After an up and down season, the Bearcats have been able to qualify for a bowl game with a 7-5 record. Although bowl games have not yet been announced, there has been some speculation on who the Bearcats could match up against, fresh off their big win on Saturday against East Carolina.
Both Sports Illustrated and the Orlando Sentinel projected Cincinnati to be in the Military Bowl; with the Sentinel projecting their opponent to be Duke, and SI projecting them to play Southern Mississippi. It would be the second consecutive appearance by the Bearcats in the Military Bowl, a game that Cincinnati lost last year, 33-17 to Virginia Tech.
Brett McMurphy of ESPN projected the Bearcats to face Toledo in the Boca Raton Bowl, while Mark Schlabach, also from ESPN, projected them to face Auburn in the Birmingham Bowl. FOX Sports also projects the Bearcats to be in the Birmingham Bowl against Auburn.
Other potential landing spots for Cincinnati include the Hawaii Bowl against BYU (Campus Insiders), the Pinstripe Bowl against NC State (CBS Sports) and the St. Petersburg Bowl against Louisiana Tech (USA Today).
Obviously, there are a multitude of possibilities, and some potentially interesting match-ups. Here is a breakdown of some of these potential matchups:
Cincinnati vs. Duke
Both the Bearcats and Blue Devils finished 7-5. Duke started at an impressive 6-1 only to lose four straight games in a row, though they did put together a 27-21 victory against Wake Forest on Saturday. Despite the four-game swoon, Duke is not a team to be taken lightly; they were ranked as high as 18th in the country in the Coaches' Poll. Duke has the 36th ranked offense in the country, and dual-threat quarterback Thomas Sirk could prove to be tough on this Bearcats defense that has struggled at times during the season. At the same time, the Blue Devils defense is not necessarily one to be feared, with their pass defense allowing almost 230 yards per game. Gunner Kiel could have a strong game against the Blue Devils in what would likely be a high-scoring game.
Cincinnati vs. Southern Mississippi
In what would be another high-scoring matchup, Southern Mississippi has the 8th ranked offense in the country, scoring 41 points per game. Their defense is slightly stronger than Duke, averaging around 22 points per game. The 9-3 Golden Eagles seem like a much tougher matchup for the Bearcats, but it has potential to be a great Bowl game.
Cincinnati vs. Toledo
Toledo was undefeated until a November 3rd loss to Northern Illinois. They finished 9-2 after losing to Western Michigan on Friday in a high-scoring affair. Toledo had played very strong defense for the opening portion of the season, only to let up near the end of the year, finishing 2-2 in November and allowing at least 23 points in each game. Despite not playing as well of late, this is still a team that could keep pace with the Bearcats' high-powered offense.
Cincinnati vs. Auburn
Auburn commonly goes into the season seen by many as a contender, and this year was no exception. However, after a Week 2 close call versus the inferior Jacksonville State, many began to doubt Auburn. After losing two straight games to Mississippi State and LSU, Auburn played their way out of the national title conversation, finishing 2-4 on the year. Neither side of the ball posted particularly impressive numbers, making Cincinnati a potential favorite in this matchup.
Cincinnati vs. BYU
9-3 Brigham Young has posted strong numbers this year, and beat Utah State in convincing fashion, 51-28, on Saturday. This is an offense that can keep pace with Gunner Kiel and the Bearcats, and their defense can potentially make some stops, as well, accumulating 37 sacks on the year (7th in the country) and 15 interceptions. Heck, they already did all of the above in their 38-24 win over Cincinnati in Week 7. The Cougars racked up eight sacks against the Hayden Moore-led Bearcats, most of which coming in Cincinnati's second-half collapse.
Cincinnati vs. NC State
NC State recently lost to state rival North Carolina by a score of 45-34, but they still finished 7-5 on the year. NC State's strength is in their defense, ranked 23rd in the country, also posting strong sack numbers with 31 on the year. This is another team that could stop the Bearcats, but they may not be able to keep pace with them offensively.
Cincinnati vs. Louisiana Tech
The Tech Bulldogs finished 8-4, going on a particularly strong streak mid-season before losing on Saturday to Southern Mississippi. They have the 26th ranked offense, averaging 311 yards per game and nearly 37 points. This is another game that is likely to be a high-scoring affair.
The Bearcats will likely discover their Bowl game fate on Sunday.