Non-conference scheduling is consistently a major topic in college football, especially for teams like Cincinnati, who do not play in a major conference. Winning every game is important, especially those games against power 5 conference schools or top tier group of five schools.
Here is a quick snap shot of the upcoming OOC games for the Bearcats (excluding Miami Ohio who is an annual rivalry game)
2020 - Austin Peay, Western Michigan, @ Nebraska
2021 - Murray State, @ Indiana, @ Notre Dame
2022 - Indiana, @ Arkansas
2023 - @ Pittsburgh, @ NC State
2024 - Pittsburgh, @ Western Michigan,
2025 - Nebraska, @ Western Kentucky
2026 - Boston College, @ Ohio, Western Kentucky
2027 - @ Boston College
2028 - @ Boise State
2029 - NC State, Boise State
Now, a deeper dive into Cincinnati’s history with each of these opponents (excluding any FCS opponents and Miami)
vs. Western Michigan (2020 home, 2024 away)
Bearcats lead the all-time series 3-0, winning both ends of a home-and-home series in 1949 and 1950 by the score 27-6 each time. They most recent meeting was in 2007, winning the International Bowl. That was Brian Kelly’s first game as Head Coach of Cincinnati. Because of the timing of the game (in January), Kelly was able to transition in quickly, replacing Mark Dantonio. Dominick Goodman led the way for Cincinnati with 7 catches, 109 yards and 2 TDs. Long time NFL TE Brent Celek caught 4 passes. Current Cincinnati Secondary Coach, Mike Mickens had an interception in that game.
vs. Nebraska (2020 away, 2025 home)
Huskers won the one and only meeting in 1906 winning 41-0 in Lincoln. A good majority of the Bearcats 2019 starters will return in 2020. Nebraska Head Coach Scott Frost is 2-0 against Cincinnati, having coached UCF in 2016-2017. Frost’s team’s won by a combined score of 75-26 in two games. Frost is 9-15 in two seasons at his alma mater.
While Nebraska hasn’t even been average in recent years, they are still a big brand and a big name and represent an opportunity for a signature win for Cincinnati, especially if they go on to have success.
Indiana (2021 away, 2022 home)
Indiana leads all-time series 9-3 and they last meeting in 2000 in Bloomington (Indiana won 42-6) and last meeting in Cincinnati was 1998 (Indiana won 48-14). Hoosiers have won 5 in a row overall dating back to 1962. Cincinnati has scored a total of 35 point sin those 5 games.
Hoosiers went 8-5 in 2019 and are a beatable mid-tier Big Ten school, like Illinois and Purdue, whom Cincinnati went 3-1 against from 2009-2015.
vs. Notre Dame (2021 away)
This is exciting. It’s Cincinnati’s first meeting ever with Notre Dame and the chance for players and fans to travel to South Bend is a very proud moment. Irish are coached by Brian Kelly, who went 34-6 in 3 years with Bearcats.
Irish are the biggest name brand on the schedule over the next 10 years and given the influx of talent from recent recruiting classes, Cincinnati should have as good of a chance as they ever have to pull off a major victory.
vs. Arkansas (2022 away)
It was announced recently that Cincinnati would open the 2022 season at Arkansas, in a one-off road game. Arkansas has been terrible the last couple of years and it’s possible they still haven’t fully recovered two years from now, making them vulnerable for a Cincinnati team with highly touted recruiting classes to take advantage and knock off an SEC team.
These two teams have never faced each other before and there are very little ties between the schools. One tie is former Bearcats WR Mekale McKay played 12 games for Arkansas in 2012, catching 21 passes before spending the final three years of his career at Cincinnati, catching 17 career touchdowns.
vs. Pittsburgh (2023 away, 2024 home)
This will be an old Big East rivalry renewed, a rivalry that was dubbed the “River City Rivalry”. They last played in 2012, which was Pittsburgh’s last season in the Big East. Their most famous game was the 2009 Big East regular season finale, which was a de-facto Championship game. Bearcats trailed by as many as 21, and overcame several deficits to beat Pitt 45-44, winning the conference and ending the regular season 12-0, before playing Florida in the Sugar Bowl. One year prior, Cincinnati beat Pitt 28-21 at home, to clinch their first Big East title.
Overall, Pitt leads the all-time series 8-4, last winning 28-10 in 2010. That game was the last game of Butch Jones’ first year and is best known as the day “the Bearcat” got arrested. Pitt won the first 7 all-time meetings, with the first one way back in 1921, but Cincinnati won 4 of the final 5.
vs. NC State (2023 away, 2029 home)
Bearcats will play two ACC games in 2023, both on the road. The last time Cincinnati went to Raleigh was 2010, during a 4-8 season in Butch Jones debut. Russell Wilson threw for 333 yards and 3 TDs and the Wolfpack cruised to a 30-19 victory, which was only as close as it was because of two late touchdowns in the fourth quarter by Cincinnati. Bearcats got revenge in 2011 at home, blowing out NC State 44-14.
Western Kentucky (2025 away, 2026 home)
2015 will be the first matchup between these schools, which is a little surprising given their proximity to each other. Tyson Helton, who was Cincinnati’s TE Coach in 2013, is currently the WKU Head Coach.
vs. Boston College (2026 home, 2027 away)
This will be a rematch of the 2019 season Birmingham Bowl. Cincinnati won that game against a depleted BC team that was missing their star running back, head coach, offensive coordinator, primary starting QB and several others due to injury.
Before that, Cincinnati has faced Boston College 7 times in the regular season, but not since 1997. Cincinnati won the last meeting 24-6 in Chestnut Hill. Before that win, they had lost the previous three games on the road by a combined score of 74-7. Boston College won at Nippert Stadium in 1996 and Cincinnati is 2-1 at home vs Boston College.
vs. Ohio (2026 away)
This is the return game from a very dramatic game that Cincinnati won at home in 2018. Bearcats lead all-time series 25-23 (4 ties). The 2018 game was their first since 1981. Between 1968-1981 they played every year but one (1980). The first ever meeting was in 1896.
Boise State (2028 away, 2029 home)
Will this be an OOC game or will it be an AAC game? Lots of chatter about Boise State and their future in the Mountain West.
After 2019, most fans are probably looking forward to this matchup. There was a lot of debate about whether a 2-loss Cincinnati AAC Champion would make the Cotton Bowl over a 1-loss Boise State MWC Champion. It never mattered, since Memphis won, however it was still a heated debate, one that can be proven in a few years.
These schools have no played before. The only tie between Cincinnati and Boise State was the Bearcats appearance in the 1997 Humanitarian Bowl, playing at the Broncos Stadium. They beat Utah State 35-19 at Boise St stadium