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Game Preview: Cincinnati Bearcats vs. UCF Knights; How the Mighty Have Fallen

Cincinnati hosts the 0-8 UCF Knights at Nippert Stadium on Halloween Day.

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

The Game

Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015

Cincinnati, Ohio

12:00 PM ET


Meet the Opponent

In what is Cincinnati's first ever matchup with the UCF Knights, UCF is in utter shambles at 0-8 with head coach George O'Leary resigning after the most recent loss in a forgettable season and a remarkable fall from grace. Now, former Bearcats quarterback Danny Barrett is the interim head coach and Nippert Stadium is his first test.

As of a year ago, this matchup was met with tremendous intrigue considering Cincinnati's talent and the impressive run UCF had as a program, winning the Fiesta Bowl over Baylor in 2013 following a 12-1 season. Last season, they replaced Blake Bortles and still strung together a 9-4 season, sharing the AAC title. Now... 0-8 and with losses to Florida International, Tulane, UConn and even Furman, UCF is an absolute mess, unable to do much of anything in any facet of the game.

The statistics aren't favorable for the Knights. The offense is atrocious, averaging a mere 258 yards per game, which is comfortably the worst in the country. Their group of quarterbacks have only managed 1,595 passing yards on the season, completing 51.7% of their passes with 10 touchdowns to 17 interceptions. The run game has been equally bad as C.J. Jones leads the team with 151 yards, zero touchdowns and a 3.2 yards per carry average through eight games. Nick Patti, a wide receiver with 20 carries on the season, leads the team with a 3.5 per carry average and has the only two rushing touchdowns for the team through eight games. The team averages 2.1 yards per carry.

The defense isn't much better, ranking 106th in the country, giving up 417.6 yards per game and 6.1 yards per play. They have 11 sacks as a team as defensive lineman Jamiyus Pittman has 3.5 sacks himself. The passing defense has only one interception on the season, lacking the ability to make impact plays. Domenic Spencer leads the team with 51 total tackles and six tackles for a loss.

UCF Offense vs. Cincinnati Defense

Junior quarterback Justin Holman, last year's starter for UCF, has only completed 51.4% of his passes for 759 yards, four touchdowns and eight interceptions. Holman suffered an injury in Week 2 against Stanford and only returned to game action three weeks ago against UConn. Holman was solid a year ago when the Knights shared the AAC title with Cincinnati and Memphis. He could make some plays if the young players around him step-up. Since returning, Holman has been trying to will the UCF offense against the likes of UConn, Temple and Houston.

The running game, while absolutely nonexistent so far this season, gets a boost from the return of Dontravious Wilson, who missed most of the season due to injury. Wilson ran for 72 yards last week against Houston, which is nearly 16% of UCF's season-long rushing production. Freshman Tre'Quan Smith leads the team with 29 receptions, 382 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Five other players have over 100 yards receiving (but less than 200) on the season.

The Cincinnati defense played well last week against UConn last week. The Bearcats were flying around the ball and made a few impact plays, which is something we haven't seen much of this season. I'm hoping Cincinnati can continue to build upon that sort of play and UCF looks like a prime matchup to do just that. Holman is better than his numbers show, but he can be forced into bad decisions in the passing game. Wilson should continue to give the Knights a much needed kick in the run game, but I expect the Cincinnati defensive line to take control in the trenches. Cincinnati's secondary should be able to stick with UCF's receivers while the defensive line controls and dictates at the line of scrimmage.

Look for Holman, Wilson and Smith to make some plays, but this is one of those games where the Cincinnati defense, with the proper energy, is simply better than the UCF offense.

UCF Defense vs. Cincinnati Offense

The UCF defense is ranked 106th in the country defensively, giving up 417.6 yards per game. They can't really rush the passer and have been unable to force interceptions. If UCF is unable to make some of those plays, I'm not sure if the Knights can do anything to stop the Bearcats this week.

Cincinnati is ranked No. 12 in the country offensively with 556 yards per game (353.7 - passing, 201.9 - rushing) and still boasts one of the most diverse set of talented playmakers country-wide. Tion Green, Mike Boone and Hosey Williams will likely have a field day on the ground. Whether it is Hayden Moore or Gunner Kiel, the passing attack figures to meet little resistance with all the weapons on the outside. For what it's worth, I get the sense we will see Moore start, though I'd like to see Tommy Tuberville stick with Kiel.

I like the Bearcats to pick and choose how they attack the UCF defense. A steady dose of the run figures to be in the works, but Cincinnati will certainly get the ball around to the playmakers on the outside.

Special Teams

Cincinnati's Andrew Gantz is 28-for-28 on extra points and 16-for-20 on field goals with a long of 51. Punter Sam Geraci has been great this season, averaging 46.5 yards per punt.

UCF's Matthew Wright is 13-for-13 on extra points this season and 9-for-11 on field goals with a long of 48 yards. Punter Caleb Houston is averaging 44.3 yards per punt with a long of 56.


Score: Cincinnati 56, UCF 17

Let me put this simply; Cincinnati should be able to score as many points as they want to and the UCF offense has yet to demonstrate the ability to move the ball, much less consistently. The Knights aren't necessarily a terrible team in terms of talent, but they are just so young that the Bearcats appear to have the advantage in every facet of the game. Holman could make some plays and Wilson is a solid player, but it likely won't be enough.

After all, nobody has really shut down the Bearcats offense this season and UCF has little hope in doing so themselves. Turnovers remain the potential roadblock for Cincinnati, but if they protect the ball offensively, I think the Cincinnati defense will put together a solid showing and do their part in a blowout.