Syracuse-Cincinnati pregame ponderables

CINCINNATI -- Greetings from Nippert Stadium, where fall is in full force. Temperatures are in the mid-40s, but the sun is shining bright. Good football weather.

After West Virginia's loss to Connecticut on Friday night, who knows what to make of the Big East? Crazy as it sounds to say, Syracuse could have a virtual two-game lead over the Mountaineers if the Orange win today, given their head-to-head victory in Morgantown last week.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati is one of only two teams, along with Pitt, that still controls its own destiny in the league race. Then again, the Bearcats had better take control, because they're just 3-4 overall and are not secure in their quest for a bowl game.

The big question today is if Cincinnati quarterback Zach Collaros (bruised knee) will play. Collaros is a game-time decision, and there's no word yet with about an hour before kickoff. Syracuse's defense is not one you want to play if you're having trouble moving, because the Orange will blitz all day and they will hit the quarterback. Syracuse has prepared as if Collaros will start which is smart, because backup Chazz Anderson is similar but less mobile than Collaros. It will be easier to adjust to Anderson than it would be to reverse that plan.

Today's game is also a classic defense vs. offense struggle. Cincinnati is piling up the points and yards but not stopping anybody, while the Orange are 2-1 in Big East play despite averaging just about 15 points per game in league action. Will they have a breakout game on offense against the young Bearcats' 'D' like South Florida did? Or will Cincinnati's attack get shut down against Scott Shafer's pressure schemes the way West Virginia and South Florida were versus the Orange?

We'll find out the answers to those questions very soon.