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Louisville-Cincinnati Preview

AP - Sports

The Keg of Nails will be on the line for the final time in the foreseeable future in Thursday night's matchup between No. 19 Louisville and Cincinnati - along with the Bearcats' slim hopes of reaching a BCS bowl.

That might give Cincinnati, which enters as a home underdog, a little more incentive.

Each team can earn a share of the American Athletic Conference title with a win and a UCF loss Saturday at SMU. However, only Cincinnati has a chance at the league's automatic BCS berth because of Louisville's 38-35 home loss to the Knights on Oct. 18.

The Bearcats (9-2, 6-1 ACC), who don't play UCF this season, would need to finish higher than UCF in the final BCS standings.

"Football gets a little bit long and old this time of year. It's kind of a grind for everybody," Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville said. "When your last game really means something - whether it's a chance to go to a different bowl, or the possibility for a chance of a piece of a championship, it makes it a lot more fun."

Meanwhile, Louisville's (10-1, 6-1) lone blemish remains its setback against the Knights, but the Cardinals will likely be heading to a much lesser bowl game.

"I don't think it's deflating (not going to a BCS game), because you're looking at a team right now who's won 10 games," coach Charlie Strong said. "You're sitting there 10-1, so we don't get to the BCS. We're going to get to another bowl game, but you can't take away what we've already accomplished with 10 wins."

Cincinnati owns a 29-22 all-time edge with one tie in a series that first awarded the Keg of Nails trophy to its winner in 1929. However, it's unclear when they'll meet again with Louisville heading to the ACC and no future matchups currently scheduled.

The Cardinals ended a four-game slide in the series with a 34-31 home win last year on a 30-yard field goal from John Wallace as time expired.

Teddy Bridgewater was 24 of 41 for 416 yards, two TDs and an interception. Devante Parker was on the receiving end of both scores, finishing with four catches for 120 yards.

Bridgewater's numbers have been more pedestrian over his last three games as he's thrown for two scores and one interception while being sacked eight times and posting a 127.8 passer rating. He recorded a 191.6 rating with 23 TDs and two interceptions through his first eight contests.

Louisville's offense has gone from averaging 495.3 yards to 347.7 yards in the last three games.

Bridgewater threw for 220 yards and a touchdown in the Cardinals' 24-17 win over Memphis on Nov. 23, potentially his final home game. He's scheduled to graduate in December, and with a chance at being one of the top selections in April's NFL Draft, it's unclear if he'll return for his final year of eligibility.

"I still feel that we have a couple more games on the schedule," Bridgewater said. "Right now, I have my focus on that."

Cincinnati, which has won 16 of its last 18 home games while outscoring teams by an average of 23.4 points, is coming off back-to-back impressive offensive performances, totaling 1,192 yards in wins at Rutgers and Houston. Quarterback Brandon Kay has accounted for seven TDs and threw for 386 yards and two scores in a 24-17 road win over the Cougars on Nov. 23.

Both teams have been far more consistent on the other side of the ball. Louisville ranks second among FBS teams in total defense, limiting teams to 242.5 yards per game, while Cincinnati is eighth, allowing 302.4.

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