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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

The Countdown

No. 43: Cincinnati

The bearcat, better known as the Binturong, stalks its prey. We'll name this fellow Butch.

What will Cincinnati fans take away most from last season? Bombing confident Rutgers to open the season? Squeezing past West Virginia and Connecticut? The unforgettable win against Pittsburgh? Or will the lasting memory of 2009 be Brian Kelly’s departure for greener pastures? I would hope that Cincinnati remembers Kelly more for the good he did over his three seasons – a combined 34-6 record, by the way – than for the way he left the team prior to the biggest game in program history. His replacement, Butch Jones, knows a thing or two about stepping into big shoes: he’s replaced Kelly once before, three years ago when Kelly jilted Central Michigan for the Bearcats.

Conference
Big East

Location
Cincinnati, Oh.

Nickname
Bearcats

Returning starters
14 (9 offense, 5 defense)

Last year’s ranking
No. 23

2009 record
(12-1, 7-0)

Last year’s
re-ranking

No. 7

2010 schedule

  • Sept. 4
    at Fresno St.
  • Sept. 11
    Indiana St.
  • Sept. 16
    at N.C. St.
  • Sept. 25
    Oklahoma
  • Oct. 9
    Miami (Ohio)
  • Oct. 15
    at Louisville
  • Oct. 22
    South Florida
  • Oct. 30
    Syracuse
  • Nov. 13
    at West Virginia
  • Nov. 20
    Rutgers
  • Nov. 27
    at Connecticut
  • Dec. 4
    Pittsburgh

Last year’s prediction

U.C. is my pick to land the automatic B.C.S. bid, based on a number of factors. The first and foremost is my faith in the U.C. offense. This offense alone, in my mind, will propel the Bearcats to a second straight Big East crown, though it might not come with a repeat of last fall’s 6-1 mark (I’m thinking more like 5-2, with the help of tiebreakers). My final prediction: 9-3, 5-2 in the Big East. With the issues this team faces on defense, Kelly should be the conference coach of the year (again) if U.C. takes its third straight Big East crown.

2009 recap

In a nutshell An unforgettable season. This was, without a doubt, the finest team in school history. The Bearcats stormed through the regular season undefeated, besting opponents by margins big — by 32 points against Rutgers, 31 against Louisville — and small — by two points over Connecticut, one point at Pittsburgh — at home or away, against teams good and bad, until it ran into a supremely motivated Florida team in the Sugar Bowl. When all was said and done: a new program record 502 points, a second consecutive Big East championship and a third straight double-digit win season. An unforgettable season, plain and simple.

High point A dream season, as I said a moment ago. A 28-18 win at Oregon State in September, though forgotten as Big East play opened, was especially impressive. Cincinnati ran the table, of course, but not without a little help: its final three Big East wins came by a field goal or less. A 45-44 win at Pittsburgh on Dec. 5 – it clinched Cincinnati’s B.C.S. birth – was one for the record books, or at least ESPN Classic.

Low point The Sugar Bowl loss to Florida. In Cincinnati’s defense, the Bearcats came across a Florida team primed to make a statement. But after a season of excellence on offense, it was disappointing to see Cincinnati total only 246 yards of total offense in its biggest game of the season.

Tidbit Cincinnati has won at least 10 games in each of the last three seasons. (The Brian Kelly era, if you will.) It joins West Virginia (2005-7) and Pittsburgh (1979-81) as the only programs in the Big East to have done so.

Tidbit (maintaining momentum edition) Cincinnati is one of two programs replacing its coach following a double-digit win season in 2009. The other? Central Michigan — Butch Jones. What is the track record for teams breaking in a new coach coming off a season with 10 or more wins? There were t20 such scenarios heading into the 2009 season: Ball State, coming off a 12-2 season under Brady Hoke; and Oregon, 10-3 under Mike Bellotti. Oregon maintained its pace, taking the 2009 Pac-10 crown under Chip Kelly. Ball State, on the other hand, dipped to 2-10. What about heading into 2008? Two more instances of a coach leaving after a double-digit win season: Junes Jones, 12-1 at Hawaii in 2007; and Rich Rodriguez, 11-2 at West Virginia. The Warriors fell to 7-7 in 2008, with the Mountaineers finishing 9-4 under Bill Stewart. Let’s look at one more year. Heading into 2007, Boston College lost Tom O’Brien (10-3 in 2006), Louisville lost Bobby Petrino (12-1) and Central Michigan lost, yes, Brian Kelly (10-4). The Eagles made a one-win improvement to 11-3 under Jeff Jagodzinski. Louisville dropped all the way to 6-6. And Central Michigan — don’t draw too much from this — went from 10 wins to 8-6 under Jones, though the Chippewas repeated as MAC West champs.

