In 2015 the Cincinnati Bearcats won seven games, went to a bowl and led the American Athletic Conference in offense. It was considered a down year but one the program would bounce back from. I thought so myself when I made 10 predictions about the team to start the season. Who would have known that things were about to get a whole lot worse? Not me. Here’s a rundown of those preseason prognostications and how things actually turned out.
Ross Trail will start at least once
Ding. Ding. Ding. Got this one right, but not exactly perfectly. Trail started back-to-back games against Miami-Ohio and South Florida but not just because Tommy Tuberville wanted to give the freshman a shot. No, the Bearcats had a carousel at quarterback this season, as they tried to fit Hayden Moore, Trail and Gunner Kiel in to lead an offense that didn’t get much strong play from any one of them.
Mike Boone will record more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage
Although partially limited by an injury that cost him the last three games of the season, Boone still wasn’t on pace to get to the 1,000-yard mark. The junior running back did rank second on the team in yards from scrimmage and averaged 5.1 yards per touch, but his 637 total yards wasn’t anywhere near the expectations set for him in the preseason, especially as he failed to be as explosive on the ground (3.7 yards per carry).
DJ Dowdy will be the first tight end since Travis Kelce to have at lest 300 yards receiving
Dowdy got some preseason hype nationally but never turned into much of a pass-catching threat. Despite starting in 11 of 12 games, he finished with all of 44 yards on four receptions. On the bright side, half of those catches went for touchdowns.
Cincinnati will lead the AAC in offense again
Perhaps the most egregious error in judgement was expecting another big offensive year from the Bearcats. Blame it on the glut of receiving talent that was lost in the offseason all you want but the simple fact was that UC was stagnant offensively. I don’t think Shaq Washington, Chris Moore and Max Morrison would have changed that. The Bearcats ended up ranking ninth out of 12 AAC schools in total offense (374.1 yards per game).
Cincinnati will rank in the top three in the AAC in third down conversion rate
Not only did the offense fail to pick up yards, it also failed to get many first downs or do anything positive on third down. The Bearcats ranked just ninth in third down conversion rate (37.9 percent) and seventh in third down chances (182).
Kahlil Lewis will lead the team in receiving yards
This one wasn’t that far off. Lewis finished second on the team with 605 yards and was also third in receptions (48) while tying with Devin Gray for the most touchdown receptions on the team (five). He also started in 10 of 12 games and showed just how incredible his talents are when he posted 150 yards and three scores on 11 catches against East Carolina.
Hayden Moore will throw for more than 3,000 yards
This was another prediction predicated on the assumption that UC would be strong offensively. Moore did lead the team in passing yards, but 1,744 isn’t anywhere near the type of success expected from a Bearcat quarterback in a system that normally puts heavy emphasis on the pass. That changed some this year and Moore didn’t start every game, but its unlikely he would have hit 3,000 even if he took every snap.
Eric Wilson will lead the team in tackles
Not only did Wilson lead the Bearcats in tackles, he lead the entire conference with 129 stops. Wilson was one of the few bright spots in the 2016 gloom as he also led the team in sacks (3.0) and tied for the team lead in tackles for loss (7.5).
Landon Brazile will lead the team in sacks
As you just read, Wilson led the team in sacks, so this one was wrong. Cincinnati did do a better job of rushing the passer in 2016, raising its sack total from 13 the year before to 19, but clearly the pass rush was still not dominant. Brazile did not record a single sack to help the cause, but he did only play in four games. Cortez Broughton (2.5 sacks) was the defensive lineman who got to the quarterback the most.
Cincinnati will have two players on the All-AAC first team
Would you settle for half that number? Wilson was put on the first-team and Broughton did earn a spot on the second-team.
BONUS: Cincinnati will win eight games including a bowl
Here’s hoping Luke Fickell can make some of these things come true in 2017.