Bearcats still in running for BCS bid as season winds down

With one week left in the college football regular season, Cincinnati still has a chance to earn a berth in a BCS bowl, but the Bearcats probably won’t find doing so a simple task.

First, Cincinnati (9-2, 6-1) must take down No. 19 Louisville (10-1, 6-1) in the annual battle for the Keg of Nails on Thursday night at Nippert Stadium. Then the Bearcats will need help from SMU (5-6, 4-3), which plays Central Florida (10-1, 7-0) Saturday.

The 15th-ranked Knights already have a share of the first AAC title and control their own destiny as they would be the only team undefeated in league play if they take care of business against the Mustangs. They also have the head-to-head tiebreaker if Louisville ends up tied with them at the top of the standings and would go to a BCS game.

Per the American Athletic Conference, the league’s BCS berth will go to the highest-ranked team in the BCS standings if there is a tie at the end of the season and head-to-head does not sort things out.

UCF is 16th in this week’s BCS standings while Louisville is No. 19. Cincinnati, which did not play UCF, is 23rd in the USA Today coaches’ poll and 26th in the Harris poll.

Here is the full release from the AAC explaining the various scenarios:

UCF clinched at least a share of the first American Athletic Conference championship Friday, as the Knights improved to 7-0 in conference play with a 23-20 win against USF.

There is still some work to do before The American’s Bowl Championship Series bid is awarded, however. All eyes will be on Nippert Stadium Thursday as Cincinnati hosts Louisville in the annual Keg of Nails game. If Louisville wins, UCF will be assured of the BCS bid. If Cincinnati wins, then UCF’s game against SMU on Saturday comes into play.

Cincinnati’s hopes of receiving the BCS bid hinge on the Bearcats’ beating Louisville Thursday and seeing SMU beat UCF Saturday. If that happens, then The American’s bid will go to whichever team between Cincinnati and UCF is ranked higher in the final BCS standings.

If UCF beats SMU Saturday, the Knights finish as the outright American champions and will be the league’s BCS representative.

UCF claimed its share of the title with a 23-20 win against USF as the Knights rallied in the fourth quarter for the fourth time in seven conference games. The Bulls held a 20-16 lead down the stretch, but UCF got the game-winning points on a 52-yard touchdown pass from QB Blake Bortles to WR Breshad Perriman with 4:50 left.

Bortles finished with 219 yards and two touchdown passes as the Knights overcame five turnovers to get the win. USF QB Mike White threw for 211 yards, while the Bulls got rushing touchdowns from RB Marcus Shaw and WR Chris Dunkley.

Friday’s action also saw Houston end a three-game slide in emphatic fashion as the Cougars were 34-0 winners against SMU at Reliant Stadium. QB John O’Korn threw two touchdown passes and WR Daniel  Spencer had seven catches for 100 yards and a TD to pace the offense, while the defense was paced by S Adrien McDonald, who had 13 tackles and an interception. SMU QB Neal Burcham made his first career start in place of the injured Garrett Gilbert and threw for 212 yards.

Houston finishes its regular season at 8-4 as the Cougars await their bowl selection. SMU stands at 5-6 as the Mustangs need a win against UCF to become bowl-eligible.

Temple closed its 2013 season with its most complete performance of the season as the Owls were 41-21 winners at Memphis Saturday afternoon. The Owls registered season highs in points and total yards (534) as QB P.J. Walker wrapped up his outstanding freshman season with a 328-yard, four-touchdown effort. HB Chris Coyer had three receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown, while WR Robby Anderson had seven catches for 96 yards and three TDs. QB Paxton Lynch threw for 162 yards and a touchdown for the Tigers.

UConn likewise enjoyed its best showing of the season as the Huskies scored a 28-17 win against Rutgers at Rentschler Field. QB Casey Cochran threw for 311 yards and two touchdowns as WR Deshonn Foxx had career highs with nine receptions and 117 yards. RB Max DeLorenzo ran for two touchdowns as the Huskies won back-to-back games for the first time since the 2011 season.

QB Chas Dodd threw for 286 yards and LB Steve Longa had 11 tackles for Rutgers, which needs a win against USF in  Saturday’s regular-season finale to become bowl-eligible.