The Cincinnati Bearcats will likely walk unscathed through their first game of the season against an FCS foe in the UT-Martin Skyhawks, but things will begin to ramp up pretty quickly as they head into a Big Ten matchup with bottom feeder Purdue shortly after. Now, Purdue is not exactly known for being a powerhouse program, but they will be a significant step ahead of the Skyhawks and on a similar level to the Bearcats. Combine the quick escalation of competition with the game being in West Lafayette, Indiana and you have yourself a pretty good game to watch.
The Boilermakers have yet to make any strides in the past couple seasons with former Kent State standout coach Darrell Hazell, but they are looking to start of the 2016 season with a fresh win under returning quarterback David Blough. This game has some offensive matchups that should be interesting to watch, but in the end, I do not see Cincinnati as being the underdog come September. For the Bearcats, the entire game starts with quarterback Gunner Kiel.
It is simple enough for the Bearcats in this one; score points. They are returning countless starters from an offense that was 9th best in the entire country, at the end of last season, and they are going against a defense that allowed 36.5 points and nearly 500 yards per game. The Cincinnati offense should have no problem putting up points as long as Gunner Kiel keeps his head on his shoulders in the pocket. This game will be a gut-check for the Bearcats before they ever head into conference play, so after this game everyone will have a read on what kind of team they will be.
As for the Boilermakers, it will be a tough game for returning sophomore quarterback David Blough, but they will score points, though I am sure it will just be a significantly smaller amount than the Bearcats. Offensively speaking, the Bearcats were better last season in every major statistical category and that is why they have a firm advantage going into the game.
It was a bad season for the Bearcats last year, in regards to their defensive front seven, when looking at tackles for a loss, sacks, and rushing the quarterback. If there is one thing the Bearcats need to prove, it is that they will win the battle in the trenches early and set the tone for the Purdue running game. Once that is done, the Boilermakers will be forced to throw and that is when the loaded secondary of the Bearcats will be able to take advantage.
As for the Boilermakers, who were a lowly 111th in the country on defense last season, they are likely in for a long day if they let the Bearcat receivers get in sync with Kiel, so expect a lot of blitzing and jamming early in the game to knock the offense out of rhythm. I do not see the Boilermakers being successful on defense because of how seasoned the offensive line is, dynamic the running backs are, and how old the quarterback is. The Boilermakers' only hope is that the fresh meat receivers play afraid, out of control, and have a bit of anxiety if they want to keep the Bearcats out of the end zone. Another key thing to look out for on the Bearcats' offense isn't even a player, its efficiency because the Bearcats ranked 6th in the country on third down conversions while the Boilermakers were 78th.
The Bearcats hold a steady advantage in just about every area going into the matchup with the Boilermakers, but that doesn't mean this is a free victory. Teams that were solid on both sides of the ball shocked the Bearcats last season because they often didn't take them as seriously as they should have. If Kiel gets into his groove, I see the final score being something around 37-24 in favor of the Bearcats, obviously. Yet, maybe there is hope that Darrell Hazell will shock the world and the Purdue Boilermakers will pull the Iowa Hawkeye of last year and go undefeated. Unlikely as it may be, there is still a chance for Purdue, but my money is on the quarterback with more experience.