clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Bearcats Take A Step Back In Loss To Houston

One step forward, two steps back. That is how the Cincinnati Bearcats season has played out in 2015. That is, in and of itself, not all that surprising. Neither for that matter is the hand wringing that accompanies each and every loss. Its not surprising, but it is exhausting.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Its exhausting because the greek chorus from those calling for blood simply will not shut up under any circumstances. Personally I am not entirely convinced by what I have seen through three years of the Tommy Tuberville era to declare him as the Bearcats messiah. The one who will lead them into the (not so) promised land of the top 25 and regular new years six bowl appearances. I am also not convinced that he is ghost of Rick Minter, and in these strange times that makes me something of a Tuberville defender.

The weird part of that is that I am not really defending Tuberville as much as I am acknowledging the circumstances he took the job under. When Tubs took the job we were all under the assumption that this would be a plug and play situation. Butch Jones won at a high clip, seemed to recruit reasonably well and managed to reach the new standard of 10 wins a season in his last two years. The general idea was that Tubs was set up to succeed instantly, and thus should succeed instantly. That Tubs teams have by and large not met that standard is the source of the growing discontent among segments of the Bearcats fan base.

In reality what Tuberville stepped into in December of 2012 was a stealth rebuilding job. Tuberville certainly never declared it in a public forum that he was embarking on rebuilding job with the Bearcats, but his actions show his intent to do just that.

In retrospect the first clue about his intentions to rebuild was the decision to cut ties en masse with almost all of Butch Jones recruits from the 2013 class. The implications of that decision still reverberates today, the message being Butch Jones didn't recruit enough talent. Three years later and its impossible to make an argument for Butch Jones recruiting at Cincinnati. Yes he stocked the offensive skill positions with guys like Shaq Washington, Max Morrison and Chris Moore. Jones also completely neglected the line of scrimmage leaving the Bearcats with parer thin depth, a lack of play makers and very few proven regulars on both lines.

It has taken two full recruiting cycles, and a couple of seasons trying to get by with very little margin for error along the lines to get the Bearcats to this point. This isn't a new point I am making.

The remarkable thing about the 2014 season isn't that the Bearcats only won 9 games, it's that they only lost 4. They only lost four games with a defensive tackle rotation so bad they had to play 260 pound Brad Harrah at the three technique position in crunch time. They only lost four games with an offensive line rotation that went from 9 men to 5 before they even played their third game. They only lost four games with a defense that was trending to be one of the worst in major college football history after the first 5 games of the season. Most of those problems stem, one way or another, from the dearth of quality players for the Bearcats up front. But somehow, using smoke, mirrors, rainbows and (presumably) black magic the Bearcats were able to work around their fatal flaw.

I wrote that paragraph in the wake of last years Virginia Tech game, and it still resonates now. The Bearcats biggest issue in 2014 was a broad lack of talent on defense, and a crippling lack of depth along the line of scrimmage. The 2015 Bearcats are deeper and more talented than either of the two teams that preceded them. They are also the youngest team fielded in a decade. There is much to like about the this young defense; Tyrell Gilbert has the makings of a star at safety, J.J. Pinckney has enormous potential at corner, Cortez Broughton is a stud with NFL potential at Defensive Tackle, Bryce Jenkinson has been a revelation at middle linebacker and on and on. There is a ton of young talent on this roster, especially on defense and I want to see what Tubs and Steve Clinkscale can do with it, That's one of the biggest reasons why I don't think UC needs to make any changes to the defensive staff this off season. Continuity alone should be enough to see a big jump in productivity, but there are other reasons not to be hasty in reaching a conclusion for the Tuberville era.

For a start the Bearcats have been desperately unlucky in this 2015 season. Start with the turnover margin which sits at -10 currently. Over the course of the year, and certainly from season to season, turnovers are essentially randomized. If you were a betting type you could make a great deal of money on season over/under's by simply taking the teams at the bottom of this chart and betting on big turnarounds the next year.

Then there is the matter of one possession losses. UC has lost four games this season, three of those losses came in conference by a combined 18 points. In all three of those losses the Bearcats were driving with a chance to tie or win the game with their final possession. The only game where UC was soundly beaten was against BYU, it was also a game they led going into the fourth quarter.

Giving into the doom and gloom is enticing. Afterall UC football fans such that they are endured decades of mediocrity and worse. They don't want to go back, and a lot of them view Tuberville are the engine of that doom. He very well might be that guy, but its too early to make that judgement this season. Tuberville has finally built a roster that he is comfortable with, and I want to see what he can do with it, but we won't know that until next December.