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GAMEDAY: Cincinnati vs UCF

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3-1 Bearcats host 4-1 UCF in a battle for AAC East supremacy.

Ohio v Cincinnati Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Cincinnati Bearcats hosts UCF Knights on Friday night in what could prove to be the biggest game of the year for both teams and for the American Athletic Conference.

PODCAST

On this week’s Podcast, we talk to Jeff Sharon of SBNation’s UCF site, Black and Gold Banneret to get his thoughts on Friday’s game.

LISTEN: Down the Drive Podcast (Episode 4)

What’s at stake:

Cincinnati:

  • 12 straight losses vs ranked teams
  • 9 straight wins at Nippert Stadium
  • 3 straight losses to UCF

UCF

  • 18 straight AAC wins
  • winners of 29 out of 31 games overall

Oh, and most importantly what’s at stake is the AAC East, Cotton Bowl bid, and ultimately respect.

More about what’s at stake on Friday night

Who is UCF

The Knights have won 29 out of 31 games, but they lost 1 this season - something they haven’t done in the regular season since 2016. How good is this UCF team and who are they in 2019?

History

These teams have met 4 times previously, with Cincinnati’s last win coming in the first meeting between the schools in 2015. Last year, ESPN’s College Gameday was on site in Orlando for #24 UC vs #11 UCF.

Keys to the Game

The biggest key to the game will be the crowd. #NippAtNight is a very special experience. Fans got to witness this week 1 vs UCLA. And the crowd tonight at Nippert Stadium is expected to be even more wild.

Cincinnati must control the momentum of this game. That means scoring first, scoring quickly and keeping the crowd alive for 60 minutes of game time.

If UCF comes out and scores a couple of quick touchdowns, it could be extremely deflating for the crowd and ultimately for the players.

What the Bearcats need to do to win:

  • Play a clean, crisp game.
  • Take shots down field and be aggressive.
  • Get Michael Warren II going
  • Force turnovers defensively

Staff Predictions

Clayton: Cincinnati football is to Friday nights on ESPN what Studio 54 was to Saturday nights in New York City. There is a zero percent chance we lose this game.

Cincinnati 31 UCF 23

Phil Neuffer: It seems early for the biggest game of the season but here we are. With apologies to the Ohio State game, this is when we will see just how prepared the Bearcats are to make a run at the American Athletic Conference crown. For a brief moment, the Bearcats looked like they were ready when they faced UCF last year but everything fell apart after UC got out to an early lead.

The Knights that the Bearcats play tonight have already suffered the same number of losses they had in the previous two seasons combined. That doesn’t mean they’ve lost a step, however. They are still the No. 1 team in the AAC in total offense (568.6 yards per game) and scoring (49 points per game). UC’s recent rebuild has been predicated on defense, and they’ll need to step up in a major way to pull off a win. However, the Bearcats also need the offense to keep pace with the Knights and that means capitalizing on opportunities. When they fell short last year, they were only outgained by 23 yards. Unfortunately, they missed two field goals, went just 1-for-2 in the red zone and had three drives end via fumble. Avoiding those types of wasted opportunities will be critical because UCF doesn’t give many second chances.

Logic would have you believe that UCF will win this game, but where’s the fun in picking that outcome? The Bearcats have waited nearly a year to make up for last season’s letdown and with the energy in Nippert Stadium on Friday, the table is set for them to pull off the upset. If they can keep their offense moving and disrupt UCF’s even a little, they can move to 4-1.

Cincinnati 30 UCF 27

Mike Schneid: Before the season, I had this game pegged as a much upset. I was convinced the Bearcats would win. After seeing UCF’s offense, not only thrive but excel with QB Dillon Gabriel and seeing what happened in Columbus week 2, it gave me serious pause and doubts about this game. But last week in Marshall, you saw the real potential of this Bearcats offense. And two weeks ago in Pitt, you saw the vulnerability and weaknesses of UCF. I believe it all comes together for Cincinnati.

Ten years after their last win against a ranked team, Pitt, Bearcats fans rush the field in celebration of a monster victory that will set this team up for a special run in the second half.

Cincinnati 35 UCF 34

MIDNIGHT MADNESS

After the game, Cincinnati will roll out their men and women’s basketball teams with the return of Midnight Madness.

There are so many reasons to be excited for this basketball season. Let’s start with 50 reasons.

The women made it all the way to the WNIT Elite 8 last year, in the first year under coach Michelle Clark-Heard.

Returning player refresher series