Former players in the N.F.L.

21 DE Connor Barwin (Houston), C Digger Buinoch (Baltimore), OG Trevor Canfield (Detroit), TE Brent Celek (Philadelphia), DE Trent Cole (Philadelphia), DE Alex Daniels (Oakland), LB Troy Evans (New Orleans), LB Andre Frazier (Pittsburgh), WR Mardy Gilyard (St. Louis), P Kevin Huber (Cincinnati), CB Brad Jones (Baltimore), OT Jeffrey Linkenbach (Indianapolis), CB Mike Mickens (Cincinnati), S Haruki Nakamura (Baltimore), QB Tony Pike (Carolina), CB DeAngelo Smith (Cleveland), CB Brandon Underwood (Green Bay), LS Mike Windt (Cincinnati), DE Mike Wright (New England).

Arbitrary top five list

Best coaches in recent (since 1990) Big East history
1. Brian Kelly (34-6 at Cincinnati, 2007-9).
2. Greg Schiano (55-55 at Rutgers, 20001-present).
3. Rich Rodriguez (60-26 at West Virginia, 2001-7).
4. Bobby Petrino (41-9 at Louisville, 2003-6).
5. Paul Pasqualoni (107-59-1 at Syracuse, 1991-2004).

Coaching

Butch Jones (Ferris State ’90), entering his first season at Cincinnati. As mentioned earlier, Jones is replacing Kelly for the second time. He was tabbed as Central Michigan’s new coach in 2007 after Kelly left C.M.U. for Cincinnati, and in some regards took the program to new heights. His record at C.M.U. was 29-13, with a 12-2 season and MAC championship in 2009 bringing Jones into the conversation for a handful of B.C.S. conference openings. Through two seasons, his 16 victories and 13 wins in MAC play were the second-most of any coach over his first two years. He also led the Chippewas to three consecutive bowl trips, a program first. Yes, Kelly was the coach who first brought C.M.U. out of its generation-long malaise, but don’t allow that in any way to detract from the job Jones did smoothly transitioning his coaching staff while keeping in place the same offense that Kelly had implemented to perfection over his three-year term in Mount Pleasant. It was a happy return to C.M.U. for Jones, who served as an assistant coach with the Chippewas from 1998-2004, including a three-year stint (2001-3) as offensive coordinator. Following the 2004 season, Jones left to serve as Rich Rodriguez’s wide receivers coach at West Virginia. A two-year stint under Rodriguez allowed Jones to at least gain a measure of familiarity with the Big East. It also allowed him to familiarize himself with the spread offense, though Jones was very wise to merely continue to run Kelly’s offense at Central Michigan instead of implementing a new system. The comparisons between Jones and Kelly won’t end soon, and they won’t be kind if Jones is unable to maintain a semblance of the momentum Cincinnati accumulated under Kelly’s watch. The best thing that Jones can do is exactly what he did at C.M.U.: Don’t just maintain, but surpass Kelly’s success. Of course, doing so at Cincinnati would involve winning a national championship. But the Bearcats can dream, can’t they?

Players to watch

There was a four-game stretch in Big East play where Zach Collaros played as well as any quarterback in college football. It began with an injury to Tony Pike, the departed two-year starter, which gave Collaros the start on Oct. 24 against Louisville: 15 of 17 for 253 yards and 3 touchdowns through the air, 11 carries for 52 yards on the ground. Oct. 31 at Syracuse: 22 of 28 for 295 yards and 4 scores. Connecticut, the following week: 29 of 37 for 480 yards and a touchdown; 13 carries for 75 yards and 2 scores on the ground. Finally, on Nov. 13 against West Virginia: 17 of 24 for 205 yards through the air, 10 carries for 44 yards rushing.

