LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (7-0, 2-0) vs. CINCINNATI BEARCATS (5-1, 1-0)
Game Time: 8 p.m.
Location: Papa John's Cardinal Stadium: Louisville, Ky
Announcers: Carter Blackburn (play-by-play), Rod Gilmore (analyst) and Jemele Hill (sideline).
Favorite: Louisville by 3.5
All-Time Series: Cincinnati leads 29-21-1
Last Meeting: Cincinnati won 25-16 at Paul Brown Stadium last season
Notable Cardinal Numbers in the Series
5: interceptions, tied for the most in a single-game 1989-present (1989)
5: second most touchdowns passes in a single game 1989-present (1998, 1990)
5: receiving touchdowns by Anthony Cummings, the most in school history (1990)
9: second highest number of touchdowns scored in a game 1989-present (2004)
12: number of games in which the winning team was victorious by a touchdown or less
15: receptions by Arnold Jackson, tied for the most in all-time school history (1999)
67: passing attempts; the most in a game 1989-present (1997)
70: most points scored by a single team in the series' history; U of L racked up 70 at home (2004)
80: yards of Bilal Powell's touchdown run in 2010, the longest in series history (2010)
98: offensive plays, the most in a single game 1989-present (1997)
136: yards rushing by T.J. Patterson (2001)
147: yards rushing by Calvin Price (1977)
154: punt return yards, the most in a single game from 1989-present (1997)
158: yards rushing by Eric Shelton (2004)
194: yards receiving by Deion Branch, tied for the fourth-most in all-time school history (2000)
209: Number of yards Bilal Powell rushed for in 2010's loss (2010)
357: second-highest total of rushing yards in a single game 1989-present (2004)
460: passing yards, the seventh-highest total in a single game 1989-present (1997)
742: total offensive yards, the most in a single game from 1989-present (1997)
About the Keg of Nails:
The Universities of Louisville and Cincinnati have a football rivalry that has stretched over the span of 3 conferences from the Missouri Valley Conference, to Conference USA, and more recently in the Big East Conference. It is believed to be the oldest rivalry for the University of Louisville football team and the second oldest for Cincinnati, only behind the annual game with the Miami RedHawks.
The trophy is a replica of a keg used to ship nails. The exchange is believed to have been initiated by fraternity chapters on the UC and UofL campuses, signifying that the winning players in the game were "tough as nails."
The present keg is actually a replacement for the original award, which was misplaced by Louisville, ironically lost during some construction of office facilities. It is adorned with the logos of both schools and the scores of the series games.
Respective Pregame Images:
Excitement Level: 9.5
I feel like I'm always more into this game than most people, but obviously this year's Battle for the Keg is on a different level. It's quite possibly the most significant game in series history, and unquestionably the biggest home game Louisville has played in six years. This is the first "too excited to sleep" event I've had since last March. I don't think I'm the only one.
Also, a friggin' keg of friggin' nails is at stake here. Even if you don't know the rules of football your interest should be piqued.
Pregame Meal: Chili, chips, turkey noodle soup (still not forgiven, Becker) and a dessert of some sort. Beer will be present.
Game Attire: Red Louisville Football shirt, white and red Cardinal bird hat, jeans, U of L tennis shoes, and...to-be-decided.
I'm planning on making one last trek out to Cardinal Authentic this morning to see if they have this white zip-up in a smaller size. If they don't, I'm thinking I'll have to go white polo (I'm more unhappy about it than you are) over long-sleeved shirt and then probably carry the red zip-up into the game. I have a sneaking suspicion that the White Out is not going to be on in full force, so if the situation demands it I will abandon the white polo and not think twice about it.
I haven't brought up the poncho yet, but you already know I'm excited about the potential. If I've finished eating and I feel it sprinkle for more than five straight minutes, then it's poncho-thirty and you're going to have to rip that thing off me if you want it to be quarter 'til unponcho. And good f'ing luck with that, because that thing is magical.
Bold Prediction: Someone besides Teddy Bridgewater attempts a pass for Louisville
I'm on tilt.
Don't make me elaborate, but I feel very strongly about this. And It's not just because I wanted to type Pooda in this space again. Although I just did and it felt amazing leaving my fingertips.
Titus Teague Playing Alert Level: Illuminating Emerald (Try and beat him to the sidelines on a kick return and see what happens)
--Cincinnati has won the last four games in this series. It's their first four-game winning streak in the series since 1987.
--Cincinnati is 13-10-1 (although U of L says 13-9-1) in games against the Cards in Louisville, but just 3-4 inside Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
--Entering the week, Cincinnati leads the Big East in rushing offense (225.7), total offense (467.5), scoring offense (24.7), punt returns (14.5) and sacks (3.0).
--The Bearcats rank No. 2 in the league in pass efficiency defense (111.90), scoring defense (16.8) and sacks allowed (0.8).
--Louisville is 10-11 all-time against Cincinnati in October.
--At 7-0, Louisville is one of just 11 remaining unbeaten teams in Division-I (FBS).
--Despite being the home team, Louisville will be wearing all white jerseys on Friday night. Cincinnati will be wearing black for the sixth time in seven games.
