CINCINNATI -- The black-and-white "Victory Bell" was rolled out of Cincinnati's trophy case this week and moved to the locker room, where it made some noise.
"I walk into the locker room every day and I ring the bell," quarterback Brendon Kay said.
The Bearcats (2-1) have heard that clang a lot over the years. On Saturday, they'll take it with them to nearby Oxford and try to beat rival the Miami RedHawks (0-2) for the eighth straight year. The winner keeps the bell, which has become virtually a fixture in Cincinnati's trophy case.
What was once a competitive series has become rather lopsided. And their latest meeting has all the makings of another one-sided game.
The RedHawks are playing their home opener after two miserable weeks on the road and a bye to regroup. They've lost at Marshall 52-14 and at Kentucky 41-7, with their option offense going nowhere.
The best thing going for them is that they've had one week off to regroup -- and tighten things up.
"We're going to emphasize the running game," coach Don Treadwell said. "We left a lot of yards on the field. Much of it was decision-making -- simple decisions on the reads we need to make."
The Bearcats won't bring many surprises. Sixth-year senior quarterback Brendon Kay gets his second straight start since Munchie Legaux tore knee ligaments, ending his season. Kay had been the starter before a shoulder injury limited him in camp and prevented him from practicing.
He completed 12 of 14 passes for 277 yards and four touchdowns, matching his career high, during a 66-9 win over Northwestern State last Saturday, his shoulder coming through it without major problem.
"It's good," Kay said. "I'm healthy."
Redshirt freshman Bennie Coney has been moved up to the backup spot, forced to get ready to go in case Kay's shoulder becomes a problem. He entered in the win over Northwestern State and completed all of his five passes for 60 yards and a touchdown.
Coach Tommy Tuberville will play him in Oxford regardless of the score.
"I don't want him to go two or three more weeks now and in a tough situation, we have to throw him into a game," Tuberville said. "He's good enough to play. He's good enough to run the offense."
Five things to watch in Oxford:
KAY'S SHOULDER GETS A TOUGHER TEST: The quarterback has to pay attention to the shoulder during practice, trying not to overdo it. Cincinnati has a bye week coming up, so there's a chance to get him healthier for American Athletic Conference play. "It sets up well," Kay said. "It gives you time to recuperate, time for me to rehab and stuff, to be at full-speed."
CONEY TIME: The redshirt freshman looked smooth in his collegiate debut against an overmatched defense. Tuberville would like to get him into the game early for a series, getting him used to the pace. He isn't telling Coney when he'll get into the game, forcing the freshman to be ready at any time. "When you do it that way -- I've done this before -- it really makes the quarterback focus," Tuberville said. "He's like, `This idiot's going to put me in soon, and I better know what the heck I'm doing."'
STOP THE OPTION: With 10,000-yard passer Zac Dysert gone, the RedHawks have switched to an option offense that relies on the run. The Bearcats seem to be in good shape to stop it with their 4-3 alignment. Plus, Tuberville is accustomed to coaching against option teams.
CAN THE `HAWKS KEEP IT CLOSE: Since Miami's 44-16 win in 2005, the Bearcats have won by scores of 24-10, 47-10, 45-20, 37-13, 45-3, 27-0 and 52-14. The RedHawks have flashy new helmets and uniforms, but will be hard-pressed to close the gap.
AND THAT RIVALRY: It's the most-played nonconference rivalry in college football. The first game was in 1888. Notre Dame and Michigan played for the first time in 1887. This will be the 118th game between them. Miami leads the series 59-51-7, but Cincinnati's seven-game winning streak is the longest in its history.
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