Yes, that’s what Collaros is able to accomplish. Now, doing so over an entire season is a different matter, of course. Yet Collaros brings a proven track record to the table — not just an impressive series, half, or game — and brings the potential for a monster season to the table. Though it would seem improbable, Cincinnati’s life after Pike won’t be so bad; it could be even better, at least in terms of quarterback play.

Armon Binns was overshadowed by Mardy Gilyard last fall, even if Binns, now a senior, did earn all-Big East honors. By the catch, however, Binns was just as integral to Cincinnati’s success in the passing game as the departed starter: 61 receptions for 888 yards and 11 scores, with his 14.6 yards per catch average nearly a full yard per reception more than Gilyard averaged in his 87 grabs. Expect Binns to step into that open role as Cincinnati’s lead receiver, with the numbers befitting that spot. The receiver corps will also feature senior Vidal Hazelton, who has yet to be eligible for game action since transferring into the program from the West Coast. Rust, of course, may be a concern. Talent, on the other hand, is not.

Junior D.J. Woods (51 receptions for 640 yards) rounds out the starting lineup. Keep an eye on senior Marcus Bennett, who return to wide receiver after playing cornerback a year ago. The Bearcats can also rely upon a capable receiving tight end in senior Ben Guidugli, who made 27 grabs for 364 yards last fall. Much of that damage came in one game: Guidugli had 7 catches for 149 yards and a pair of scores in Cincinnati’s late-season win over lowly Illinois.

The Bearcats return three players on the offensive line, though the loss of two all-conference linemen is a concern. The coaching staff made a good choice, however, in opting to replace left tackle Jeff Linkenbach with senior Samuel Griffin, the starter at right tackle last fall. Such a move made far more sense, given Griffin’s experience, than inserting a new starter, such as sophomore Sean Hooey. When it comes to strong side tackle, Griffin’s old spot, the Bearcats can go with either senior C.J. Cobb or junior Alex Hoffman. In a perfect world, the job would fall to Cobb, who struggled with injuries during the spring; that would allow Hoffman to remain at right guard, where he landed second-team all-Big East honors last fall.

Hoffman is one of two returning linemen to earn all-conference accolades in 2009. The other, senior Jason Kelce, returns at left guard. Even with a new starter at center — junior Evan Davis — Cincinnati looks to be in solid shape on the inside of the line. As a whole, however, the U.C. offensive front is a concern. Offsetting this concern is the fact that Cincinnati has mobility at quarterback, both with Collaros and his reserves.

Cincinnati has three options at running back. The first is junior Isaiah Pead, who should challenge for 1,000 yards rushing in 2010. He came close last fall: 806 yards and 9 touchdowns, despite making only three starts. Pead will share carries with senior John Goebel, who is poised to take on a larger role after being limited to only 12 carries last fall. In 2008, Goebel rushed for 607 yards and 8 scores. Barring injury, this duo will do most of the heavy lifting in the running game. Sophomore Darrin Williams might present a nice change of pace to this pair, however, and will take over for Gilyard in the kick return game.

A position change opened things up at linebacker at bit, with Cincinnati now needing to fill two open spots, not one. The lone returning starter can get it done: junior J.K. Shaffer filled up the stat sheet last fall, finishing second on the team in tackles (100) and interceptions (3). While he returns to the weak side, the Bearcats will insert new starters in the middle and on the strong side. Due to attrition, junior Robby Armstrong will be the man on the strong side come September — if he’s healthy. Sophomore Maalik Bomar is an option behind Armstrong; however, while Bomar can run, making plays in space, he might lack the size to stand up on the strong side. Senior Dorian Davis, a former Tennessee transfer, will move into the starting lineup in the middle.

Cincinnati has two defensive backs ready to take the next step. The first is sophomore strong safety Drew Frey, a former cornerback who has taken well to the job at safety. On the year, Frey made 64 tackles and 2 interceptions. The second rising all-conference defensive back is junior cornerback Dominique Battle, who is coming off a 60-tackle, 2-interception 2009 campaign. Two pretty solid performers upon which to build a secondary, in my opinion. Depth is a concern, however, as is locating experienced contributors capable of standing up in starting roles.

