West Virginia vs. Cincinnati Game Preview - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

West Virginia vs. Cincinnati Game Preview

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MORGANTOWN -

This Saturday, West Virginia will face the only undefeated team remaining in Big East play at Paul Brown Stadium against the Cincinnati Bearcats.  This could be either really good news or really bad news if you're WVU.  With a win, it would be a huge confidence boost to a team that has been struggling to get a win over a top 25 team and it will also keep a Big East Title and BCS bid alive for another week.  If they lose, it will all but kill any shot the Mountaineers have of returning to the BCS.

Last week, Louisville walked into Mountaineer Field and left with a stunning win against West Virginia in front of the home crowd.  The WVU defense once against struggled to keep the opposition off the scoreboard (the 3rd straight game where they have given up 30+ points) and in the end, it cost them the win, falling to the Cardinals, 38-35. 

No. 23 Cincinnati traveled to Pittsburgh to take on the Pitt Panthers last Saturday.  Although the game was closer than many anticipated, the Bearcats left with a thrilling three-point win, 26-23.

When you look at the Cincinnati defense this season, the West Virginia offense is probably salivating at the opportunity to get on the field this Saturday.  The Bearcats are ranked 89th in pass defense, while the Mountaineers are 7th in passing offense.  Quarterback Geno Smith only threw for 174 yards last season against Cincinnati, but he tossed four touchdown passes on the way to a 37-10 victory.

Even with these poor passing stats on defense, UC has done very well at forcing interceptions.  They are tied with four other teams forcing 13 picks, which ranks 9th best in the country.

"Those guys play with an extreme amount of effort," Geno Smith said.  "They have some really good players and some young guys trying to make a name for themselves.  That's always a plus for the defense to have guys out there playing their butts off, to create turnovers and get the ball back to their offense."

As bad as Cincinnati has been stopping the passing game, they have been exceptional this season stopping the run.  The only unit ranked higher than the Bearcats defense in total rushing yards allowed is the vaunted Alabama defense.  They even rank ahead of LSU, which is considered possibly the best defense in the nation.  UC is allowing just 33.8 yards on the ground per game and only 2.5 yards per carry.  But as many know, this may not be the worse thing for the Mountaineers this season since they rank 89th in rushing offense and like to put the ball in the air.

On the other side of the ball, the WVU defense is going to have their hands full.  One of the best quarterbacks and running backs in the Big East will be on the field for the Bearcats in Zach Collaros and Isaiah Pead.  The key for the Mountaineers is to slow down Pead and force Collaros to throw the football.

Pead is averaging over 100 yards per game and also has eight touchdowns this season.  Last year, West Virginia was able to take Pead out of the game and forced Collaros to put the ball in the air as he threw it 45 times.  WVU breezed to a huge 27 point win so if the Mountaineers are able to repeat this, they should find success.

Collaros has had a solid year, completing 63% of his passes, throwing 14 touchdowns but also tossing eight interceptions.

Head Coach Dana Holgorsen has stated this week that he will only be taking 50 players on the trip to Cincinnati.  He wants to take the guys he feels want to be there and are excited to play football.

"I think it's great," Offensive Tackle Donny Barclay said.  "We're going to take guys that want to win, have excitement and want to be great."

West Virginia is 15-3-1 all-time against Cincinnati and is 7-1 against the Bearcats on the road with the only loss coming two years ago at Nippert Stadium.  This will be the first year WVU plays them at Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Cincinnati Bengals.

The game will be aired regionally on ABC starting at noon Saturday and will also be shown on ESPN3.

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