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Friday, May 17, 2013
Most important game: Cincinnati Bearcats

By Matt Fortuna

One play at a time, one game at a time … yada, yada, yada.

We're out with the clichés and straight to the point in the blog, as evidenced by our "most important game" series.

Starting today we'll take a look at one game from each of the 10 Big East teams' schedules and explain why it stands out above the other 11.

We'll kick things off today with Cincinnati.

Cincinnati

Most important game: Dec. 5 vs. Louisville

Why: The Tommy Tuberville era at Cincinnati opens with a pair of Big Ten games. While Purdue and Illinois are far from the cream of the crop in that conference, they should provide the Bearcats with very nice opening nonconference tests. Conference play begins nearly a month later against a USF team that should improve significantly under first-year coach Willie Taggart.

Afterward? A three-game stretch against Temple, UConn and Memphis is hardly Murderer's Row. The next trio -- SMU, Rutgers and Houston -- offers potential pitfalls, but the Bearcats, at least from the comfortable view of the offseason, will likely be favored in each of those contests. Which leads us to the regular-season finale, which also reminds us that this team does not play UCF in the Knights' first season in a conference that they are expected to enter as immediate challengers to the conference throne.

So that brings us to Dec. 5 at Nippert Stadium. The Keg of Nails. And what is the last scheduled meeting between these two rivals, for now.

We all know what happened last year, as the Cardinals recovered from a pair of 10-point deficits and won 34-31 in overtime — after a bad snap during a John Wallace field goal attempt was rendered irrelevant because of an ill-timed Butch Jones timeout.

Both teams finished 5-2 in the Big East last season, along with Syracuse and Rutgers. They were all able to claim a share of the conference crown — the Bearcats' fourth in the past five seasons — but Louisville got the BCS bid, thanks in large part to its win over Cincinnati.

Cincinnati and UCF have gotten most of the consideration this spring as the biggest challengers to Louisville's repeat bid in 2013. Thanks to the schedule-makers, we may just have to wait until the last Thursday of the season to find out who gets the final guaranteed BCS-bowl bid from the conference.