Battle will be joined at cornerback by one of the sophomore pair of Cameroon Cheatham and Reuben Johnson, who bring little game experience into the 2010 season. The biggest loss in the secondary is that of free safety Aaron Webster, who led the team in interceptions en route to first-team all-Big East honors. Junior Wesley Richardson, a former walk-on, is his likely replacement.

Position battles to watch

Defensive line The pain of lost starters will be exacerbated by Cincinnati’s scheme change on defense. Already thin up front, depth will be severely tested by the need for four starting linemen, not to mention a capable second line. One returning contributor is ready to go: junior Derek Wolfe, an all-Big East candidate, is coming off a 41-tackle, 5-sack 2009 season. He, along with fellow junior John Hughes (23 tackles, 2 sacks) will start on the inside, with Hughes starting on the nose. Again, the main issue will be depth, depth, depth: as Cincinnati enters fall practice, redshirt freshmen Sean McClellan, Michael Hilty and Jordan Stepp are the second-team interior linemen. The Bearcats made a wise move in moving strong side linebacker Walter Stewart, a sophomore, down to end; he’ll be an immediate starter, allowing U.C. to play fellow sophomore Brandon Mills in a reserve role, both at end and at tackle. In 11 starts last fall, Stewart made 59 tackles (8.5 for loss) and 4.5 sacks, the latter good for third on the team. He’ll join Dan Giordano (42 stops, 7 for loss) in the starting lineup. Even with a player like Wolfe on the inside, a talent like Stewart on the edge and a few experienced players poised to take on larger roles, Cincinnati’s defensive line is a question mark.

Game(s) to watch

The rest of the Big East will be gunning for the Bearcats, though perhaps none more so than West Virginia and Pittsburgh, last year’s second-place finishers. The non-conference slate is slightly tougher, with N.C. State and Oklahoma joining Fresno State, a holdover from last season. The Sooners scored 52 points on Cincinnati during a 2008 meeting in Norman.

Season breakdown & prediction

In a nutshell Surely, Cincinnati can repeat as Big East champs. Don’t underestimate continuity, which Jones brings to the table. While not exactly the same, the new offense will greatly resemble Kelly’s, both in its no-huddle mentality and spread passing philosophy. Kelly is a wonderful offensive mind — as Notre Dame will soon discover — but don’t look for much decline in production on the offensive side of the ball. If Cincinnati fails to match last year’s scoring numbers, it will be due to the loss of Pike and Gilyard, not the coaching change. The defense must do more than just locate new starters and depth on every level; it must also reverse the troubling trend that defined the final five games of last season, when the Bearcats struggled mightily getting stops. Now, one word of warning — for myself, more than anyone: Cincinnati loves being the underdog, revels in the doubt, adores being counted out. With its ranking in this spot, I’m projecting the Bearcats to pull in fourth in the Big East, close to the third-place team but not, in my mind, a conference title-caliber team. I’m thinking eight wins, with a difficult non-conference slate preventing Cincinnati from breaking into Big East play on its typical hot streak. In my opinion, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, even Connecticut are more viable contenders for the conference crown. Now watch Cincinnati prove me wrong, as the program often did under Kelly. Of course, it’s up to Jones to keep the Bearcats in title contention.

Dream season New coach, same story. The Bearcats finish 11-1, losing only to Oklahoma, and return to the B.C.S. for the third consecutive season.

Nightmare season Jones is not an immediate success: 5-7, 3-4 in the Big East. That would stand as one more loss than Kelly posted in three whole seasons at Cincinnati.

In case you were wondering

Where do Cincinnati fans congregate? Bearcat News is the only independent Web site I could find, but fans can locate fine Cincinnati chatter and recruiting coverage at Bearcat Insider and Bearcat Lair. As always, let me know of any blogs, message boards or beat reporters deserving to be included in this section. One person already has, informing me about the presence of Bearcat Banter.

Up Next

Who is No. 42? As a player, our next program’s head coach was an all-American for a nine-win team as a senior.

You can also follow Paul Myerberg and Pre-Snap Read on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. Sasser says:

    It must be… NORTHWESTERN!

    Seriously, if our team can get out of the gate, we could be 6-0 running into Michigan State at Homecoming.

  2. pfz10 says:

    Mizzou is in at no. 42

  3. Sasser says:

    Okay, Paul, why do we have two teams that fit this description?

