This week’s edition of Friday Night Lights has us in the Big East again with two contenders colliding at Papa John’s Stadium in the Bluegrass State, where Louisville will put its unbeaten record on the line against Cincinnati.
As of early this morning, most books were listing Louisville (7-0 straight up, 3-4 against the spread) as a 3 ½-point favorite with a total of 52 ½. Gamblers can take the Bearcats on the money line for a plus-145 payout (risk $100 to win $145).
Louisville is led by sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who has completed 73.4 percent of his passes for 1,694 yards with an 11/3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Senorise Perry and Jeremy Wright have combined to rush for 1,065 yards and 17 TDs.
Bridgewater spreads the wealth around, evidenced by nine players with nine receptions or more. His 11 scoring strikes have gone to eight different teammates. DeVante Parker has 16 catches for a team-high 337 yards.
Charlie Strong’s third team at U of L had to rally late in the fourth quarter to slip past South Florida 27-25 as a six-point home ‘chalk.’ Bridgewater was the catalyst, connecting on 21-of-25 passes for 256 yards and two TDs without an interception. He also ran 10 times for 74 yards.
USF trailed 21-10 before B.J. Daniels threw a pair of fourth-quarter TD passes to put the Bulls up 25-21 with 3:09 remaining. But Bridgewater answered with an 11-yard scoring strike to Eli Rogers with 1:35 left. The Bulls got to midfield on their final drive, but the Cardinals defense would not allow them into field-goal range.
U of L scores 32.4 points per game and gives up 21.2 PPG. The Cardinals are 2-2 ATS in their four home wins.
Cincinnati (5-1 SU, 3-2 ATS) won its first five games before losing a 29-23 decision at Toledo last week. The Bearcats went down at The Glass Bowl as 5 ½-point road favorites.
Cincy out-gained the Rockets 478-355 in the yardage department, but it couldn’t overcome a 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a 75-yard pick-six. Junior quarterback Munchie Legaux completed only 15-of-36 passes for 227 yards with one touchdown pass and two interceptions.
Legaux has had accuracy issues, completing only 53.5 percent of his passes. He has thrown for 1,435 yards with a 12/5 TD-INT ratio. He can also make plays with his legs, rushing for 264 yards and three TDs, averaging 6.0 yards per carry.
George Winn has not allowed the departure of Pead to hurt the Bearcats. Winn has rushed for 607 yards and four TDs, averaging 6.3 YPC.
Cincinnati will be without starting senior DE Walter Stewart, who is out indefinitely with an upper body injury. Also, CB Chris Williams is ‘questionable’ with a head injury.
Louisville starting senior LB Daniel Brown remains ‘out’ with a lower body injury.
Cincy has won four consecutive head-to-head meetings, covering the spread at a 3-1 clip. In last year’s encounter, Butch Jones’s team won by a 25-16 count but the Cardinals hooked up their backers as 13-point underdogs. Zach Collaros and Isaiah Pead led the Bearcats to the victory. Bridgewater completed 17-of-28 throws for 195 yards and one interception.
Totals have been an overall wash for both U of L and Cincy, going 3-3 and 2-2, respectively. The Cardinals have seen the ‘over’ go 2-1 in their home games, while the Bearcats have watched the ‘under’ connect in their lone road assignment last week.
The 52nd battle for the Keg of Nails is scheduled for an 8:00 p.m. Eastern kickoff on ESPN2.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
-- Air Force will play host to Nevada tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on the CBS Sports Network. The Wolf Pack has been installed as a 3 ½-point favorite with a total of 66 for ‘over/under’ wagers. The Falcons are plus-155 to win outright (risk $100 to win $155).
--Texas A&M opened as an 8 ½-point favorite at Auburn, but the line moved to double digits within five minutes. By Monday morning, the Aggies were 14-point ‘chalk’ for their trip to The Plains. As of early this morning, Kevin Sumlin’s squad was favored by 15.
--Alabama is an enormous 24-point home favorite Saturday vs. Mississippi St. The Bulldogs are 3-5 against the spread as double-digit underdogs during Dan Mullen’s four-year tenure.
--Auburn senior tight end Phillip Lutzenkirchen is out for the rest of the season due to a hip injury. Due to abysmal quarterback play, Lutzenkirchen hasn’t been a big factor this year but that’s not on him. He enjoyed an outstanding career and had seven touchdown receptions in 2011.
--Florida St. senior RB Chris Thompson is out for the rest of the season after suffering a torn ACL in the second quarter of a 33-20 win at Miami. Thompson rushed for 687 yards and five TDs this year, averaging 7.5 yards per carry.
--Missouri quarterback James Franklin is ‘doubtful’ Saturday vs. Kentucky due to a knee injury. The Tigers, who are still seeking their first SEC victory, are favored by 13 ½ at most spots.
--Maryland QB Perry Hills is out for the season with a torn ACL. He had an 8/7 TD-INT ratio.
Brian Edwards can be reached at email@example.com.
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