By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer
As the fifth-oldest rivalry in Division I-A football, there's something inherently special about the annual game between the University of Cincinnati and Miami, which began in 1888 with a 0-0 tie.
But this year, it's not just the history that makes the game worth noting. It's the quality of the teams.
UC is off to a 3-0 start for the first time since 1985 and received six votes in this week's Associated Press poll. MU (2-1) received nine votes this week. The game will be played at 2 p.m. Saturday at Miami's Yager Stadium in Oxford - the first played on the RedHawks' new FieldTurf surface.
The last time UC and Miami both approached this game with so much momentum was in 1997, when the Bearcats were 5-2 and Miami was 6-1. Miami won that game 34-31 in double overtime at Yager Stadium.
Before that, fans would have to go back to 1954, when UC was 8-1 under Sid Gillman and Miami was 7-1 under Ara Parseghian to find the two teams playing at such a high level at the same time. Miami won that game 21-9 at Nippert Stadium.
"Probably never before have the two programs been running at such a high level of octane," said UC coach Rick Minter.
Factor in the rivalry between Miami's Ben Roethlisberger and UC's Gino Guidugli - both of whom are on pace to finish their careers as their schools' most prolific quarterbacks - and there are the makings for a compelling game in a series that has produced plenty of them.
Miami coach Terry Hoeppner said the game is always special to RedHawk fans, but "this year the quality of the teams happens to be higher, as evidenced by Cincinnati being one of just 20 undefeated teams left in the country, and both teams receiving votes in the Top 25 polls."
Miami has played the more challenging schedule, with lopsided wins over Northwestern of the Big Ten and Colorado State of the Mountain West. Its only loss came on the road against No. 13 Iowa in the RedHawks' season opener.
UC's three wins have been over East Carolina, West Virginia and Temple, three schools with a combined record of 1-10. Miami's three opponents are 8-4.
"We haven't played chopped liver," Minter said. "I promise you, Temple will win some games. But I think Miami has played better. We've battled our tails off to get two wins against two quality teams, and they went out there and played the Mountain West and Big Ten and made it look easy.
"Right now, they're clicking like a machine on offense and obviously playing very well on defense. And I know this is the best we've ever been playing them."
TURNING THE CORNER? The Bearcats finally may be turning the corner in their quest to attract fans to Nippert Stadium. Saturday's crowd of 30,405, aided by a two-for-one Skyline Chili ticket promotion, was the eighth largest in Nippert Stadium history.
UC drew 28,011 for its opener against East Carolina. "We really appreciated them down the stretch because they got into the comeback," Minter said. "In so many ways, that inspired our players. It was an exciting atmosphere."
COLE HONORED: Defensive end Trent Cole was named Conference USA defensive player of the week. Cole had 10 solo tackles, assisted on four others and had three sacks in UC's victory over Temple.
UC at Miami
Kickoff: 2 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Yager Stadium.
TV: Channel 64.
Records: UC 3-0, Miami 2-1.
*Disputed series record
|Games|| Teams (series leader first)|| Rivalry rec.|| First Game|
|112|| Minnesota-Wisconsin|| 58-46-8|| 1890|
|111|| Missouri-Kansas|| 52-50-9|| 1891|
|109|| Nebraska-Kansas|| 85-21-3|| 1892|
|109|| Texas-Texas A&M|| 70-34-5|| 1894|
|107|| Miami-Cincinnati|| 57-43-7|| 1888|
|107|| North Carolina-Virginia|| *56-47-4|| 1892|
Source: NCAA Football Records
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