Football is a game of inches. It is amazing how quickly the atmosphere of a game can change. How quickly momentum can shift and things can get out of hand. One play was all it took for the Cincinnati Bearcats to let the game slip from their grasp. What should have been a goal-line stand that resulted in a turnover on downs ended up being a touchdown after four penalties were called on the defense. Case in point, a single play later the Bearcats threw a pick six that ended any chance of them coming back. The momentum shifted away from their favor after that missed false start call, but the question is whether or not this team is mature enough to not let it happen again this week against Tulsa. Here are some glaring matchups to look forward to heading into this matchup.
Dane Evans vs. Gunner Kiel
They have nearly identical statistics in regards to touchdowns and interceptions (17 TD and 7 INT for Evans and 16 TD and 7 INT for Kiel) thus far this season, but remember that Gunner Kiel has played significantly less time because of injury. So, take into account the fact that Tulsa relies heavily on their rushing attack to march them down the field and put points on the board. They have 13 more touchdowns from their leading rusher than the Bearcats have from theirs. This will be a point to keep in mind when comparing these two after the contest, but the winner in my eyes will ultimately be the one who is able to lead their team to victory. Kiel showed numerous weaknesses last week in the close loss to the Houston Cougars and I would like to see the Bearcats (especially Kiel) come out and take their frustration out on Tulsa.
Defense vs. Defense
Both offenses are going to put points on the board, considering they both average over 500 yards a game (520.1 for Tulsa and 578.2 for Cincinnati) and put up over 35 points per game (36.3 for Tulsa and 37.6 for Cincinnati). The hope for Bearcat fans is that they will see a similar performance to that of last week against the Houston Cougars. They managed to get several stops and hold them to under their season averages offensively. If the Bearcats defense shows up like they did last week (mostly in the first half), then they will easily hold the Golden Hurricane offense to below 20 points. Meanwhile, if they play like they did against BYU or even Memphis, then they can expect another close shootout. I see the secondary stepping up and making some big plays this week.
Attitude vs. Attitude
The Bearcats had numerous blown assignments and fatal mistakes in Saturday's game against Houston, but managed to only lose by three. Without nine penalties, a pick six, and a fumble in the red zone, maybe Cincinnati would be sitting pretty after knocking off one of the nation's undefeated teams. Will we see a team capable of responding to a sloppy effort by driving themselves into the next game or will we see an immature approach to an already underachieving season? Being that it is senior night, I doubt that the Bearcats will let their emotions get the best of them this time. They are going to fight for a win here.
Prediction: Tulsa 27, Cincinnati 42