Louisville, Cincinnati renew Keg of Nails rivalry at Fenway

Fenway Bowl: Louisville (7-5) vs. Cincinnati (9-3), Dec. 17, 11 a.m. Eastern (ESPN)

FanDuel Sportsbook College Line: Louisville -1.5.

Series record: Cincinnati leads 30-22-1.


The rivals have played for the Keg of Nails since 1929. The trophy has traditionally been awarded to the winner because the players were said to be “tough as nails.” It’s the 54th meeting between the teams, which are about 100 miles apart along the Ohio River, but the first in the postseason. They played every year from 1996 to 2013.


Louisville interim coach Deion Branch vs. Cincinnati interim coach Kerry Coombs. With Scott Satterfield leaving Louisville to take the Cincinnati job, both sidelines will have temporary leaders. Branch is a Louisville alum who is returning to New England, where he was a two-time Super Bowl champion for the Patriots, winning the Super Bowl MVP in 2005. Former Purdue coach Jeff Brohm will take over after the bowl game. Coombs was the Bearcats cornerbacks coach and special teams coordinator. He is filling in for Satterfield, who replaces Luke Fickell, who left to coach Wisconsin.


Cincinnati: LB Ivan Pace Jr. had 120 tackles, 19.5 of them for a loss. He also had 9 sacks to lead a defense that was fifth in the nation with 4.52 yards allowed per play. Pace has earned first team All-American honors from five different NCAA-recognized organizations, including The Associated Press. He is the first unanimous All-American in the Bearcats’ 135-year history. He was also a finalist for the Bednarik and Butkus Awards and was named the All-American Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Louisville: QB Malik Cunningham is one of six quarterbacks in NCAA history with 9,000 passing yards and 3,000 rushing yards. Cunningham has rushed for 3,160 yards and 49 touchdowns in his career, while passing for 9,350 yards and 67 touchdowns.


Louisville won the last meeting, 31-24 in 2013. … It will be the 19th different bowl game for Louisville and the 11th time they have played in an MLB stadium. … Cincinnati is trying to reach 10 wins for the fourth time in five years and only the 10th time in program history. … The Bearcats are 10-11 all-time in bowl games, losing to Alabama last year in the CFP semifinals and Georgia in the Peach Bowl the year before. … Bearcats punter Mason Fletcher was the AAC Special Teams Player of the Year and is a finalist for the Ray Guy Award. He ranked fourth nationally with a 46.7-yard average and set Cincinnati and AAC records with an 84-yard punt and 65.0-yard average against SMU.


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