Cincinnati (7-2) at Rutgers (5-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 16, 12 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: High Point Solutions Stadium (52,454) -- Piscataway, New Jersey. Television: ESPN News. Home Record: Cincinnati 5-0, Rutgers 4-1. Away Record: Cincinnati 2-2, Rutgers 1-2. Neutral Record: Cincinnati 0-0, Rutgers 0-0. Conference Record: Cincinnati 4-1, Rutgers 2-2. Series Record: Rutgers leads, 9-8-1.
GAME NOTES: The Cincinnati Bearcats will try to keep pace at the top of the American Athletic Conference standings when they go up against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in a conference matchup at High Point Solutions Stadium.
Although they have not been in the Top 25 or grabbed national headlines this season, the Bearcats have quietly been putting together a strong campaign. With a 28-25 victory over SMU last weekend, its fourth straight win, Cincinnati improved to 7-2 overall and 4-1 in league play. The Bearcats are currently in a three-way tie for second in the AAC with Louisville and Houston, while the 7-2 mark matches the Cougars for the third best overall record in the league. This game begins a difficult three-game stretch to end the year for the Bearcats, who battle Houston and Louisville in their last two matchups.
Rutgers needed a miraculous finish to top Temple last time out. Gary Nova threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Leonte Carroo with 35 seconds to play to carry the Scarlet Knights into their bye week with a 23-20 triumph over the Owls. The win put an end to a two-game slide for the Scarlet Knights, who are 5-3 overall and hanging on in the AAC title race with a mark of 2-2.
Mark Harrison scored on a 71-yard pass from Nova for the only offensive touchdown of a 10-3 decision that went in favor of Rutgers last year. The win broke a tie in the all-time series, which the Scarlet Knights now lead, 9-8-1.
Cincinnati has enjoyed a solid season on the offensive side of the ball in its first year under head coach Tommy Tuberville. The Bearcats are fourth in the AAC in both scoring (33.3 ppg) and total offense (463.1 ypg).
Brendon Kay has been a steady force at quarterback for the Bearcats, who lost starter Munchie Legaux in the second week of the season to an injury. In his time as the starter, Kay has thrown for 2,006 yards and 16 touchdowns, while connected on 74.1 percent of his pass attempts. Kay has been intercepted seven times, but has avoided pressure well with just seven sacks. Kay threw for 299 yards, two TDs and two INTs in the win over SMU.
Anthony McClung (45 receptions, 559 yards, five TDs) is the most dangerous pass-catching threat on the team. McClung is tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns and he has had at least 95 yards in each of the last two games. Shaq Washington (58 receptions, 481 yards) has not scored this year but is the team's leader in receptions. Chris Moore (28 receptions, 360 yards, five TDs) and Max Morrison (23 receptions, 364 yards, three TDs) also work into the rotation.
A trio of backs have handled the rushing duties for the Bearcats. Injuries have been a reason for the shared load, but Hosey Williams (452 yards, four TDS), Ralph David Abernathy (396 yards, three TDs) and Tion Green (325 yards, seven TDs) all got work against the Mustangs. Williams was the leading rusher as he had 90 yards on 14 carries.
Cincinnati has long been an offensive force but this year the Bearcats have impressed on defense as well. The Bearcats are second to only Louisville among AAC teams in total defense (299.0 ypg). The front seven have been the key for Cincinnati led by linebackers Greg Blair (61 tackles) and Nick Temple (8.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks) as well as defensive linemen Silverberry Mouhon (5.5 sacks) and Jordan Stepp (5.0 sacks).
Rutgers has held its own on offense. The Scarlet Knights are averaging healthy total in points (30.9 ppg) and total yards (401.8 ypg) per game.
Nova is under center for the Scarlet Knights. He has not had as productive a year as his counterpart in this matchup but he has been solid. Nova has thrown for 1,882 yards and 17 touchdowns, though he has struggled with ball control (11 interceptions) and has completed less than 60 percent of his pass attempts. Nova had one of his best games of the year against Temple as he bounced back from a three-interception game to throw for a season-high 371 yards and three scores on 27-of-38 passing.
Carroo has been inconsistent, but when playing well he is one of the most lethal threats on the roster. Carroo leads the team in receptions (24), receiving yards (455) and touchdowns (nine) and is coming off a stellar game against Temple when he caught seven passes for 147 yards and two scores. However, Carroo had just 17 yards on three catches in the two previous games. Tyler Kroft (23 receptions, 340 yards, three TDS) and Brandon Coleman (22 receptions, 326 yards, two TDs) are also important.
The four games that leading rusher Paul James has missed have opened the door for Justin Goodwin, who has really taken a hold of the opportunity. Goodwin has rushed for 452 yards and four touchdowns this season despite having just 45 yards in the team's first four games. James has been upgraded to probable for this week's game, so it remains to be seen how much work either will get.
The strength for Rutgers in recent years has been on defense. This season the defensive side has been more of a weakness. The Scarlet Knights are letting up more than 400 yards of total offense per game, though they are tied for third in the AAC in sacks (22). Leading tackler Steve Longa (80 tackles, 3.0 sacks) has helped in the pass rush, while Marcus Thompson (4.5 sacks) is the leader in getting to the quarterback.
The Scarlet Knights are still a strong team, especially outside of the AAC's elite. Cincinnati is looking to prove that it belongs in that upper echelon and to do so the Bearcats need to win on the road. Cincinnati has yet to prove it can do so consistently and that works into Rutgers' favor.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Rutgers 28, Cincinnati 27
11/14 16:05:37 ET