Cincinnati lost 42-0 to Ohio State on Saturday in a game that coach Luke Fickell referred to afterwards as “humbling”. From the A deck at Ohio Stadium, I referred to this game as disappointing, frustrating, embarrassing and also inconsequential towards Cincinnati’s ultimate goals.
It’s okay to be angry. Cincinnati is not as bad as 42-0. To think the Bearcats were going to win would have been a little naive. To think the Bearcats could keep it close, would have been a realistic approach. I certainly did. We, at Down the Drive, certainly did. People we spoke to, media members, Ohio State fans themselves all thought this would be a fun, competitive game, with the expectation that Ohio State wins.
But this was never competitive and, for Cincinnati fans, it certainly was not fun. It was honestly humiliating. But it’s okay.
What we learned is that Cincinnati is not on Ohio State’s level. But only 4-5 teams are actually on the Buckeyes’ level on an annual basis and quite frankly Cincinnati does not have to be on their level, because they are competing with the “Group of Five” teams, not the powerhouses. UCF “might” be on Ohio State’s level. And where has that gotten them? Pretty much nowhere.
The truth is, as bad as this game was - as demoralizing, humbling, embarrassing, depressing, frustrating - as it was, it won’t matter if Cincinnati cleans up the mistakes and takes care of business.
The next four weeks are extremely important in determining the trajectory of this team and how special this Bearcats season can be. This week is Miami Ohio in the annual Victory Bell rivalry. Cincinnati has not lost to Miami since 2005 and need to maintain their win streak for their own good and for the sake of the conference (AAC is better than the MAC).
Following Miami is a bye week and a chance to get right and clean up some mistakes before returning to action on September 28th at Marshall. Marshall is a good team, who will compete for the Conference USA championship and Huntington is a difficult place to play. This is not a game that Cincinnati can afford to take lightly or look ahead from, because the following week, on a Friday night at Nippert Stadium, they host UCF.
UCF is now and has always been the most important game on the schedule. In order for Cincinnati to win the AAC East, it no doubt requires a win over the team who has won the division and conference two years in a row and hasn’t lost a regular season game since 2016.
If Cincinnati can finish out their non conference schedule 3-1, and come home and beat UCF on ESPN on a Friday night, all of a sudden the perception (that took a hit yesterday) shifts back to a trendy pick to claim the Group of Five champion bowl bid, if they can win the AAC Championship.
As much as Saturday hurt, the chance to do something special is still there for Cincinnati and remains a valid goal.