Cincinnati Bearcats (7-1) host the UConn Huskies (2-7) for what is likely the final meeting between these schools. Cincinnati is 12-3 all-time vs UConn and 8-0 at Nippert Stadium.
As of July 1, 2020, UConn will be back in the Big East. That’s great for basketball but what does it mean for a football team that’s won a total of 8 games since the start of the 2016 season? I asked Aman Kidwai, of The UConn Blog for his thoughts on the future of UConn football and some questions about Saturday’s game.
What does the future look like for Randy Edsall at UConn - does he still have the support of the fans and the administration?
I don’t think Randy Edsall would be selling his extremely long term vision for the program without the support of the administration to take as long as he needs to rebuild. Between the challenges of the AAC and the financial strain of Bob Diaco’s terribleness and buyout, plus the fact that Edsall himself was taking a discount and on a budget for staff pay, and an uncertain future that he needs to now recruit through, I think he has some leeway because he’s handling a project with a high degree of difficulty.
Edsall hasn’t done himself any favors with his conservative coaching style and the “kids these days” rants, but those probably aren’t harmful enough to put him under any real fire. If the team is this bad next year I think he’ll start to get some heat.
Do you think UConn as an Independent football team will be more successful than UConn as an AAC football team?
I think it’s possible. If recruiting can improve with a more compelling schedule, for fans and players, and a local TV contract plus buy games can make the financial situation better in the long-run, then yes, UConn can be better than the 20-62 record it has posted so far in the AAC.
So far, independent scheduling seems to be in good shape, with reports of annual games against UMass, Army, Boston College, and Syracuse and home and home series already on the books with Duke, Maryland, Purdue, NC State, UCF, along with one-off games against Clemson, Ole Miss, and Tennessee... and if that doesn’t sound better than the AAC slate to UConn football fans, it is at least even in terms of interest while men’s and women’s basketball, two nationally elite programs, get to be in much better places in the Big East.
What are the goals of the program as an Independent? Right now, you aspire to win a conference championship and make a major bowl game, something UConn has obviously done. So as Independent, is the goal simply 6 wins and a bowl? How do you sell that to recruits?
UConn’s administration has been vague about the aspirations for the program as an independent. I think the part that motivated their decision is that the AAC is not the best place to grow the football program and that it wasn’t worth continuing to wager the livelihood of the Husky basketball programs on a power five dream that is dependent on football success and an opening existing in one of these conferences. They also didn’t want to lose millions of dollars by giving up the tier 3 rights for basketball to ESPN+
Unofficially, I think the administration is hanging around in FBS on the hopes that a power five opening does come up, and that if football somehow becomes less of a factor they can offer a power conference a strong market, elite basketball and an increasingly strong academic brand in a flagship state school that has a well-developed fanbase.
The Huskies won conference titles and made good bowls as a member of the Big East, a football conference that made sense for UConn to be in. The AAC had awful geography for UConn, opponents didn’t move the needle or have any familiarity for its fans, and negatively impacted their pursuit of regional recruits.
Do you believe UConn will or should drop to FCS?
Not at the moment, but I would say it’s definitely a possibility they should consider if things don’t work out as an independent.
As far as this Saturday goes, what are your expectations for this game - what has to happen for UConn to hang around and make Cincinnati sweat a little bit?
Cincinnati appears to be having a really good season, so congrats on that, again. It would take multiple miracles for UConn to make Cincinnati sweat. Maybe the Huskies can cover or keep it deceptively close for 20 or 30 minutes but at some point the floodgates will open and it will end in a comfortable Bearcat win.
Who are the players to watch for UConn?
Running backs Kevin Mensah and Art Thompkins are a good duo in the backfield. Freshman receiver Cam Ross has emerged as quarterback Jack Zergiotis’ favorite target. On the defensive line, Travis Jones is a beast. Also keep an eye on Omar Fortt and Tyler Coyle, two experienced defensive backs who play kind of safety/linebacker hybrid roles.