|Containing Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas will likely be Cincinnati's primary focus when the Bearcats face the Hokies on Saturday. (US Presswire)|
Kickoff: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Virginia Tech by 7
Watchability: It's a crucial nonconference game for both teams. The Bearcats are hoping to remain undefeated and emerge with a win in easily their most challenging nonconference game. The Hokies hope to avoid a second defeat this season to a Big East opponent. It will be the first meeting between the teams since Virginia Tech's 20-7 win in the 2009 Orange Bowl.
Shining stars: Cincinnati: RB George Winn. Heading into the season the Bearcats had concerns about the run game with the loss of Big East offensive player of the year Isaiah Pead. The concerns have been assuaged for the time being with Winn's strong start to the season. Winn has a similar running style as Pittsburgh freshman Rushel Shell, who finished with a career-high 157 yards on 23 against the Hokies on Sept. 15. Winn has good vision, finds the creases in the defense quickly and can make cuts sharply. Virginia Tech: QB Logan Thomas. Cincinnati coach Butch Jones marveled at Thomas' dual-threat abilities earlier in the week. At 6-6 and 260 pounds, Thomas has been compared favorably with Cam Newton. The junior quarterback made several big plays downfield against the Panthers, but was felled by three interceptions.
Who could steal the show: Cincinnati: DE Walter Stewart. The Bearcats' defensive gameplan will likely center around the 6-5, 254-pound senior. While Stewart must put pressure on Thomas off the edge, he also must be cognizant of the Hokies' quarterback's ability to run. If Stewart can keep Thomas in the pocket and prevent him from making plays with his legs, the Bearcats may be able to contain the Hokies' offense. Virginia Tech: S Kyshoen Jarrett. The sophomore is a physical, hard-hitting safety who leads a stingy pass defense that's ranked ninth in FBS (143.5 yards per game). Jarrett earned the Hokies' Hammer Award in their first two games for delivering big hits in each contest. Jones hopes to exploit the Hokies on splash plays deep downfield, but it could be challenging versus Jarrett.
You going? Ranking the road trip: Saturday's game at FedEx Field is technically a home game for the Bearcats, but the Hokies will maintain a homefield advantage. The home of the Washington Redskins is about four hours, 45 minutes from Blacksburg, but nearly nine hours away from Cincinnati. With thunderstorms and cool temperatures possible, the conditions for tailgating on Saturday afternoon likely won't be ideal.
Magic number for Cincinnati: 6. The Bearcats committed six turnovers in a win over Delaware State on Sept. 15, including three in the red zone. Cincinnati can't afford to lose the turnover battle against Virginia Tech if it hopes to pull out a victory.
Magic number for Virginia Tech: 4. The Hokies will also strive to avoid turnovers. Virginia Tech committed four against Pitt, including three in the first 17 minutes. In Virginia Tech's previous 28 games, the Hokies had three turnovers or more just once.
The game comes down to: The run game. Virginia Tech is usually stout against the run, but has allowed 184.5 yards per game on the ground (90th in FBS). Jones expects the Hokies to jam the box often with eight defenders. On the other side of the ball, Virginia Tech leading rusher Michael Holmes is averaging just 37.8 yards per game. If the Bearcats can pound the ball on the ground with Winn, they can keep the ball away from Thomas.
Prediction: Cincinnati 24, Virginia Tech 23
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