--The Cards are both 7-0 overall and 2-0 in the Big East for the first time since 2006, when they finished the season 12-1 and won the Orange Bowl.
--Louisville has a four-game home winning streak for the first time since their 20-game home winning streak was snapped by Syracuse in 2007.
--Through six games, Cincinnati is averaging 6.8 yards per play and 467.5 yards per game, both highs for Butch Jones coached teams. The Bearcats have topped 425 yards of total offense in each of the season's first six games..
--UC is one of only five NCAA AQ programs to have won 10 games in four of the past five seasons, joining Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon and Virginia Tech.
--Cincinnati players don't know how to properly handle the keg of nails.
--Louisville and Cincinnati have never met when both have held national rankings. That would have changed had the Bearcats not lost to Toledo last Saturday.
--Louisville has won its last five games by a total of 28 points.
--Louisville is 13-8 all-time in Friday night football games, but have lost four of their last five. Last season, the Cardinals defeated Rutgers on a Friday night in October.
--Louisville is 20-4 under head coach Charlie Strong when scoring 20 or more points.
--Dating back to 1980, Louisville is 132-14 when scoring 30 or more points in a game
--Cincinnati is outscoring its opponents 58-9 in the first quarter fo far this season, and 75-20 in the first half.
--Last year at the Cincinnati game, some UC fans made fun of my Art Carmody jersey during the first half. It's stayed with me in a dark, dark place for the past 376 days.
--Cincinnati has eclipsed the 425-yard mark on offense in all six of its games this season.
--This game will feature the two highest-scoring teams in the Big East, with UC averaging 34.7 points and Louisville 32.4. Defensively, the Bearcats have surrendered only 16.8 points per game compared with the Cardinals' 21.9.
--The Bearcats have gone three straight games without allowing a sack and have allowed just four all season.
--Cincinnati will be playing without star defensive end Walter Stewart, who is the Big East's active leader in career sacks.
--Louisville is outscoring opponents 54-27 in the first quarter and 133-76 in the first half.
--"I'm better. He'll see on Friday." --UC quarterback Munchie Legaux talking about Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater
--"I live the most boring life there is to live. It's all football and school. My nose is either in the playbook or a school book." --Teddy Bridgewater
--''They got some players that hate us and we got some players that hate them. Whatever happens, happens.'' --Brandon Dunn
--''It (the rivalry) feels bigger now because we're both undefeated in the conference. They've beaten us the last few times, so we're trying to get the win this time.'' --Preston Brown
--"They have beaten us the last four years, two of them in my tenure. We went in at halftime with the lead but some way they have found a way to win the game." --Charlie Strong
--"If they want to load the box and bring a safety in the box and challenge us and blitz us, we have to win on the perimeter. The other thing in your run game is that if you're able to break through the first level of defense, there is nobody at the second level." --UC head coach Butch Jones
--"We have to be able to run the football." --Charlie Strong
--"We're going to run, make no mistake about it. That's in our DNA." --UC coach Butch Jones
--"This offense is the same we've seen against (Florida International), Southern Miss, North Carolina, even last week. It's a spread offense, and it's about execution and staying in your gap. If you can do those type of things, you limit some big plays. If not? You allow the big plays." --Vance Bedford
--"Hopefully, they don't get those 15-16-yard gains and start getting 1s and 2s and negative yards. It sounds simple when you put it on paper. You say you've got that ‘A' gap, but when a lineman is trying to cut you or trying to get you out of that gap, you've got to maintain." --Preston Brown
--"They like to do a lot of stunts and blitzes. I'm aware of all of the pressure that they bring, but that's why we study film. We pick up tendencies of those guys. They're a good defensive team but we're ready for the challenge." --Munchie Legaux
--"It's gaps, gaps, gaps. We have to play tougher this week in worrying about our gaps. As a D-line we initially got into our gaps, but we ended up jumping out of them and it caused seams for USF. So now this week we're working harder on staying in our gaps basically so we can constrict their running lanes." --Lorenzo Mauldin
--"They are going to put the ball in the hands of our quarterback and say, ‘beat us.'" --Butch Jones
--"If I have to throw the ball, I'm OK with that. That's a part of my game. I like to throw the football. If they're going to put eight or nine people in the box and make me throw the football, that's OK. If they're going to make us run the ball, we're OK with that also." --Munchie Legaux
--"When you look at Teddy Bridgewater, you see a disciplined quarterback. He doesn't put himself in negative situations. I know their players really believe in him. He does some things that are really hard to defend and prepare for. I think he's an NFL-caliber quarterback." --Butch Jones
--"It's an us against the world mentality. I think the nature of the rivalry, being in a conference, the championship implication that it brings, the national stage, the great players. I think a lot of those things add to the rivalry." --Butch Jones
--"We know this is a big game for us this week. I told the team the other day this is only the third time in school history where we have been 7-0. We haven't been undefeated since I've been here. We haven't been in the conference race. We just talk about being a one-game season, and let's just continue to play. But this is a big game; it's a big game for the program." --Charlie Strong
CC Prediction: Louisville 38, Cincinnati 21
The team that takes the field tonight will be the one we've been waiting to see since the first half of the North Carolina game...I'm still a crazy ball of excitement and nerves. Biggest game of the Strong era and biggest home game in six years.