UC has officially entered the bye week, and at 4-1 no less. This is great, but for us humble UC bloggers it throws us off our collective games. It's a week where we go back to talking about nothing really, very little news ect. So the blogging triumverate has decided to join forces for a little Football round table. Participating are Scott King from Bearcats Blog and Chris Bains of Bearcats Nation. Chris is on the clock first.
Chris Bains: Heading into the bye week, what corrections on offense and defense need to be made before the Louisville game?
Me: I am fine with the offense as is. I get the underlying philosophy, I get the basics. There are things that I don't necessarily always agree with the play calling or the game plans. For instence in the North Carolina State game UC used the heavy package quite a bit, used unbalanced lines quite a bit and to generally favorable results in the running game. In the Miami game all that stuff went back into hiding. I don't get that at all. It's like this staff constructs game plans from a philosophical rather than tactical viewpoint. Meaning oh it's Miami we can keep things basic because it's Miami, we have more talent, so we will win regardless. Rather than saying this is what we as a team do, how do we go about putting the players in a position to make that stuff work.
In terms of the defense I think that Tim Banks is finally coming around to how he has to call games for this team to be successful on defense. UC doesn't have the talent, particularly at safety to simply sit back and absorb the offense and stop them. This defense has to be an attacking group from here on out. In a strange way going to the more attacking style is a form of risk management. The assumption being that UC's secondary can't hold up in coverage for any sort of prolonged period. The only way to buy those guys time is to pressure the QB. As anyone who has watched this secondary over the last two years can attest coverages will bust and receivers will be wide open at some point. The fact of the matter is that it is far better for the QB throwing to that receiver has someone in his mug than to have no pressure at all. Tim Banks needs to keeping calling defense with that in mind.
Scott King: Like Matt, I'm fine with the offense. I would love to see more variety though. I kind of loved Jordan Luallen running the wildcat. That's been scrapped against anyone who isn't god awful. Like Matt mentioned, I dug the heavy package. I was waiting to see that on both of the 4th downs against Miami, and it was kept in pocket. I guess they are going to save that for Big East play, but I don't know why UC wasn't more aggressive. I've said this in most of my writings about the offense, but I want them to be more aggressive in the passing game. I know McClung and Thompkins aren't Armon Binns or Mardy Gilyard, but you have to give them a chance to get deep and stretch the defense. There are some bad secondaries in the league, like Louisville, and you can go deep on them. FIU went deep on them. Marshall went deep on them. The underneath stuff is all good, but I want some bombs. I think UC ran 2 or 3 against Miami, and they both worked. Oh, and Zach Collaros needs to throw the ball away in the red zone.
As for defense, it's a little hard to tell. The gameplan for the lesser foes has been completely different than what we've seen against Tennessee and NC State. I am worried about people not even bothering to run and just throwing all over the secondary. Obviously the front 4 and that rotation has been the highlight of the year. No one has run on them for meaningful yards (sorry Akron). Giordano, Wolfe, Mills, Hughes, Stepp, they've all done a good job getting pressure as well. JK Schaffer has been incredible this year. He's playing himself into the draft. But, it all comes back to the secondary. If they can get a couple of picks, like against NC State, they can mask for some of their flaws. The turnover rate has been unreal, but even getting 1 or 2 well timed, like against Miami, is all you need.
Me: The statement that would be made with a crowd of 60,000 is the same one that was partially made last year against Oklahoma and to a lesser extent the same one that was made in sending 35,000 to the Sugar Bowl. That UC can continue to be a relevant Football program. The narrative nationally is that UC was kind of a 1 year wonder, or a 3 year wonder for the highly informed and that the departure of Brian Kelly has sent UC back to the depths from whence they came. Getting 60,000 down to PBS for a noon game, even one against a traditional rival, would be quite an accomplishment and another big piece to proving that Football at UC has some staying power. On the other hand drawing less than the Bengals have been this year will provide ample ammunition for anyone arguing that the Bearcats are bound once more for C-USA or worse status.