at the University of Cincinnati, this is an important week for us," said coach Brian Kelly, whose team is headed to a bowl for the second year in a row. "A nine-win season hasn't been done since the 1950s. It's a mark I know our seniors want to leave."
Reaching that feat is certainly possible as the Bearcats look for their third win in a row over Syracuse (2-9, 1-5), which will conclude its third straight losing season in what could be embattled coach Greg Robinson's final game.
"I don't talk about it and I don't think about it," said Robinson, who is 7-27 overall and 2-18 in the Big East in three years at Syracuse. "My thing is working with this football team. We have to play Cincinnati this weekend and that's a darn good football team."
After allowing 204 total yards in a 27-3 victory over then-No. 16 Connecticut on Nov. 10, Cincinnati gave up 435 yards - including 295 on the ground - to West Virginia.
The Bearcats didn't have an answer for Mountaineers quarterback Pat White, who rushed for 155 yards and two touchdowns.
"We can't go away from this disappointed," Kelly said. "This is a starting point for us. Our kids understand what's at stake, and from my perspective, keeping the attention on playing Syracuse."
The Bearcats' defense looks to bounce back against the Orange, whose 15.1 points per game are the second fewest in the nation behind Florida International's 12.0 a contest.
Cincinnati allows 17.4 points and is tied for third in the nation in turnover margin (plus-1.55).
Offensively, quarterback Ben Mauk looks for another strong game after going 19-for-34 for a season-high 323 yards and two touchdowns against West Virginia. In his first season since transferring from Wake Forest, Mauk has thrown for 2,356 yards and 23 touchdowns. He's thrown five TDs and no interceptions in his last two contests.
He'll likely be looking for redshirt freshman Marcus Barnett, who caught 10 passes for 210 yards - the fourth-highest total in school history - and two touchdowns against the Mountaineers.
"We have a lot of good wide receivers and I haven't thrown to Marcus a lot lately," Mauk said.
The duo could be in for another big day Saturday against a Syracuse defense which is among the worst in the country, allowing 461.9 yards per game.
Syracuse looks to avoid a fourth straight defeat after a 30-7 loss to then-No. 25 Connecticut last Saturday.
The Orange had 255 total yards, marking the third straight game they were held to fewer than 300. They've been outscored 91-34 since their last win, 20-12 over Buffalo on Oct. 20.
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