After entering last season with high hopes and lofty expectations, Cincinnati Bearcats football took a bit of a dive in the deceptively deep American Athletic Conference, en route to a 7-6 overall record (with a 42-7 embarrassment against San Diego State in the Hawaii Bowl) and a 4-4 record in the AAC.
The expectations aren't as high heading into this season, as evidenced by ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) team ratings, where Cincinnati falls in at No. 70 nationally. The Bearcats are projected to match their win total from 2015 with seven wins and five losses, according to the metric that is used as a measure of team strength. Cincinnati is given a 0.1% chance of throwing together a perfect season, for what it's worth, and have a 5.3% chance of winning the AAC.
Speaking of the American, USF is the highest rated team from the conference at No. 44 with a 35.4% chance of taking the conference title and are projected to win nearly nine (8.7) games. Houston is at No. 48, projected to win 8.5 games and Temple checks-in at No. 63, a couple spots ahead of the Bearcats, with 8.3 projected wins. Tulsa, Navy, UConn and Memphis are No. 78, No. 82, No. 84 and No. 85 in the rankings.
The rankings are reflective of a Cincinnati team that was terribly mistake-prone this past season, but there is some reason for optimism in 2016. The Cincinnati defense is mostly in tact and can really only get better after a lot of young and inexperienced talent was forced out onto the field last season. You could also argue that the offense is merely reloading after a highly prolific 2015.
After all, Cincinnati's six losses came against the likes of Temple, Memphis, BYU, Houston, USF and San Diego State, all of which were floating around the Top 25 for much of 2015. With the exception of blowouts against USF and San Diego State (and sort of BYU), Cincinnati was in those games late and won seven games, despite ending the season tied for third worst nationally in lost turnovers with 33.
With a FPI score of 0.8, which means the Bearcats are considered just above average in the world of college football (No. 1 LSU has a score of 26.8), Cincinnati has their work cut out for them this upcoming season and ESPN's FPI has the Bearcats repeating their 7-5 regular season.
What do you think? Is Cincinnati's ranking here too low, too high or just right for the Bearcats in 2016?