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West Virginia-Cincinnati pregame ponderables

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. -- Greetings from Milan-Puskar Stadium, the only place in the state of West Virginia you'd want to be when the Mountaineers are playing a big night game.

It's a chilly evening, with temperatures dipping in the low 40s tonight, but nothing that should affect the game. What will affect it is the center situation for both teams.

I told you about Mike Dent being out in an earlier blog post. Cincinnati's center, Chris Jurek, wore a boot in practice all week after spraining his ankle against South Florida. UPDATE: Jurek won't start tonight, as Jason Kelce will move over from guard. So both teams are without their centers. At least it's even.

The good news for the Bearcats is that quarterback Tony Pike won't need to wear that soft cast on his left arm tonight. He's expected to wear a sleeve on the arm he broke in the Akron game, but he should be able to take snaps under center, unlike last week's South Florida game.

This game intrigues me not only because these are two good teams playing for first place, but because each team excels in areas the other doesn't. West Virginia is a great running team with a really strong rush defense, while Cincinnati is a terrific passing team with an excellent pass defense. So that means whoever's strength is stronger might win, if that makes any sense at all.

West Virginia certainly seems to be putting it together, but all week coach Bill Stewart sounded cautious notes about handling this success. He didn't think his team did that well early in the season, and he still sees plenty of chinks in his team's armor, particularly its slow starts. But he did agree that his players are starting to rediscover their swagger.

The Bearcats are a pretty confident group as well. They truly think they're as good as West Virginia and can walk out of this tough atmosphere with the win tonight.

We're about to find out. Much more to come throughout the evening ...