The world of college football has always been, and will be, about what could have, would have, or should have happened. It is a world of splendid chaos for a football fan. It amazes us all how unpredictably perfect the upsets seem to be or the injuries to major players for incredibly talented teams. Take a look at the Cincinnati Bearcats, a team that lost a close game to #21 Temple, a team that has been ranked with a close loss to a top five team in Notre Dame. All hype aside, starting quarterback Gunner Kiel goes down to injury and they lose two more games, one to #13 Memphis and another to BYU. So, with Kiel healthy now, Bearcat fans get the chance now to find out if they could, would, and should have won those games before the injury in a clash with #25 Houston this week.
Greg Ward Jr. vs. Gunner Kiel
Two quarterbacks on the verge of stardom clash in an offensive shootout this week in Houston. Combining for over 40 touchdowns together this season, they have proven that they are more than capable of producing amazing plays on the offensive side of the football. While Kiel tends to lean as a standard pocket passer, Ward Jr. is a dual threat quarterback with more rushing touchdowns than passing. Regardless of who is throwing or running, these teams both reach well into the 500 yards-per-game averages (Bearcats with 576.9 and Cougars with 537.4) and have the ability to total up to 50 plus points in any given game. Kiel has been dominant, but his production will not be as powerful as that of Ward Jr.'s Saturday afternoon, so I have to give the Cougars the edge this time.
Veteran vs. Fresh Meat
The head coach of the Houston Cougars has never lost a game. Tom Herman is undefeated in his first year at Houston after leaving the Ohio State Buckeyes after their National Championship run. Slated for a decent year, many projected to see Houston be competitive in conference play, but no one expected an undefeated start with one of the most powerful offenses in the country. This being said, Herman also hasn't faced much competition in regards to coaching. Tommy Tuberville has been in the business quite some time and is more than familiar with the type of spread offense that Herman runs. The question is whether or not Herman's "rookie" label as a head coach will play a significant factor in the game. My guess is no, but I still give a coaching advantage to the Bearcats.
Defense vs. Defense
Statistically, the two squads' defensive lineups are nearly identical in every category, such as yards per game (Bearcats: 376.9, Cougars: 339.9), but one stands out the most and that is points allowed per game with the Bearcats giving up 26.4 and the Cougars giving up 17.3. Though both teams show large holes in their pass coverage and front seven, it has seemed that, with the exclusion of the UCF game, the Cougar defense is much better at getting themselves off the field in crunch time and making big plays. The Cougars have more star power on defense and seem to make bigger plays when it matters most. I cannot help but give the advantage to the Houston Cougars.
Prediction: Cincinnati Bearcats 41, Houston Cougars 56