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TCU, Cincinnati face stiff tests

If they can get past No. 16 Utah next week, TCU Coach Gary Patterson, center, and the Horned Frogs should be BCS bound.
If they can get past No. 16 Utah next week, TCU Coach Gary Patterson, center, and the Horned Frogs should be BCS bound. (Lenny Ignelzi/associated Press)
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By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 9, 2009

The field of remaining unbeaten teams was trimmed on Saturday when Iowa fell to Northwestern. Nonetheless, since the Bowl Championship Series was created in 1998, there have never been as many undefeated teams (six) entering the 11th week of the season as there are this year. For two of those squads -- No. 4 Texas Christian and No. 5 Cincinnati -- their status among the elite teams in the nation will be tested this weekend.

TCU already has defeated two Atlantic Coast Conference teams (Virginia and No. 24 Clemson), as well as then-No. 16 Brigham Young, but the Horned Frogs' toughest matchup of the season will take place Saturday when they host No. 16 Utah.

Utah running back Eddie Wide has rushed for more than 100 yards in six straight games, and the Utes own the No. 15 scoring defense in the country. In many ways, Utah's strengths mirror those of TCU, which should make for a highly competitive contest. The Horned Frogs own the sixth-best rushing offense in division I-A, not to mention the fifth-best scoring defense.

With a win, the Utes can crush any chance TCU has of playing in a BCS bowl, much less remaining in contention for a spot in the national title game. For TCU, this game stands as its last true test of the regular season. After Utah, TCU has Wyoming and New Mexico (who own a combined 4-14 record) remaining on its schedule.

If TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes can terrorize Utah freshman quarterback Jordan Wynn, who will be making just his second career start, and disrupt the Utes' running game before it gains momentum, the Horned Frogs should be able to overcome their most challenging remaining obstacle en route to a BCS berth.

As for Cincinnati, its path to an undefeated season remains more convoluted. Bearcats Coach Brian Kelly sits in the unenviable position of having to decide which of his two talented quarterbacks will lead the team the rest of the way.

For the past three weeks, Zach Collaros has filled in for the injured Tony Pike, and he has tallied 1,100 yards on 79-of-89 passing and eight touchdowns in that span. But Pike, who was out with an injured wrist, is expected to be fully healthy for Friday's game against West Virginia, and he has thrown 15 touchdowns to just three interceptions this season.

Kelly had said previously that Collaros would return to the bench as soon as Pike was ready to go, but the coach took a different outlook following Saturday's 47-45 win over Connecticut. Cincinnati needs to remain undefeated to stay in consideration for a BCS national championship game berth. The Bearcats also still must face No. 8 Pittsburgh.

"He's made it hard," Kelly told reporters of Collaros. "Okay, I've changed my mind based on the way he's played the last three games. I think I have to reconsider my decision."

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