    Paul: I’m on it. I thought this hint was good too. We’ll keep it between us that it doesn’t work. Or it works too well, in some way.

  4. Clayton Adams says:

    This really hurts… finishing 4th in the big east? I don’t know… I’m thinking 3rd or 2nd. I know our expectations should be lowered with a new coach, but 8 wins? That really hurts. Depth is a concern, I understand that. But wow. 12-0 last year, and you expect us to drop to 8 wins. You’re my favorite college football analyst Paul, but being a UC student/fan I will have to disagree with you on this one. In the Big East, QBs usually are a good way to gauge who will win the league (See Pat White, Tony Pike) and I’m sorry Geno Smith from WVU just doesn’t look ready to lead WVU to a Big East crown. But oh well, UC is used to proving people wrong. This offense is too good to finish 4th in the Big East, sorry. Oh and UC hasn’t lost a game at Nippert in two seasons. So don’t expect UC to just roll over in the season finale against Pitt AT Nippert.

  5. NUwildcat09 says:

    I’ve been looking, and I haven’t been able to find any evidence of Gary Pinkel being an All-American in 1973. Therefore, it must be Northwestern and Pat Fitzgerald. I can’t wait for the September to get here. I just bought my season tickets yesterday. I’m excited to see how NU does this season. Go ‘Cats!

  6. george howley says:

    Bronko Nagurski award winner Pat Fitzgerald. Northwestern can’t be rated higher than 42.

  7. Chaddogg says:

    This may be Northwestern’s music….still, I’m proud of Fitz and his men — sure, we belong above Michigan (seriously, RichRod was a horrible hire — PreSnap Read, NU will end up ahead of Michigan overall and in the Big Ten), but at least the column thinks we’re getting a winning/bowl season — the first time in team HISTORY that we’ll have 3 consecutive bowl seasons, and 4 straight non-losing seasons….

    Plus, regardless of Northwestern’s record, you know Fitz will find a way to beat Io_a….because NU always finds a way to take the “W” from the Io_a Ha_keyes…..

  8. Chaddogg says:

    Actually, this fits both Northwestern (Fitz was a LB for the 9-3 Wildcats his senior year in 1996) and Mizzou (Coach Pinkel was a senior on Kent State’s 1973 team that went 9-2), who coincidentally met in the 2008 Alamo Bowl, in what was widely regarded as one of that year’s best bowl games…..

  9. Chaddogg says:

    @Sasser — 6-0 facing MSU at Homecoming? Try 8-0 heading to Penn State, if things fall the right way (I doubt this will happen, but I’m certainly not scared of MSU…..so if we can be 6-0 then, no reason the Cats can’t be 8-0 heading to Happy Valley, just in time for a PatFitz vs. JoePa battle….)

    P.S. Watch PSU-NU…you will never see 2 coaches that respect each other more than Fitz and Paterno. Those guys had a 20 minute conversation after the game last year in Evanston….Fitz will be NU’s version of JoePa (at least, that’s what this Wildcat fan is hoping for….and I mean that entirely as a sign of respect for JoePa, arguably the greatest coach in NCAA college football history)

  10. NUwildcat09 says:

    @ Chaddogg – The clue doesn’t fit Missouri because Pinkel was not an All-American at Kent State, which the clue clearly states. I’ve read your posts on ESPN and here, and it’s great to see such an enthused NU fan. I agree that the respect between Fitz and JoePa is admirable, and especially interesting considering the age difference yet similar philosophy of the coaches. I’d love nothing more than to see Fitz coach this team for decades to come. I also look forward to the Wrigley game this year, and I look forward to some game in the future when Fitz can lay a beat down on South Bend.

