CINCINNATI -- They are the new kids on the block, upstarts in the world of big time football, these Cincinnati Bearcats who have crashed the Top 25 and are looking to crash what was supposed to be West Virginia Big East Conference championship season.
Oddly, they are mirror images of each other, although it sometimes seems to be one of those fun house mirrors that distort images. They both, for example, run out of the spread offense, but West Virginia's has evolved into a running offense centered around quarterback Patrick White that ranks third nationally. Cincinnati'sdiffers in that it relies more on the passing of quarter Ben Mauk.
The coaches, too, have followed similar paths to the top, starting at the lowest levels of college football, WVU's Rich Rodriguez at Salem and then Glenville State and U.C.'s Brian Kelly at Grand Valley State and Central Michigan.
They are alike, too, in their ability to sell their program and inspire players.
Rodriguez has proved this by the way his team risen to the top of the college football, winning 30 of its last 34 games. As for Kelly, he has done it at Central Michigan and Cincinnati.
"He's a salesman, is what he is," said Grand Valley State Coach Chuck Martin, who worked under Kelly at the school. "I remember at Central Michigan, someone asked him how long the rebuilding cycle would be. He said, 'About 10 seconds.'"
Now he has Cincinnati thinking it can play in a BCS bowl and win the Big East, but first it must find a way to beat WVU, the nation's No. 5 team.