The Bearcats are 10.5-point favorites to beat the Zips Saturday at 3:30 at the Rubber Bowl.
The teams have only met four times before. The series is tied 2-2, but clearly Cincinnati has the advantage. In 2007, Cincinnati won the Papajohns.com Bowl and finished with 10 wins and a No. 17 ranking. Following the season, Cincinnati lost a long-winded battle against the NCAA to get quarterback Ben Mauk a final year of eligibility.
The Bearcats mauled Miami (Ohio) last week, 45-20, with a quarterback making his first career start. Tony Pike completed an audacious 20-of-24 passes for three touchdowns and no interceptions. They also stuffed Miami running back Thomas Merriweather for only 2.9 yards per carry.
The RedHawks were, however, able to pass a little against Cincinnati. Oklahoma also threw for 395 yards. Considering that Akron's strength is the running game, it will take a balanced attack to keep this game close.
Besides Pike, the players to watch on Cincinnati's offense are receivers Mardy Gilyard and Dominick Goodman. Both have averaged almost 100 yards per game. They each have three touchdowns this season, too.
Cincinnati's defense is just so-so at this point in the season. Defensive end Connor Barwin has tallied three sacks. Linebackers Ryan Manalac and Andre Revels lead the team in tackles.
The fact of the matter is, the Zips will need to score at least 35 to have a chance to win. Cincinnati runs a spread offense, which, in theory, the 3-3-5 scheme is designed to stop. Still, it would be naive to think Akron's defense is good enough to hold down the Bearcats just because the Zips had their way with Army.
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