Louisville Cardinals at Cincinnati Bearcats (+3.5, 51)
Cincinnati looks to keep its faint BCS bowl hopes alive Thursday when the No. 23 Bearcats host 16th-ranked Louisville, which has recorded back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time in school history. Cincinnati's hopes of receiving the American Athletic Conference’s automatic bowl berth hinges on a win over Louisville and having Southern Methodist defeat Central Florida on Saturday. If that happens, the league’s bid will go to whichever team between Cincinnati and Central Florida is ranked higher in the final BCS standings.
Louisville appears headed for the Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 28 after having its BCS dreams dashed with a 38-35 loss to Central Florida on Oct. 18. The Cardinals have won four straight since the disappointing loss, and are eager to maintain control of the Keg of Nails rivalry trophy. “We’ll walk into a sellout and a hostile environment,” Louisville coach Charlie Strong said. “We need to control their crowd with our defense. We can't allow them to get out and have a fast start."
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN.
WEATHER: Temperatures in the low 40s with a 59 percent chance of rain and winds blowing NNW crossfield at 7 mph.
LINE: Louisville opened -3.5 and has remained steady. The total opened as high as 51.5 and dropped to 51 points.
ABOUT LOUISVILLE (10-1, 6-1 American Athletic Conference, 4-7 ATS): Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has been named one of 10 finalists for the Manning Award after throwing for 3,268 yards and 25 touchdowns, with only three interceptions. Louisville's defense, ranked second in the country while allowing 242.5 yards per game, forced its 24th turnover in a 24-17 victory over Memphis on Nov. 23. The unit is led by linebacker Preston Brown (team-high 83 tackles) and defensive end Marcus Smith, who leads the Cardinals with 12.5 sacks.
ABOUT CINCINNATI (9-2, 6-1, 6-5 ATS): The Bearcats are bowl-eligible for the seventh time in eight years and carry a six-game winning streak into Thursday’s showdown. Quarterback Brendon Kay recorded his fourth 300-yard passing game of the season Nov. 23, when Cincinnati posted 573 yards of total offense in a 24-17 victory at Houston. Defensive end Silverberry Mouhon has 8.5 sacks and linebacker Nick Temple has 11.0 tackles for a loss to lead the Bearcats, who rank eighth nationally in total defense at 302.4 yards per game.
* Cardinals are 6-1 ATS in their last seven meetings in Cincinnati.
* Favorite is 11-5 ATS in their last 16 meetings.
* Cardinals are 1-4 ATS in their last five meetings.
* Road team is 7-1 ATS in their last eight meetings.
1. Louisville starting safety Calvin Pryor is expected to return Thursday after missing one game due to suspension for violating a team rule.
2. Cincinnati leads the series 30-22-1, but Louisville won last year’s contest 34-31 in overtime.
3. Louisville has outscored its opponents 82-6 in the first quarter.