Surprising Bearcats

Louisville , KY - Cincinnati has cracked the Top 25 for the first time this season, thanks to back-to-back victories over ranked opponents, including a thrilling overtime win last weekend.

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To stay there, the Bearcats will need to defeat an old nemesis.

The 22nd-ranked Bearcats look to protect their ranking and continue their push for their first Big East title on Friday night when they visit Louisville hoping to snap a five-game losing streak against the Cardinals.

Oddsmakers from have Cincinnati –3 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Wednesday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 67% of bets for this game have been placed on Cincinnati -3 (View College Football bet percentages).

Cincinnati (7-2, 3-1) gave up the final 23 points in its 40-16 loss to Connecticut in its second conference game of the season Oct. 25, a finish that didn't seem to bode well for the Bearcats as they entered the toughest stretch of their schedule.

Cincinnati, though, has responded with consecutive wins over ranked Big East rivals, defeating then-No. 24 South Florida 24-10 on Oct. 30 before edging then-No. 20 West Virginia 26-23 in overtime Saturday.

Tony Pike, still recovering from surgery on his non-throwing arm, sealed the win with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Kazeem Alli.

"A lesser team would've folded under those circumstances," second-year Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly said. "It was just a great football game, one that we knew that we had to win if we wanted to talk about being a Big East contender."

The Bearcats are definitely contenders, having pulled into a three-way tie for first place in the conference with West Virginia and Pittsburgh.

"I think the thing that stands out, more than anything else, is Big East football is a battle, right to the very end," Kelly said.

The Bearcats can probably expect to be challenged again by the Cardinals (5-4, 1-3), who have struggled in recent weeks but have dominated their series with Cincinnati lately.

Louisville has won nine of the last 10 meetings between the former Conference USA rivals, including five straight - the longest win streak in the series for either team since Cincinnati won the first 12 meetings from 1929-1969.

The Cardinals have won their last two games against the Bearcats by a combined 10 points. Louisville outscored Cincinnati 14-3 down the stretch to upset the 15th-ranked Bearcats 28-24 in Cincinnati last Oct. 13.

To top a ranked Cincinnati team for the second consecutive season, however, the Cardinals will likely need to improve on their performances from the last two weeks. After defeating then-No. 14 South Florida on Oct. 25, Louisville fell to a rebuilding Syracuse team Nov. 1 before an ugly 41-7 loss to then-No. 25 Pittsburgh last Saturday.

"We're 5-4 and two weeks ago everybody loved us. Now, nobody loves us," Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe said. "That's the nature of this business and the nature of football."

Kragthorpe's team, which leads the Big East with 21 turnovers on the season, matched a season high with five last weekend, including a pass by Hunter Cantwell that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown.

Cantwell, who also had a lateral pass scooped up and returned for a score, was twice replaced by redshirt freshman Matt Simms in that game. Though there's speculation that Simms could take over as the Cardinals look to build for the future, Kragthorpe said Monday he's not giving up on this season or on Cantwell, who will start Friday.

"We have some long-term goals like going to a bowl game, but in order to do it we've got to take care of our short-term goals, and that starts against Cincinnati," Kragthorpe said.

"We're going to fight. I'm convinced we have a team of fighters. They're frustrated, but they're frustrated in a good way. I think they're fighting their butts off. ... I still feel good about this team. I feel good about our chances."

Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
LOUISVILLE is 9-4 against the spread versus CINCINNATI since 1992
LOUISVILLE is 10-3 straight up against CINCINNATI since 1992
3 of 6 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
LOUISVILLE is 1-1 against the spread versus CINCINNATI over the last 3 seasons 
LOUISVILLE is 2-0 straight up against CINCINNATI over the last 3 seasons 
2 of 2 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
All games played at LOUISVILLE since 1992
LOUISVILLE is 3-3 against the spread versus CINCINNATI since 1992
LOUISVILLE is 4-2 straight up against CINCINNATI since 1992
2 of 3 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games played at LOUISVILLE over the last 3 seasons.
CINCINNATI is 1-0 against the spread versus LOUISVILLE over the last 3 seasons 
LOUISVILLE is 1-0 straight up against CINCINNATI over the last 3 seasons 
1 of 1 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
Key Player Injuries
No significant injuries.
[RB] Brock Bolen left last game %27?%27 - Undisclosed - 11/02/08
[RB] George Stripling has been dismissed from the team. - Disciplinary - 0
[DE] Maurice Mitchell missed last game, %27?%27 - Foot - 11/06/08
[S] Richard Raglin is out indefinitely - Arm - 10/12/08
[WR] Jajuan Spillman has been dismissed from the team. - Disciplinary - 07
[WR] Scott Long is expected to miss the rest of the season - Knee - 10/29/
[OG] Mark Wetterer is probable. - Undisclosed - 11/05/08

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Posted: 11/11/08 3:18 PM

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