Through 7 weeks of the 2019 college football, Cincinnati Bearcats are 5-1. To some people, this is right where they were expected to be.
Expectations vs reality is always an interesting debate. People have different expectations and sometimes they are far skewed from what is realistic. The purpose of this article is to explore the expectations of each game and how they differ from reality.
Week 1 vs UCLA
Expectations: Improved UCLA offense in year 2 of Chip Kelly era would provide difficulty for Cincinnati
Reality: UCLA scored 14 points and produced just 218 yards of total offense (114 of which came on just two plays).
Cincinnati went into LA and upset the Bruins in week 1 of the 2018 season. That game turned out to be a coming out party for the Bearcats who went on to have an 11-2 season. Entering 2019, it was reasonable to think, despite playing at home, UCLA would offer a tough test. They would be entering their second season under Chip Kelly, a very young team from 2018 gained valuable in-game and then off-season experience.
Cincinnati won the game 24-14. The defense stepped up and did a phenomenal job for Cincy. QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson completed just 8 passes (on 26 attempts). UCLA went 8 plays, 46 yards on the opening drive and Cincy’s defense looked very out of sorts. UCLA ran all sorts of motion and pre-snap activity confusing the Bearcats. But they gave up just 172 yards the rest of the game and without a 75 yard touchdown to Demetric Felton, UCLA had just 97 yards of offense the rest of the way.
Summary: Reality of this game far exceeded the expectations
Week 2 vs Ohio State
Expectations: Bearcats can keep it close and hang around, Justin Fields is a young QB making his second start and Cincy’s defense could rattle him
Not much to say here. It wasn’t just Cincinnati fans that were filled with optimism. Media folks too pegged this as a game to watch, thinking the Bearcats could hang around and possibly could cover the +17 point spread and keep it interesting. It was never interesting and it was over before it started.
Bearcats were doomed by an opening drive three-and-out, followed up by a field goal being blocked.
Justin Fields was nearly perfect, Buckeyes scored 3 touchdowns in the second quarter and the Bearcats had just 273 yards of total offense, most of which came in the 4th quarter when Ohio State basically called off the dogs.
Summary: Expectations never came close to reality and this was a gut-punching moment for Cincinnati.
Week 3 vs Miami
Expectations: 1) Miami is beneath us, let’s blow them out; 2) Ohio State proved we aren’t as good as we thought we are and this game could be close
Reality: Miami came out firing, started hot. Bearcats dominated after that.
Following the disaster in Columbus, all eyes turned to this game to see what the Bearcats were made of. How would they bounce back against an inferior opponent? Well, it certainly started out questionably. Cincinnati’s offense had nothing going early on and Miami jumped out to a 10-0 lead. Bearcats scored twice in the second quarter though and than went on to outscore Miami 21-3 in the second half.
Summary: Expectations were different everywhere - folks expected to win, but didn’t know how easy or difficult a win might be. After a slow start, I’d say majority expectations aligned with reality.
Week 5 @ Marshall
Expectations: Tough opponent and trap game, with Cincy looking ahead to UCF the next week
Reality: Best offensive game on 2019 for Cincinnati
The reality was a blow out and Cincinnati’s most complete performance of the season. Bearcats dominated and won 52-14.
Marshall came into the game with 1 loss, a 7 point on the road to Boise State. The expectation was that the 14-7 loss said more about how good Marshall is than how much Boise State struggled in that game. Marshall also blew out Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium in 2017, giving fans even more pause.
But QB Desmond Ridder, after some sluggish and slow performances, came out firing. He threw 4 touchdown passes and 4 incompletions. Zero turnovers. Marshall’s 2 touchdowns came late in the game during garbage time.
Summary: Reality says maybe Marshall isn’t as good as expected, but credit the Bearcats for their first road win of the season in a big “get right” game before their biggest game of the season.
Week 6 vs UCF
Expectations (before the season); Cincinnati is the team to beat in the AAC and will upset UCF
Expectations week of the game: UCF has been more impressive than expected, Bearcats have struggled and UCF should win a hard fought game
Expectations from UC fans: “WE GOT THIS”
Reality: Worst offensive game for UCF in three years
While the offense had their best performance during the week 5 win against Marshall, it was the defense who had their best performance against UCF in week 6. UCF was held to 24 points, their first game under 30 points in 31 games. Crowd was a huge factor at Nippert Stadium for UCF and the offense never really got going for the Knights.
Expectations were all over the place. Some in the media thought Cincinnati would win before the season. Some stuck with them the week of the game. But many, after seeing UCF’s performances through 5 weeks and the egg Cincy laid vs Ohio State, led to some changing their minds. Fans believed, though. And clearly the players and coaches did too.
Summary: Cincinnati far exceed whatever expectations there were, mostly dominating UCF and hanging on late for a 27-24 victory, to snap their two year AAC winning streak and hand them a second regular season loss of 2019.
Week 7 @ Houston
Expectations before the season: If Cincinnati beats UCF, this is a big potential letdown spot, against a team who will compete for the AAC West title.
Expectations after beating UCF: Houston is a train wreck, they are “tanking” and Cincinnati should win with ease
Reality: It wasn’t easy (never is), but Cincinnati took care of business
It’s been a weird season for Houston, who is now 2-4. They’ve lost to 4 teams who are clearly better than them, but that doesn’t make it okay. Especially when the athletic department claims they will fire coaches for winning less than 8-9 games a year. Several key Houston players declared 2019 as a redshirt season after their 4th game. Some guys are injured. Houston saw 4 different players take snaps at QB and three throw passes.
Cincinnati’s defense forced five turnovers and the offense, despite some struggles, produced almost 400 yards of offense.
Summary: Bearcats exceed the expectations, avoiding the letdown and winning a road conference game.
How are you feeling about the Bearcats through 6 games? Has the reality of this season met your expectations?