CINCINNATI (AP) — The schedule makers for the first American Athletic Conference season came up with quite an ending: Louisville at Cincinnati with so much at stake.
Instead, about the only thing at stake on Thursday night at Nippert Stadium will be a big old keg that's the traveling trophy for a long-standing Ohio River football rivalry that's going away after the game.
"Both Louisville and ourselves would love to be undefeated, which we were all counting on at the beginning of the year at this point in deciding the conference championship," Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville said. "We still have something to say about it, but we can't control it."
No. 19 Louisville (10-1, 6-1) claimed the final Big East football title last season and beat Florida in the Sugar Bowl. The Cardinals were favored to add the first AAC title before moving on to the Atlantic Coast Conference next year.
Instead, Central Florida upset them in Louisville and has remained perfect in conference play, eliminating the Cardinals from contention for the league's BCS berth.
"I don't think it's deflating, because you're looking at a team right now who's won 10 games," coach Charlie Strong said. "We're going to get to another bowl game, but you can't take away what we've already accomplished with 10 wins."
Cincinnati (9-2, 6-1) doesn't play Central Florida and has only a slim chance of jumping ahead for the BCS bowl. The Bearcats would have to beat Louisville and have Central Florida lose to SMU. Then they'd have to finish higher than Central Florida in the final BCS rankings.
Not likely. So both teams are playing mainly for the chance to hold onto the "Keg of Nails" for the foreseeable future.
"Whoever wins this one gets the keg for a little bit," Bearcats quarterback Brendon Kay said.
Five things to watch on Thursday night:
KAY'S FAREWELL: The sixth-year senior will play his final game at Nippert Stadium. He's been the key to Cincinnati's six-game winning streak. Over the past 25 quarters, Kay has completed 72 percent of his passes for 2,126 yards and 17 touchdowns.
"We've been talking about it all week, myself and a few other guys," Kay said. "It's the last go-around at (Nippert). For a long time, that's where we practiced, did our conditioning — that's where we did everything."