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Would Cincinnati Bearcats Win the ACC Coastal in 2019?

How good would the Cincinnati Bearcats be if they played football in the ACC?

NCAA Football: Military Bowl-Cincinnati vs Virginia Tech Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati Bearcats are 5-1 and 2-0 in the AAC. Sometimes it sucks seeing Cincinnati play in the American Athletic Conference. A lack of respect nationally, would be one major reason. There are 65, so called “power 5” teams. How many of those teams are better than Cincinnati? Like, definitively better than Cincinnati? 20? 30? I’d confidently bet Cincinnati to beat 50% of those power 5 teams.

Among those teams I would confidently bet against are the seven from the ACC Coastal division. This division is arguably the worst among the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, PAC-12, and Big 12.

Here are the current standings in the ACC Coastal, through 7 weeks of the 2019 season.

None of these teams are lighting the college football world on fire. And one of them will get to lose to Clemson in the ACC Championship game. Assuming Clemson makes the CFB Playoffs, the Orange Bowl will take the second best team from the ACC. Right now, that’s....Wake Forest?! Wake has 1 loss in the ACC Atlantic. Could it turn out to be one of these teams?

So where would Cincinnati fit in here? Well, their 5-1 record is obviously one game better than Virginia, Duke, Pitt and Virginia. But it would be unfair to compare their record from their conference to the record of ACC teams. Right? I mean, “Cincinnati plays a much easier schedule than the ACC”. At least, that would be the reaction of 98% of college football fans. But is it true?

2019 Strength of Schedule Rank

  • 7. North Carolina
  • 19. Pittsburgh
  • 34. Cincinnati
  • 39. Georgia Tech
  • 41. Virginia
  • 55. Miami
  • 72. Duke
  • 107. Virginia Tech

So only UNC and Pitt have played a tougher schedule through 6 games than Cincinnati. And if you compare Pitt and Cincinnati’s common games, Cincinnati beat UCF 27-24, while Pitt only won by 1 point (35-34). And North Carolina has a loss to “Group of Five” team in Appalachian State.

Assessing the Losses

Cincinnati’s one loss was tough. They lost 42-0 to Ohio State. No ACC team (Atlantic or Coastal) would beat this year’s Buckeyes (looking at you too, Clemson). But specifically, no one in the Coastal would be getting close to three touchdowns from Vegas in the point spread. There is no shame losing to Ohio State, though the 0 points is certainly a bit shameful.

Here is who the ACC teams lost to

  • Duke - Alabama, Pitt
  • Virginia - Notre Dame, Miami
  • Pitt - Virginia, Penn State
  • Virginia Tech - Duke, Boston College (who lost to Kansas)
  • UNC - Wake Forest, Appalachian State, Clemson
  • Miami - Florida, UNC, Virginia Tech
  • Georgia Tech - Clemson, Temple, UNC, Duke, the Citadel

Cincinnati could certainly hold their own and win most of these games (outside of Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, Penn State).

ESPN’s Football Power Index is another metric we can use to compare these teams. the official definition of FPI is “a measure of team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of a team’s performance going forward for the rest of the season. FPI represents how many points above or below average a team is.”

Cincinnati has the highest FPI of any ACC Coastal team.

  • 28. Cincinnati (8.9)
  • 31. Miami (7.6)
  • 36. UNC (6.1)
  • 37. Duke (5.7)
  • 38. Virginia (5.7)
  • 55. Pittsburgh (1.8)
  • 75. Virginia Tech (-2.1)
  • 107. Georgia Tech (-10.9)

Offensive Stats and Rankings

Cincinnati’s total yardage per game would rank third per game in the ACC, with 395 yards per game. Only North Carolina (425.2) and Miami (418) have more yards per game in 2019 than Cincinnati. Pitt (393) and Duke (387) trail Cincinnati.

Only Duke (1,097 yards) has run for more rushing yards than Cincinnati (1,069 yards). North Carolina is next with 982 yards.

Cincinnati has the third most ppg (29.3 ppg), among ACC Coastal teams. Only Duke (34.5 ppg) and Miami (29.5) have scored more than Cincinnati. Virginia (28.3) and Virginia Tech (28.2) are next up. Cincinnati got shut out week 2 vs Ohio State, however that’s not an excuse given that Duke scored just 3 points in their week 1 loss vs Alabama.

Defensive Stats and Rankings

Bearcats would rank 4th in total yards allowed per game, giving up 339.3 yards per game. The three teams ahead of them are Virginia (273.7 ypg), Miami (290.2 ypg), and Pitt (298.7 ypg). Cincinnati comes right ahead of Duke (345.8 ypg).

Only Duke and Virginia have allowed fewer points than Cincinnati, who would rank third. Bearcats defense has given up 21.7 ppg. Virginia (19.2) and Virginia (20.7) have given up fewer.

That means Cincinnati’s is allowing fewer points per game than Pittsburgh, who is coached by former Cincinnati Defensive Coordinator Pat Narduzzi, Miami who is coached by a defensive guru in Manny Diaz, and Virginia Tech who, historically, has been a strong defensive team under legendary DC Bud Foster.

Could Cincinnati win it?

None of these 7 teams have been that impressive, which is what makes this a question worth asking. The numbers all show that Cincinnati could, at the very least, be competitive and in the mix in the Coastal division, if not outright win it.

They have a history of success against these teams too. Since 2010, Cincinnati is 6-4 against Coastal teams and 10-7 against the ACC as a whole.

(2-1 vs Pitt, 1-1 vs Miami, 1-0 vs Duke, 0-1 vs UNC, 2-1 vs Virginia Tech, plus 2-1 vs Syracuse, 2-2 vs Louisville).

Call us bias, but I think the answer is yes, Cincinnati could win the ACC Coastal in 2019 and compete year-in and year-out.