A year ago at this time, the Cincinnati Bearcats had their sights set on improving after a disappointing season. They are in the same position this season, although after going 4-8, matching 2015’s 7-6 finish would be a major upgrade.
In the echo chamber of Bearcats fans/followers, it was apparent almost from the jump that last season’s Bearcats were not going to be very good. It didn’t take long for the rest of the college football world to catch up and we are seeing more evidence this summer. During the first of the American Athletic Conference’s media days, the league released its preseason poll. UC, which went just 4-8 and 1-7 in league play last season, received 100 points in the poll, which was only good enough for fourth place in the East Division. It was also the eighth-best point total among the entire 12-team conference.
Dominating the poll was USF, which received 26 of 30 points in the vote for conference champion. Houston also received some recognition (two) with Memphis and Navy (one apiece) dark horses. The Tigers received 22 first plate votes in the Wet Division, with Houston (six), Navy (one) and even Tulsa (one) considered in contention. Temple won last year’s AAC title, with a 34-10 triumph over Navy in the championship game on Dec. 3.
UC’s ranking is more than fair. The debacle of a final season for Tommy Tuberville was filled with brutally ineffective play on the field. The Bearcats didn’t just lose frequently, they looked terrible doing it, especially on offense, scoring a miserable 19.3 points per game. Questionable play at quarterback and on the offensive line were major problems, but it was the uninspired play calling that really seemed to weigh the team down.
That was why Tuberville and most of his staff were ushered out and Luke Fickell was brought in the begin the rebuild. Of course the hope is that Fickell will be a first year head coach who catches lightning in a bottle, but most of the recent first year coaches for Cincinnati have benefited from at least some leftover success. The former Ohio State defensive coordinator is working more from scratch, which the poll voters obviously know.