- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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Butch Jones said it back during this summer's Big East media days and he's saying it again now -- Cincinnati has to overachieve to win big games.
That message takes on greater significance this week when the Bearcats gear up for a Friday night tilt at preseason conference favorite and No. 16 Louisville.
"They definitely have our attention," Jones said during this week's Big East coaches' teleconference. "All you have to do is put the video on and see it. Obviously for our players that have played against Louisville in the past, they understand the environment they're going into. They understand the level of physicality, the energy that they play with on every snap.
"So obviously they know it's going to be, for our 65 first- and second-year players, we've got to count on our older players to really educate them about this rivalry and what they're getting themselves into Friday night."
The Bearcats' upset loss Saturday night at Toledo takes a bit of the luster off this matchup, which features two of last year's three Big East co-champions and now just one undefeated team. Jones didn't think the loss to the Rockets was a setback, but he knows his offense and special teams units cannot afford to crack when he gets as strong a performance out of his defense as he did this past weekend.
"If somebody would've told me, 'You're going to Toledo, you're playing an extremely, extremely explosive offense and your defense doesn't surrender one touchdown,' I'd feel pretty confident that we come out victorious and win the football game," Jones said. "There was a lot of positive, but again, I don't think it's a wake-up call. I just think they have to understand the formula to winning, and it starts with special teams and taking care of the football on offense."
The annual Keg of Nails battle has gone the Bearcats' way the past four seasons, with the Cardinals blowing halftime leads in the two meetings between Jones and Louisville coach Charlie Strong, each of whom is in his third year with his respective school.
"I told the team the other day this is only the third time in school history where we have been 7-0. We haven't been undefeated since I've been here," Strong said this week. "We haven't been in the conference race. We just talk about being a one-game season, and let's just continue to play. But this is a big game; it's a big game for the program."