PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 05: Tino Sunseri #12 of the Pittsburgh Panthers throws the ball while being hit by Dan Giordano #99 of the Cincinnati Bearcats on November 5, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
If it wasn't clear before, it should be clear to every last one of us. The 2011 Cincinnati Bearcats are a different kind of team. I read the message boards, I listen to the talk radio and throughout much of this season there has been this constant compulsion to compare these Bearcats to the previous standard bearers. This team has some things in common with both the 2008 and 2009 teams, but they have their own make up and play games in different ways. This offense isn't at the same level as the 2009 group, not even close. There are no back breaking big plays in the passing game, no real difference makers at the receiving position. Certainly not on the order of magnitude of Armon Binns or Mardy Gilyard or Dom Goodman. But this is an offense that is ruthlessly efficient at punishing the mistakes of the opposing teams. And for all the stupid plays and dumb decisions, when it matters Zach Collaros always makes the right calls.
Conversely the defense isn't as good from top to bottom as the 2008 group. The secondary has no Mike Mickens, no Deangelo Smith, no Brandon Underwood. But the front seven is as good as any in recent history. Derek Wolfe, John Hughes and co. are absolutely relentless. But for all the flaws and all the warts on this team they just win. It's never pretty, and UC doesn't win every game the same way. There is always a different narrative, always unexpected twists and turns. This team is a prism, every time you take a closer look you see something different. Today when you looked at the team you saw an offense that struggled for large swathes of the second half. UC had precisely 1 drive of longer 30 yards in the second half. Who would have thought that Tony Miliano would be a difference maker?
The bottom line is that this team wins, its rarely pretty, and its always interesting but they win. UC has played three Big East games, won all of them, and is now two games clear of everyone in the Big East standings. UC has 4 games left, two at home and two on the road with another chance for a BCS bowl. Enjoy this win Bearcats. But West Virginia is rolling into town.