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What To Expect: Cincinnati Offense vs. Toledo Defense

The main story tonight will be about Gunner Kiel finally playing a football game at the college level. If he can knock off the rust quickly the Toledo defense presents an enticing opportunity.

Even Toledo fans would admit in a heartbeat that they have major issues in the defensive secondary, and have for years. With the Bearcats depth and skill at the wide receiver position Gunner Kiel will have plenty of opportunities to make plays down the field if the reconfigured offensive line with two new starter's can give him time.

That is really the match up for this game. If the reworked offensive line can keep Gunner upright he has a chance to have a really, really big night through the air. But that is easier said than done because the best part of the Toledo defense is the defensive line. They are very active in getting after the passer. Through two games they have 6 sacks, 6 hurries and 14 tackles for loss. That Toledo defensive line gave the Mizzou front some big problems in the first half before tiring a bit and fading late, after the game was already decided. Coming cold into a matchup with a line that good is slightly troubling for me.

The Toledo coaches know that if they can not get to Gunner, if they can't get him off his spots in the passing game he has the ability to absolutely torch a secondary that has two new starters thanks to a massive wave of injuries. They have to get to Gunner to have a chance, and everyone on both sides knows it.

Which puts Eddie Gran in an interesting place. One would imagine that Gran intends to keep doing what the Bearcats did from October on, spreading the field and getting as many of their receivers on the field as possible. But no one knows that for sure, he could revert to type and try running power football with spread personnel as he did for most of last September. That would be a terrible idea with the depth and skill the Bearcats have on the edge, and everyone associated with the program knows its a terrible plan, but its not inconceivable.

The one thing that I am looking for in this game is evidence of a simplified playbook. At times the Bearcats collapsed under the weight of it all. The signs point to a streamlined and simplified offense that can be operated at peak tempo, two attributes that are incongruous to the offense from last September. This quote from Tommy Tuberville is interesting in the light of this all.

"You give coaches a lot of time, they think they've invented the wheel," Tuberville said. "My job is to tell them, ‘No, we're not adding that. No, we're not going to do that.'"

Given last years rough start I have to think that was directed, at least a little bit, at Gran. What the offense looks like, how many personnel groupings they use, how often they substitute, when they elect to play fast and when they slow it down. The nuances are what I want to see tonight, because I don't think the broad strokes have changed much between seasons. But you never know with Eddie Gran.