For the Cincinnati Bearcats the goal's won't change this season. They want to win the american athletic conference, they want to be in the discussion for and ultimately be the group of five representative in one of the New Years Six games. The schedule for the Bearcats could help them out in that respect, at the very least the Bearcats will know where they stand very early on.
For better or worse UC will know whether or not that last goal is feasible before October is more than halfway done. After opening with Alabama A&M on the 5th of September the Bearcats will get Temple at home on the 12th of the month and then travel to Oxford to take on the Miami RedHawks. That's when things get interesting.
On a short week the Bearcats will play at Memphis on Thursday the 24th. One week later they will host the Miami Hurricanes for a Thursday night game at Nippert Stadium. That will be the first time that most of the nation will get their first look at New Nippert. After a bye the Bearcats travel to Provo to take on the BYU Cougars in a game between two contenders for that access bowl spot*. By the close of business on the 17th of October every UC fan will know exactly where the Cats stand. They will either be in the thick of the group of five race with Boise State and others. If things go Pear shaped in September yet again it could be a very long slog to December.
*Reminder, BYU has to essentially go undefeated to be in contention for that New Years Six slot. The powers that be are obligated to select a group of five school every year, but they have no obligation to BYU.
After that crucial three game stretch the Cats will welcome UConn on the 24th of October and UCF on Halloween night. The Bearcats will close the month of November with three road games sandwiching senior day. They go to Houston on the 7th of November, host Tulsa on the 14th, travel to South Florida on Friday the 20th of November and wrap up the regular season at ECU.
Compared to what the Bearcats have had to endure schedule wise from the AAC office over the last two seasons this schedule is perfectly fine. The Memphis and Miami games will be featured by ESPN as part of their College Football Thursday Primetime coverage, traditionally a spot that has been good to the Bearcats.
As per usual there is the subset of UC fans who think this is just the worst thing in the world. Its obviously not as good as the schedule from, say, 2009. But that's so obvious as to be above the point of commenting on it. The AAC is not the Big East, we all know this, so move on. On the whole this years schedule is better than last years, and the numbers bear that out.
*This is based on the final 2014 F/+ ratings which are obviously not a predictive instrument from one season to the next. For example Miami (OH) ended the year ranked 111th, I think they will be one of the MAC's better teams in 2015. Because of that we will touch on this subject again once Football Outsiders initial F/+ ratings for 2015 come out.
The biggest difference, trading Ohio State which ended the year ranked #1 obviously, for BYU brings the average down considerably on the non conference side of things. UC also gets two of the three best teams from the western division; Houston and Memphis* on the schedule.
*Navy is the third for my money, unless either Chad Morris or Phillip Montgomery prove to be actual sorcerers
This is a schedule that the Bearcats can really make a run with, provided that they get through the late September and early October gauntlet unscathed.