Pike to start at QB vs. Illinois

Tony Pike will start at quarterback for No. 5 Cincinnati on Friday against Illinois, coach Brian Kelly said Monday.

Pike has not started since injuring his left forearm in the Oct. 15 win at South Florida. He made a brief appearance in the Nov. 13 victory over West Virginia, tossing two touchdown passes in four attempts. Kelly said last week's bye week gave Pike enough time to heal the bone in his arm, which required surgery.

Kelly said the biggest hurdle left for his 6-foot-6 senior is being ready to withstand getting hit.

"He's got escapability, so he's going to get out on the perimeter and he's going to throw and get hit," Kelly said. "I'm sure he'll have some moments on Friday where he goes, 'Oh, OK, here it comes,' and he's got to take care of himself. I think that's the only thing left out there for him, and that's maintaining a confident level when he goes out there and plays."

Pike was a Heisman Trophy candidate before he got hurt and has completed 64 percent of his passes for 1,649 yards with 17 touchdowns and three interceptions on the season. Sophomore Zach Collaros started the four games when Pike was out for the Bearcats (10-0, 6-0 Big East) while putting up dazzling numbers of his own.

Brian Bennett covers Big East football for ESPN.com.