<
>

Pike to start this week if fully healthy

The way Zach Collaros has performed in Tony Pike's absence has made Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly re-evaluate his quarterback situation.

Kelly said he thought about the scenario all weekend and came to a conclusion: Pike is still his No. 1 quarterback, assuming the senior is fully healed from a left forearm injury.

Collaros set a Big East record with 555 total yards in Saturday's 47-45 victory over Connecticut. The sophomore has won three games for the fifth-ranked Bearcats (9-0, 5-0 Big East) since taking over for the injured Pike in the second half of the South Florida game.

But Pike, who was considered a Heisman Trophy candidate before he got hurt, was medically cleared to play late last week. He has been fitted with a brace for his left, nonthrowing arm and could start Friday night's home game against West Virginia.

"If Tony's fully healthy, he's our starter," Kelly said Monday. "[But] there's so much that's out of my hands relative to the medical, and then the risk factor. What's the risk factor of putting him out there?

"If you take Zach Collaros' body of work the last three weeks, which has been outstanding, and you take Tony Pike's body of work, Tony Pike's the starter. There's not even a question about that."

However, Kelly said after Saturday night's game that Collaros' play had forced him to re-evaluate whom the starter should be. Collaros brings much more of a running threat for the Bearcats than Pike.

"I really had to spend some time thinking about this decision," Kelly said. "It's been a difficult one."

Pike has completed 64.3 percent of his passes for 1,633 yards, 15 touchdowns and three interceptions in six games. Collaros has completed 76 percent of his passes for 1,229 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception. He also has rushed for 288 yards and four scores.

"There are a lot of pluses with both guys, but after careful consideration, Tony's our guy," Kelly said. "[He's] 6-foot-6, can see the entire field, got a great arm. All the things he showed leading up to the season, I haven't forgotten about any of that stuff."

Brian Bennett covers Big East football for ESPN.com.