The 2007 college football season was a damn fine season. It was also a damn weird season. And an epic one. And a defining one for the Cincinnati Bearcats. The team went 10-3 overall as the renaissance of UC football got underway in earnest. We may have fallen off track, but 2007 was a time when Bearcats were Bearcats and those Bearcats were good at football. With that in mind, here are the seven best things about the 2007 season.
1. Ben Mauck to Marcus Barnett
At this point, Tony Pike was still just a glimmer in our eyes. Mauck and Barnett both had exceptionally strong seasons in 2007, hooking up for scores and yardage galore. Mauck, a transfer from Wake Forest, threw for a Big East-best 31 touchdowns and completed more than 60 percent of his pass attempts while racking up 3,121 yards. Barnett was incredible as a top target even though he was a freshman. He caught 62 passes for 862 yards and 13 scores, marks he would never come close to again.
2. Brian Kelly’s First Season
Kelly coached the greatest three-year stretch in program history and it all began in 2007. Even if he was using a foundation that Mark Dantonio built, Kelly pressed all the right buttons to push the Bearcats to their first ever 10-win season. Plus, don’t forget that he coached the team during their win in the International Bowl the previous winter.
3. Won Second Straight Bowl Game
Speaking of bowl game wins, the Bearcats earned another one in 2007, triumphing in what was then known as the PapaJohns.com Bowl. Led by Mauck, who won MVP honors, the Bearcats rolled to a 31-21 victory over Southern Mississippi. It extended the Bearcats overall bowl winning streak to three games and its been tough sledding in the postseason since, with UC 2-5 in its last seven bowl outings.
4. Still in the Big East
Obviously the Big East was always and will always be a basketball conference first. On the football side of things, it never rivaled the SEC, ACC or some of the other major conferences. But at this point in history, it still had West Virginia, Louisville, Pitt, Syracuse and Rutgers. In addition, the conference was part of the BCS, essentially giving it a seat at the power conference table. That’s something the American Athletic Conference has yet to do.
5. Went 3-1 Against Ranked Opponents
With a more powerful group of teams surrounding it, UC had many more chances to pick up big victories and they got plenty of them in 2007. Beginning with a 28-23 victory over No. 21 Rutgers, the Bearcats showed they were for real, topping No. 20 USF and No. 16 UConn while nearly pulling off an upset against No. 5 West Virginia.
6. Nationally Ranked for the First Time Since 1976
Dantonio turned his solid efforts at UC into the job at Michigan State, but it was under Kelly that the program really took off. The Bearcats were nationally ranked in nine weeks of the season and reached as high as the No. 15 ranking, finishing the year ranked No. 17 in the AP poll. They had last been ranked in 1976 when they got as high as No. 20.
7. Anthony Hoke, Deangelo Smith, Haruki Nakamura and the Defense
There was a ton of talent on defense for this team. Hoke had 13.0 sacks, Terrill Byrd posted 17 tackles for loss and Haruki Nakamura led the team with 95 tackles and also snagged four interceptions. Speaking of picks, Smith and Mickens combined for 14 and returned three for touchdowns. This was a scary group.
Those were some of our favorite things about the 2007 season. What are yours?