Cincinnati Bearcats are 5-1 through the first half of the season. The first half of the schedule was always going to be challenging. Now, they play a much lighter schedule over the next two months, starting Saturday at Nippert Stadium.
The season ends with Temple coming to Nippert Stadium and the finale at Memphis. Temple is now ranked #25 after beating, previous 23rd ranked Memphis this past weekend. Temple has two wins over ranked teams (Memphis and Maryland). Memphis started 5-0 and is one of the top contenders in the loaded AAC West. Those two games will provide great challenges for the Bearcats.
But the next four, allow the Bearcats to “get right” and work through some of their issues. Not saying these games will be easy, but these next four games are against the four teams projected to finish at the bottom of the AAC standings. Cincinnati will be big favorites to win all four.
The next game is always the most important one of the season and that’s what Tulsa is. Cincinnati returns home to Nippert Stadium for the first time since their week 6 win over UCF where the fans piled onto the field at the end of it.
This will be the third meeting between the two schools since AAC joined the AAC. Cincinnati won at Nippert in 2015 and Tulsa won at home in 2016, in what turned out to be Tommy Tuberville’s final game as Cincinnati’s (lazy) coach.
Tulsa has had an interesting season. It’s hard to label them as a good team, but they aren’t necessarily a bad team, despite a 2-4 record. They lost week 1 to Michigan State, in a game where they ran for -73 yards. That’s negative 73 yards rushing. They lost to Oklahoma State 48-21, after leading 21-20 at halftime. And they lost to SMU 26-23, after leading 23-9, before losing in double overtime. Their wins are on the road against San Jose State and at home against Wyoming. SJ State beat Arkansas and Wyoming beat Missouri, for what it’s worth.
Tulsa has won just 7 games since the start of 2017 (5-19 the last two years).
@ East Carolina
ECU has won 3 games each of the last three seasons. They are 3-3 in 2019 in their first year with Mike Houston as Head Coach. Pirates have been improved this year but are still a year away from truly being competitive.
Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium is not an easy place to win and the Bearcats know this first hand. Many players were part of the 2017 team, in Luke Fickell’s first season, where the Bearcats were embarrassed in Greenville, losing 48-20 to East Carolina. Bearcats returned the favor in 2018, ending the regular season at home with a 56-6 victory.
UConn stinks. There is no nice way to describe it. Their last win against an FBS opponent was October 21, 2017, when they beat Tulsa. That’s 21 straight losses against FBS teams. Their only win in 2018 was against Rhode Island and their only win in 2019 was Wagner in week 1.
UConn is averaging 16.7 ppg. Only 7 teams have scored more per game than them. Their 295 yards per game ranks 124th among all FBS teams. Their offense is even worse than their rankings and stats indicate. They scored 8 points in the 4th quarter of a loss to USF, when the Bulls stopped playing and 14 points in the 4th against UCF’s third and fourth stringers.
Defensively, they ranked 127th, allowing 40.5 ppg.
Bearcats are 12-3 all-time vs UConn and Luke Fickell’s teams are 2-0. Cincinnati won the finale of the 2017 season in dramatic fashion, winning 22-21 at home. And last year, went to Storrs and won 49-7.
@ South Florida
Before the year, this was certainly a game you could circle as a potential loss. USF is 3-3 and has shown a little bit of life in their last two games against UConn and BYU, both wins. They opened up the season, with high expectations, and quickly came crashing down with a 49-0 home loss to Wisconsin. One week later, they lost to a Georgia Tech team that later lost to The Citadel.
Bulls losing streak vs FBS teams reached 9 games, before a two game winning streak, beating UConn and BYU each of the last two weeks.
Jordan McCloud has done a nice job at quarterback, replacing an ineffective and inconsistent Blake Barnett. McCloud has 8 TD passes and has run for 4 TDs as well. He is the team’s second leading rusher (167 yards) behind RB Jordan Cronkite (382 yards).
Charlie Strong is looking very much like USF’s version of Tommy Tuberville. Bearcats need to take full advantage of USF being down. The last two trips for UC to Tampa have not gone well. In 2017, they lost 33-3 and in 2015....ugh, well whatever word is worse than disaster is what 2015 was. Cincinnati lost 65-27, and the game wasn’t as close as the score indicates... Bulls won a much closer game, 26-20, in 2013 so the Bearcats will look to snap a 3 game losing streak in Tampa. They won last year 35-23 at Nippert.
Following USF, Cincinnati will have the tough task of welcoming Temple to Nippert Stadium and then going on the road to Memphis the day after Thanksgiving to close out the regular season.