Certainties exist, but very few do when looking out over a fresh season of college football, or any sport for that matter. As much as it might be preordained that Alabama will win the national title, there is always going to be a 2016 Clemson standing in the way. For however much you think its a done deal that Bryce Love will win the Heisman Trophy, there are plenty of other players who will be worthy as well. (Kentucky’s Benny Snell for example). You just can’t be 100 percent sure of anything...
... except for the following eight things. Here are this year’s predictions for Cincinnati Bearcats football, in no particular order.
Kahlil Lewis will be an All-American Athletic Conference receiver
The reasoning: Lewis ranked sixth in the league in receptions in 2017 and let’s see here, not one of the five guys ahead of him is back. Now I’m not going to argue that because a few guys graduated or went to the NFL that Lewis is now going to lead the conference, but it certainly means he will be among it’s best options. East Carolina’s Trevon Brown and SMU’s James Proche are going to light it up, but Lewis is going to be right there with them, earning a second-team mention, at the very least.
How bold is this?: A bit. Lewis doesn’t exactly have the benefit of a high octane offense or a top flight quarterback, assuming Hayden Moore doesn’t transform into the next coming of Zach Collaros. This one is based entirely on Lewis’ talent. If he gets the opportunities, the stats and accolade will be there.
Jerron Rollins will end up as the No. 3 receiver in terms of receptions
The reasoning: Rashad Medaris won the No. 3 job out of camp, but Rollins is right behind him. If you look at the total number of receptions from a year ago, Rollins was fourth on the team among wide receivers, trailing Lewis, Thomas Geddis and Devin Gray. Its not a certainty that he will repeat in that area, but considering he already has somewhat of a rapport with Moore and that Medaris only had six receptions last year, there’s every chance that Rollins takes “his” spot back.
How bold is this?: It depends on how you feel about Medaris. I think this prediction will be right but by a small margin. It’s not like Rollins’ body of work is considerably superior. If there’s one pick on here I’m not super confident in, its this one.
Perry Young will lead the team in tackles and earn All-AAC honors
The reasoning: It just makes too much sense. So much sense, in fact, that I think this could be a trap, but I will make it anyway. Young ranked second on the team in tackles last year and that’s only because Jaylyin Minor had 125. Young managed 101 of his own, making him one of seven players in the AAC to reach the century mark. But Young does a lot more than just rack up tackles. He is excellent in pursuit and could be one of the key contributors in an improved pass rush. If he does all of that, then I don’t see why he wouldn’t be one of the best defenders in the AAC.
How bold is this?: I don’t think its very bold at all. Young was fantastic last year and he should only get better, especially if the defense around him improves.
Malik Vann will start multiple times
The reasoning: Vann was a four-star recruit who has been one of the most talked about prospects I can remember at UC. He is already listed as the second-string defensive end on the depth chart, so he’s going to be playing. If he plays up to his potential, it would be foolish not to give him a few chances at a starting gig.
How bold is this?: Reasonably bold. Even though Vann is highly regarded, the Bearcats have a pretty solid defensive line and he is blocked by a proven veteran in Kimoni Fitz, and don’t forget about Kevin Mouhon. There’s going to be competition here.
Cincinnati will have a positive turnover margin
The reasoning: One of the easiest ways to put yourself in a position to win is to hold onto the ball, at least in theory. For the Bearcats, the problem wasn’t really giving the ball up last year, it was forcing turnovers. With only 11 collected, UC was outside the top 100 nationally. That outweighed rather decent work in ball control (16 giveaways). If the Bearcats remain similarly stingy in that regard and the defense gets more pressure, there will be more turnovers forced and a positive margin.
How bold is this?: Not all that much. If the Bearcats had created just six more turnovers last year, they would have done this already.
The defense will be among the top five in the AAC
The reasoning: Of the three phases, UC was best at defense last year. That wasn’t a big surprise considering their new head coach, Luke Fickell, is a former defensive coordinator. Now that Fickell and defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman have had a full year to craft the scheme they want and put the right players in the right places, I’m expecting a big step forward.
How bold is this?: Not as bold as you think. On a yards allowed per game basis, UC actually ranked sixth in the AAC in 2017. But that’s just one number. This prediction is built on the idea that the whole unit will get better and that it will show in all metrics, not just one.
Cincinnati will go 3-5 in league play
The reasoning: If you’ve been following our opponent preview series this offseason, you might have already pieced this together. Even if UC is better, it’s worth remembering that it almost went 1-11 last year, as most of the wins on the schedule were thanks to miracle finishes or by just a few points. Fickell’s team is going to be better this year, but not so much better that it walks to the AAC title game.
How bold is this?: Considering the Bearcats haven’t won more than two games in league play since 2015, this has quite a large degree of difficulty. The games I expect them to win are as follows: UConn, Navy and East Carolina.
The Bearcats will finish 5-7 overall, missing out on a bowl game by a sliver
The reasoning: According to projections, the Bearcats are expected to win roughly six games this season. For that to happen, they’d probably need to either have an excellent start to the non-conference schedule (3-1 at least) or go .500 or better inside of league play. Neither path seems realistic enough to believe in, but I do think the chance for a bowl game will stay alive long into November.
How bold is this?: Not very. It’s easy to predict that a team that went 4-8 in back-to-back seasons won’t suddenly be a winning squad. Also, in case you missed the opponent previews, the games I think UC wins outside of league play are against Miami-Ohio and Alabama A&M.