University of Cincinnati Bearcats must beat Louisville for chance to win BCS berth

CINCINNATI -- The biggest game of the University of Cincinnati football season is just hours away.

The Bearcats are set to take on the 16th-ranked University of Louisville Cardinals at Nippert Stadium Thursday (7:30 p.m., ESPN.)

The game is sold out with UC fans still hoping for a berth in a BCS bowl game.

However, not only do the Bearcats (9-2) have to beat UofL (10-1), they also need Southern Methodist to beat Central Florida this weekend. UC also needs to finish with a higher ranking than UCF in the final BCS standings.

The game is also the last at Nippert Stadium until 2015. The Bearcats will play their 2014 home games at Paul Brown Stadium while Nippert is renovated.

Here's a scouting report from Joe Kay, Associated Press sports writer:

A big old keg that's the traveling trophy for a long-standing Ohio River football rivalry is going away after the CIncinnati-Louisville game Thursday night.

The rivalry is ending with Louisville joining the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.

"Whoever wins this one gets the keg for a little bit," Bearcats quarterback Brendon Kay said.

Five things to watch on Thursday night:

KAY'S FAREWELL: The sixth-year senior will play his final game at Nippert Stadium. He's been the key to Cincinnati's six-game winning streak. Over the past 25 quarters, Kay has completed 72 percent of his passes for 2,126 yards and 17 touchdowns.

"We've been talking about it all week, myself and a few other guys," Kay said. "It's the last go-around at (Nippert). For a long time, that's where we practiced, did our conditioning — that's where we did everything."

BRIDGEWATER & BROWN: Teddy Bridgewater had his streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass snapped at 21 during a 24-17 win over Memphis in the last game. It's not all on him on Thursday. Junior Dominique Brown, a Cincinnati native from Winton Woods HS, ran for a career-high 137 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Houston two weeks ago. Brown has two 100-yard games this season and three in his career. He's run for 704 yards and seven touchdowns.

OH THOSE DEFENSES: It could be a low-scoring game, given the weather forecast — wind and rain — and the rankings of the two defenses. Louisville ranks second in the country in total defense, allowing 242.5 yards per game, and third in scoring defense, giving up 11.4 points. Cincinnati is eighth in yards at 302 and 10th in points at 18.5.

ABOUT THAT WEATHER: The teams played in heavy rain in Louisville last season, with the Cardinals winning in overtime 34-31. More rain is expected on Thursday as a storm moves through the region, so there's a chance that a slip with the ball here or there could decide it.

"It won't be a detriment to either team, unless it's just a toad strangler," Tuberville said, using a term for a downpour. "And I hope turnovers wouldn't decide the game in a game like this, but sometimes you can't avoid it."

THE KEG'S RESTING PLACE: The keg doesn't actually contain nails. And nobody knows exactly who introduced it — a fraternity is the best guess. But the winner on Thursday will get to keep the memento of a rivalry that has been played since 1929 and has covered the Missouri Valley Conference, Conference USA, the Big East and the AAC.

"I think (Kentucky) is our biggest rival, but I think Cincinnati is right there with them with the guys we recruit, the areas we recruit, the conference we play in," Louisville center Jake Smith said. "The way that the rivalry has worked out these past few years, and the way that some of the games have transpired, I think it really plays into the whole situation."

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