The first round is always the most exciting part of a college tournament. Upsets are more prevalent and there are so many matchups to dissect. That’s why it is bittersweet that we have reached the first round of the last region of the the Favorite Cincinnati Bearcat Football Player Since 1997 Tournament, which is known in these parts as the Butch Jones region. While Jones left UC a bit high and dry when he took the head coaching job at Tennessee in 2012, the Bearcats did go 19-6 in his last two seasons. Here’s a snapshot of the bracket for this region.
Tony Pike vs. Silverberry Mouhon
This is a matchup of a quarterback and someone who tried to make life for quarterbacks miserable. Mouhon was pretty good at that job, as he ranks fifth in all-time sacks at UC. He was named one of the team’s MVPs in 2015 and was a two-time second-team All-American Athletic Conference team member as well. The 2013 season was his best, as he racked up 9.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss.
Pike is currently a sideline reporter for the Bearcats, but he was once on the field slinging the rock. He is sixth in all-time passing yards at UC (5,018 yards) and one of the most accurate passers in program history, having completed 61.7 percent of his attempts while tallying 49 touchdowns and only 20 picks.
Connor Barwin vs. Andrew Gantz
Barwin is a 2008 first-team All-Big East defensive end who has gone on to massive success in the NFL. He began his career as a tight end, and tallied 692 yards and six touchdowns on 53 receptions before transitioning to his true calling, as he had 11.0 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss in 2008.
Although Gantz transferred to Northern Illinois this offseason, he was still an excellent kicker for the Bearcats, especially in 2015 when he made 21-of-27 field goal tries and 49-of-50 extra points.
Eric Wilson vs. Parker Ehinger
Wilson dominated at linebacker in his senior season, earning All-AAC honors and leading the conference in tackles in 2016 (129). He had 106 tackles the year before that and finished with 261 stops overall after transferring to UC from Northwestern.
Ehinger was also a first-team All-AAC team member. However, he did it twice, doing so at offensive tackle in 2015 and at offensive guard in 2014. He was then selected in the fourth round of the NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Anthony McClung vs. Brendon Kay
McClung is fifth in all-time receptions at UC (175). His best year was easily his last with the Bearcats, as he had career-highs in catches (72) and receiving yards (939) in 2013. He was also the team’s top receiver in 2011 when he had 683 yards and six scores on 49 grabs.
Your 2013 starting quarterback, Kay threw for 3,302 yards and 22 touchdowns on 66.3 percent passing that year. Kay was certainly one of the most efficient passers in the program’s history, as he holds the No. 2 and No. 3 spots in best individual season passing efficiency in the school’s record book.
Brent Celek vs. Ben Mauk
While Celek may put Super Bowl champion on his resume first, there’s no denying that his time as a Bearcat was successful as well. Named the team’s MVP in 2006, Celek finished his career with 91 receptions, 1,135 yards and 14 touchdowns, including the eight he brought in during the 2004 season.
Mauk only played one season at UC after three years at Wake Forest, but it was an excellent one. He threw for 3,121 yards and 31 touchdowns compared to only nine interceptions. He also added 377 yards and three scores on the ground.
Mardy Gilyard vs. Travis Kelce
Gilyard was electric, whether he was returning kicks or catching passes. He set the single-game all-purpose yard record for UC in 2009 against Pittsburgh, putting together 381 yards. That year, he caught 87 passes for 1,191 yards and 11 touchdowns after having a program record 1,276 yards in 2008, which all led to him being the only 3,000-yard receiver in program history. He also had three games with more than 300 all-purpose yards. Only two other players did it at least once in school history.
Kelce led the Bearcats in receptions (45), receiving yards (722) and touchdown catches (eight) in 2012 en route to being named an All-Big East first teamer. Gilyard also earned first team honors in 2009, but Kelce has had the more storied professional career.
George Winn vs. Armon Binns
Speaking of that 2012 team, Winn went out and balled that season, racking up 1,334 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground. It was quite the way to end his collegiate career, since his previous best year featured only 219 yards and two scores.
Binns did this.
He also is seventh in all-time receptions (138) in program history, while his 21 touchdown grabs are tied for the fourth-most in program history.
Tion Green vs. Eric Lefeld
Green led the Bearcats in rushing in 2016 and was a frequent collaborator with Mike Boone. He rushed for at least 700 yards in each of his last two seasons and surpassed the 2,000 career yards mark on 445 career carries.
Lefeld was a first-team all-conference offensive lineman in three-straight seasons, grabbing Big East honors in 2012 and then All-AAC ones in 2013 and 2014.
You’ve been voting all week and now its time to do it once more.