Cincinnati Bearcats Preview
It is Thursday and in this neck of the woods there are as yet no weather difficulties associated with hurricane activity. But the season is early and I remember times around here when hurricanes fouled up the area enough to catch your ever-loving attention. Texans are different and tough. Florida, we hope you only catch a glancing blow and that the westerlies and some high pressure push the nastiness eastward.
I have been down on the campus of OSU several times lately. They just closed two more parking lots this week and supposedly there will be 1,200 less parking spots as Oklahoma rolls into town. The campus and near housing is not yard parking friendly like in Ann Arbor and the freeway system has been taken over by the state bird, the orange barrel. Oklahoma is coming to town with a classic pocket passer and a defense capable of giving up points.
Well, on to Michigan and Cincinnati, a university with a higher enrollment than Michigan. UC, as most call it, has really put some money into the athletic facilities and also for many years the money for running a competitive football program has increased from past decades. The Shoemaker Center and the baseball facility are top level. Things are good in Porkopolis, well except for that little private school five miles away that continues to act like an attached hemorrhoid.
Cincinnati, or Cinncinnnattuh as the locals call it, has had a nice run of hiring coaches that have used Cincy for a launching pad. The last coach, Tommy Tuberville, continued the recent success, but then the Bearcats bottomed out at 4-8 last year and he was replaced by long time Ohio State Defensive Coordinator, Luke Fickell.
Luke Fickell is one of the good guys. He worked hard at his Columbus high school, St. Francis DeSales, came to Ohio State, and become a premier defensive lineman. His work ethic and success have carried over to coaching.
Cincinnati plays in a league, The American Athletic Association, that had outstanding success last year. The quality of the other teams is a direct contributing factor in Cincy’s slight fall last autumn. Some very successful coaches have donned the mantle of head coach for Cincy over the decades. In recent history, Brian Kelly, Butch Jones, and Mark Dantonio have used success at Cincinnati to land and keep major coaching assignments. Perhaps the most famous U of C coach in history was the ultra offensive genius Sid Gillman. A skinny kid named Sandy Koufax once was better known as a University of Cincinnati basketball player.
Luke Fickell secured in his opener last week a win against Austin Peay. The result was not overwhelming on the scoreboard, but Cincinnati put up three passing touchdowns. The casual onlooker may say, Ho-hum.” But beware, Cincinnati has had six moths to prepare for this game and there is talent on the roster. Certainly it will be important for Coach Fickell to show well or win the game. He knows the Michigan atmosphere and has actually mentioned that it will be great to energize his team. Thirty plus points seems a little too high for Cincinnati to be an underdog. Those looking at metrics only may disagree. Hopefully the Michigan coaches have issued a quick ignore the press predictions switch and get the guys really in the zone every way for Saturday’s match-up.
Fickell has mentioned this week to the Enquirer that he believes the talent level between the staring units at the two schools is not as wide a many would deduce, but the overall depth is indeed different. His recruiting so far has been successful. No doubt, like with Dantonio, the good prospects that Ohio State considers not quite good enough could easily be pointed toward him.
It is far too early to pin down what Cincy wants to do on offense or defense. It is probable his coordinators will have much say in the preparation, but in likelihood their first comment to Fickell was something to the effect of “What worked for you against Michigan?”
Fickell is about workmanship, focus, and hard work. Local media described the preseason camp as tough. Some of the players have adopted the “Shock the World” mantra all of Wolverine Land despises.
Mike Denbrock, formerly on the Notre Dame staff as Offensive Coordinator, is Fickell’s new head man on offense. He certainly will bring with him a nice passing game package. Marcus Freeman is the new Defensive Coordinator, coming to the Queen City after four years as linebacker coach and co-coordinator at Purdue. Freeman’s position group improved as much as any defensive group while he was at Purdue, at least that is the press book version.
Cincinnati named Hayden Moore the starting quarterback a week or so before the opener. He had a good game efficiency wise, completing about 60 percent and not throwing any picks. His three touchdowns were the most notable stat. Several big passing plays best describes the Cincy offense last week. The running game sputtered somewhat, gaining only 120 yards on the ground. Defensively, Austin Peay gained over 260 yards rushing. Beware of first week metrics, the atmosphere and motives could create differences Saturday.
On Friday, a short look at what may happen Saturday.