I would like to provide a retroactive apology for the lack of posting this week. Thanksgiving and the associated preparations have robbed me of most of my free time this week. Because of that writing the preview post for this game falls in the time after Rutgers vs Louisville ceases being remotely interesting and the start of the Iron Bowl.
As always everyone knows what you are going to get from UConn. The players change, the skill level goes up or down but the final product always looks the same. They play hard and with a very physical style of Football. UConn has had some troubles this year to be sure. They really haven't resembled the group that many thought they would be, but they are in the position where most had them, challenging for the conference championship. They need some help to get there, but head to head victories over WVU and Pitt have them in position capture the championship if they get the right breaks.
This is going to be a big challenge for the UC team which is still improbably alive for a bowl game, but they have to win out, starting tomorrow in East Hartford. It is feasible, but ultimately unlikely. East Hartford hasn't been overtly kind to UC since joining the Big East. UC is 1-1 all time at the rent, the win was the bowl clinching last minute win in 2006, and the loss was the 40-16 thumping courtesy of Donald Brown and Co in 2008.
So far this season the offense hasn't really traveled at all. The home and away splits for this season are pretty sobering stuff, nearly 500 yards a game at Nippert, a touch under 340 on the road. The UC offense has only 1 game on the road where they topped 400 yards of total offense, at Louisville which not so coincidentally is the only road win of the year.
UConn is a bit susceptible to UC's offense though. As I have said repeatedly the Bearcats have to be able to run the Football for this offense to work to maximum capacity. That shouldn't be a problem against UConn. At least theoretically. The Huskies are currently dead last in the conference against the run, but they haven't surrendered 100 yards to a rusher since Bilal Powell went for 105 back on the 23rd of October. The hope would be that the new found creativity in the running game will open up lanes for Isaiah Pead and by extension the passing game as well. That is the key because the UConn secondary is a risk taking swashbuckling group. They take big risks in coverage and can give up the big play over the top. their TD to INT ratio at the moment is 11 to 12 which is very good. As always the Bearcats have to protect the ball to maximize their chances.
As for what UConn does on offense it doesn't really matter. UC must shutdown Jordan Todman from the onset to have a chance. Connecticut will get the passing game going. It is an inevitability at this point. Rutgers was dead last in the conference at passing the ball heading into last weeks game. They erupted for 400 yards through the air. Whatever the season high is for UConn throwing the ball, they will surpass it tomorrow. That is probably the easiest bet in the world to make, because it happens again and again and again. Because of that UC absolutely must shutdown Todman, a back who has yet to be shut down by anyone. He went for a combined 335 yards and 1 TD against WVU and Pitt, two of the top 16 rush defenses in the nation. If Todman goes for comparable numbers against UC then that's game in all likelihood.