After a long, long wait, the Bearcats are taking the field tomorrow night. It's not only the start of the 2015 season, which is awesome in it's own right, but is also the return to Nippert Stadium after playing in Paul Brown Stadium for 2014.
So... Cincinnati will welcome the Alabama A&M Bulldogs to town. Let's just get started there.
Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015
7:00 PM ET
FOX Sports Ohio & ESPN3
Meet the Opponent
Alabama A&M is a SWAC East FCS school that was 4-8 (3-6) a year ago with conference wins over the likes of Mississippi Valley State, Alabama State and Jackson State. Head coach James Spady is in his second year as the coach of the Bulldogs and he already has a number of questions on his own roster before even trying to matchup with Tommy Tuberville and the Bearcats.
Alabama A&M Offense vs. Cincinnati Defense
The quarterback situation is a mess. Junior college transfer De'Angelo "Tootie" Ballard is slated to start for the Bulldogs, but it really may not matter. Nobody on the Alabama A&M roster has thrown a pass for the Bulldogs. The inexperience will be tough to overcome at football's most important position.
The running game will be heavily relied on as the Bulldogs will likely try to survive the initial wave of momentum and just hang around early. Harvey Harris, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound sophomore, and 5-foot-8, 175-pound senior Brandon Eldemire will pace the run game for the Bulldogs after rushing for 651 and 530 yards a year ago. Both scored six touchdowns each last season.
O'Darius Williams is the returning leading receiver for the Bulldogs. He is a 6-foot, 180-pound junior who caught 33 balls for 432 yards in 2014. The entire offense is obviously much more run-oriented, running the pistol offense.
The Bearcats defense has a lot to prove this season and this game shapes up to be a good showcase. The Bearcats defensive line has been a major question mark, but we have reason to believe that won't be such a significant concern. Obviously, you have to like senior Silverberry Mouhon and I have heard nothing but good things about freshman Marquise Copeland at defensive end. The talent along the defensive line is impressive, if unproven. Given the quality of competition, I expect the Bearcats to win the line of scrimmage, but it will be telling if they can do it without bringing added pressure.
The linebacking core has a different look, but that shouldn't be a problem in this matchup. The key will be playing smart football and reading their keys to flow to the ball. Senior Clemente Casseus is your starting middle linebacker. I expect him to make some plays as he takes over as a new starter this season. Then, of course, it's always fun to see how Leviticus Payne utilized in the gameplan. Keep an eye on junior Zach Edwards at the other linebacker spot. I expect to see the entire defensive unit flying around against a Bulldogs team that should be a little wide-eyed from the get-go.
The secondary may not be terribly busy against the Bulldogs tomorrow night, but if they are called into action, I would expect them to force a turnover or two. Adrian Witty is back and I expect him to be a huge factor this season overall, much less in the opener against an inferior opponent. Safeties Zach Edwards and Andre Jones figure to find themselves peeking into the backfield a little more frequently than usual if the Bulldogs do go run-heavy like I expect. Grant Coleman is your other corner.
This is simple. Cincinnati stays focused and does their job, they will win. We should see a team that is flying around the ball and hopefully a defensive line that is blowing up plays without much help from the other units.
Cincinnati Offense vs. Alabama A&M Defense
This section will be abbreviated.
There is no reason why the Bulldogs should stop the Bearcats. Alabama A&M brings back their leading tackler from a year ago in linebacker Bryan Brower and also returns cornerback Dexter Reese who had five interceptions in 2014. Overall, the Bulldogs are young defensively and I highly doubt they will be able to slow down what is quite possibly the most explosive offense in Cincinnati history.
Quarterback Gunner Kiel should move the ball with ease. I expect some early-game nerves from the offense, but by the second or third possession, there should be some points up on the board. Senior receivers, Chris Moore, Shaq Washington, Mekale McKay and Max Morrison will keep the Bulldogs on their heels in the passing game while the Bearcats establish their run game with Hosey Williams, Mike Boone and Tion Green.
Expect a good season from Cincinnati's Lou Groza Award watch list kicker Andrew Gantz. Gantz was 16-for-20 on field goals last season. Punter Sam Geraci is back after averaging 39.4 yards per punt.
Alabama A&M kicker Cesar Diaz-Ramon was 14-for-17 last season on field goals. Rashad Anderson and Octayvius Miles each returned kicks for touchdowns last season for the Bulldogs (77-yard punt, 100-yard kick, respectively).
Cincinnati 49, Alabama A&M 6
For the record, I chose 49 because the Bearcats pull up after halftime, not because they struggle to reach that number.
Quarterback: Gunner Kiel, Hayden Moore
Running Back: Hosey Williams, Mike Boone, Tion Green
X-Wide Receiver: Chris Moore, Johnny Holton
Y-Wide Receiver: Shaq Washington, Nate Cole
Z-Wide Receiver: Mekale McKay, Alex Chisum
Fourth Wide Receiver: Max Morrison, Tshumbi Johnson
Tight End: DJ Dowdy, Tyler Cogswell
Left Tackle: Parker Ehinger, Korey Cunningham
Left Guard: Idarius Ray, Garrett Campbell
Center: Deyshawn Bond, David Niehaus
Right Guard: Ryan Leahy, Delonte Murray
Right Tackle: Justin Murray, Chad West
Strongside Defensive End: Silverberry Mouhon, Marquise Copeland, Landon Brazile
Defensive Tackle: Cortez Broughton, Lyndon Johnson
Defensive Tackle: Alex Pace, Sione Tongamoa
Weakside Defensive End: Kimoni Fitz, Mark Wilson, Kevin Mouhon
Middle Linebacker: Clemente Casseus, Antonio Kinard
Outside Linebacker: Eric Wilson, Kevin Brown
Outside Linebacker/Nickleback: Leviticus Payne, Chris Murphy
Cornerback: Adrian Witty, Alex Thomas
Strong Safety: Andre Jones, Carter Jacobs, Malik Clements
Free Safety: Zach Edwards, Tyrell Gilbert
Cornerback: Grant Coleman, Linden Stephens
Place Kicker: Andrew Gantz, Ryan Jones
Punter: Sam Geraci, Josh Pasley
Long Snapper: Kirk Willis, Jon Vincent
Place Holder: Sam Geraci, Hayden Moore
Kickoff Returner: Shaq Washington, Chris Moore, Johnny Holton, Max Morrison
Punt Returner: Shaq Washington, Max Morrison
Tuberville says he will play backup QB Hayden Moore early in Saturday's opener, possibly by 3rd or 4th series. #Bearcats— Tom Groeschen (@TomGroeschen) September 3, 2015
Hosey Williams will start at RB for #UC Sat., Tuberville says on his radio show tonight. Expect to see plenty of Mike Boone, Tion Green too— Tom Groeschen (@TomGroeschen) September 3, 2015
"Look, the countdown has to begin somewhere and for the Bulldogs it begins with them."
"This should be an easy win for the Bearcats if they come focused and ready to play, but surprisingly five out of the eight wins for Alabama A&M's the last two seasons have come on the road. Granted, these wins have also come against lesser talented FCS schools including Tuskegee University who, let's face it, you don't know who they are."