CINCINNATI -- It is a perfect day for football here at Paul Brown Stadium as West Virginia prepares to play No. 23 Cincinnati in a game with major Big East implications.
West Virginia (6-3, 2-2) needs a win to keep its slim championship hopes alive. Cincinnati (7-1, 3-0) needs a win to keep its momentum and is stranglehold atop the league standings.
Here are a few keys for each:
1. Balance. The Bearcats are at their best when they are getting balance from Isaiah Pead and Zach Collaros. Pead has been terrific this season in a much bigger role in the offense. Collaros is a gamer who has willed his team to win. Both are capable of taking this game over.
2. Pressure. Cincinnati has got to get pressure on Geno Smith in order to take pressure off the secondary, which has given up some big plays this season. The last thing the Bearcats want is for Smith to march his teammates up and down the field, because he is perfectly capable. Coach Dana Holgorsen will no doubt be looking for matchup advantages, and to get Smith to release the ball as quickly as possible.
1. Energy. Holgorsen preached this week that his players have not played with the same energy as their opponents. They have got to against the Bearcats, who have shown perhaps the most heart of any team in the Big East. This is a team that never quits. Can West Virginia say the same?
2. Force mistakes. West Virginia has not forced many turnovers this season, but there is an opportunity to force some mistakes from Collaros, who has eight interceptions this season. Generally those come when he is rushed out of the pocket and forced into making a poor decision. If West Virginia can get him into these mistakes, the Mountaineers have got to convert them into points.
One note: West Virginia starting safety Terence Garvin is not on the dress list due to injury. After threatening to only bring 55 players with him, Holgorsen has 64 on the dress list.