Luke Fickell used to coach for Ohio State. Now that he coaches for the Cincinnati Bearcats, he still can’t escape the Buckeyes’ rivals, as in his second game at the helm, and first against a D1 program, he will face the Michigan Wolverines. It will be a major test for Fickell and these Bearcats, as playing in the Big House in Ann Arbor on a Saturday afternoon is never an easy task, even if you have a nationally ranked team at your back.
UC isn’t a nationally ranked squad by any stretch of the imagination. After months of anticipation for Fickell’s coaching debut last Thursday, we were treated to a wet fart of a time, as the Bearcats barely ground out a 26-14 win over Austin Peay, which, say it with me, hasn’t won a game since 2014.
On the other side, Michigan ran up against a nationally ranked Florida squad and nearly doubled the Gators’ scoring output, winning 33-17. The game might have been closer than the final score, especially in the first half, but the Wolverines proved that they are a team to fear when they come up on the schedule.
So take a big gulp and get ready, because the Bearcats are facing that frightening proposition this Saturday.
How much longer can we believe Hayden Moore is going to be good? It’s possible that he just isn’t. He was unimpressive as the starter a year ago and didn’t do much to improve his stock against Austin Peay. Sure, he threw three touchdown passes and completed 17-of-28 pass attempts, but he only accumulated 151 passing yards. That type of production would be fine in a half against lowly Austin Peay, but for a whole game it was underwhelming to say the least.
Moore will start once again, as Ross Trail is dealing with an abdominal injury that has him listed as questionable, but Moore isn’t making his job any more secure. Now he will deal with Michigan, a team that is ranked No. 2 in the country in defensive S&P+ after the first week. Don’t bother crying small sample size at me either. The Wolverines ranked second last year as well.
It’s clear that the offense isn’t going to run through Moore, at least until he proves he can carry the load. Mike Boone should continue to be the gear that makes the machine tick. He touched the ball 21 times and accumulated 109 yards against Austin Peay, scoring the final touchdown that put things away. Expect him to continue to get tons of work.
At receiver, the spread of opportunity for Bearcats is more up in the air. Obviously, if Moore isn’t hitting targets, then the wideouts can’t do much of anything. Thomas Geddis was the top pass-catcher in the opener, turning four receptions into 48 yards and a touchdown. Moore needs to get Kahlil Lewis and Devin Gray more involved or else the offense is really going to have problems. An interesting wrinkle from the opener was the use of tight end Tyler Cogswell, who got three receptions and scored a touchdown.
If there was hope to be gained from the opener it was the fact that the defense looked fine. Not great, but fine, which is way more than can be said about the offense. Weakness up front led to too many rushing yards for the Governors, but part of that had to do with the fact that they didn’t seem interested in passing all that much.
That’s where the bad news comes in. Michigan is a team that likes to run the ball and it has the roster makeup to do that effectively, especially if UC is pushed back at the line of scrimmage. Powered by Ty Isaac and Chris Evans, the Wolverines racked up 215 yards on the ground against Florida. That running helped outweigh a rather dismal day from quarterback Wilton Speight, who finished with two picks and 181 yards on just 11-of-25 passing. With a more imposing offensive line, Kevin Mouhon, Cortez Broughton and Marquise Copeland are going to have an even more difficult time getting to the quarterback and creating negative plays against the run game. That will make it imperative that linebackers like Perry Young and Tyrell Gilbert are aggressive and get to ball carriers quickly. Otherwise, the gaps that Austin Peay found will be ripped even further open by Michigan’s attack.
Three Numbers That Matter
26 - Mike Boone may have finished with a nice stat line, but if it weren’t for a 26-yard run on UC’s final scoring drive against Austin Peay, he would have averaged only 4.1 yards per carry rather than 5.3.
1 - UC had just one sack last week. Michigan gave up five to a much better Florida defense.
6 - Michigan had six sacks against Florida. Hayden Moore wasn’t sacked once and still only had 151 yards passing.
Players to Watch
Cincinnati - Hayden Moore, QB
With a defense that excels at taking away your strengths, Michigan is going to force UC to throw, which means Moore has to play the game of his life.
Michigan - Devin Bush, LB
The sophomore linebacker had a great game in the opener, recording a team-high seven tackles, including two sacks.
This one is going to hurt. A lot. Michigan 42 Cincinnati 6