  11. John Webster says:

    Go Cats! NU @ 42

  12. Dave Harrison says:

    I see Vidal Hazelton #7 on the Cincinnati Bearcats being a 1st round pick. By far he is the BEST receiver I’ve seen. Obviously he has not played for 2 years. But the NFL Scouts don’t buy the hype. They will do the homework and see that this guy is the real deal. He is a very physical player. Reminds me of Anquan Boldin and Blocks like Hines Ward. Those who have seen him knows he is a contender that will move up draft boards. Believe it or not. This guy was ranked higher than Percy Harvin, Matt Stafford and a number of high profile players coming out of high school. According to Mike Farrell and Bob Litchenfel of both Rivals and Scout.com. He was the best WR at the 2006 Army All American game. Percy Harvin, Tim Tebow, Mathew Stafford, Chris “Beenie” Wells, Gerald McCoy and Andre Smith all played in that game. Hazelton was ranked the #1 WR in the Nation by Scout.com and the # 3 player overall by ESPN in 2006. This is not by coincidence. Several reputable football authorities saw the same things in this playmaker. I see great things for this NFL prospect. DJ Woods is another player that people are sleeping on. He will rocket up draft boards as well. Hazelton is definitely helping the UC recruiting.

  13. havik912 says:

    UConn winning the Big East? I can’t wait to see that.

  14. Jim Narby says:

    Definitely Nebraska at #42

  15. cloakedarbiter says:

    Bo Pelini was never an All-American, unlike two-time National Defensive Player of the Year Pat Fitzgerald.

    I love all the NU (not NEB or UN, mind you) talk in this comment section and the anticipation for the #42 preview on this site. Where are all the Bearcat fans at?

  16. Eddie says:

    I’m sorry, but how do you have greg schiano, above Randy Edsall on the list of top 5 big east coaches, Rutgers hasn’t even won a big east title yet, while Uconn has, built the program up from scratch, and Edsall just had the most emotional seasons out of any other coach in the FBS. I don’t see how you can’t put him on that list.

    Oh and Uconn is winning the big East this year, and headin to Miami
    ORANGE BOWL!

  17. Cromulent says:

    Let’s throw just a little water on the fire here. Butch Jones did prove himself a good coach at CMU. But Kelly did the heavy lifting.

    I could go on about this for 1k+ words, but let’s start with this: the highest yards/pass numbers Danny LeFevour notched were in his true frosh season, under *Kelly*. This despite the fact that Danny saw fewer reps in preseason because he was actually the #2 behind Brian Brunner. Brunner went down with a knee injury in CMU’s first series against BC in ’06 and LeFevour stepped in.

    It took Kelly less than 2 quarters to begin opening up the passing end of the playbook and let the kid wing the ball.

    Jones had 3 years to bring LeFevour to a higher level and couldn’t do it. Zach Collaros will *not* match LY’s YPA level. I guarantee it.

  18. Jim Narby says:

    i’m shocked cincy came before nebraska

  19. wildcat6 says:

    Michigan (5-7) and Notre Dame (6-6) ahead of the ‘Cats?

    Northwestern has never struggled with being “over-rated” in preseason prognostications. Except perhaps in 2001, when some experts picked them to win the Big Ten title (with Kustok and Anderson back from the Big Ten championship-sharing team of 2000), and after Rashidi Wheeler died of an asthma attack at an August practice, the ‘Cats went 4-7. That’s about the only instance I can recall.

  20. wildcat6 says:

    Chaddogg, love your enthusiasm, but remember, the ‘Cats always seem to drop one we should win easily. Usually in nonconference (2006 – New Hampshire, 2007 – Duke, 2009 – Syracuse) although in 2008 our no-brainer loss was at Indiana 21-19.

    I have no doubt Fitz will emphasize one game at a time, one play at a time, and will have the team focused squarely on Vandy, not 6-0 or 8-0.

  21. Chaddogg says:

    @wildcat6 — Trust me, I’m VERY familiar with the “drop one they shouldn’t” nature of the Wildcats. Still, it’s hard to see a loss in those first four games…. As for “one game at a time,” I actually ran into Fitz at a NU women’s lacrosse NCAA tourney game, and my friend told Fitz that he was excited for the Wrigley Field game versus Illinois. Fitz’s response? “I’m just looking forward to kicking Vandy’s ass in Week One.” And people wonder why NU fans love Fitz….

    Incidentally, I also agree with you that we should not be rated below Michigan or That School in South Bend, two teams that are coasting on past reputation. I’m willing to believe that Kelly will turn things around for That School in South Bend, but I think this season is the nail in the coffin for RichRod — just not enough defense on that team at all.

  22. Sasser says:

    I agree with Chaddogg’s analysis on our relative position, particularly with That School in South Bend. Kelly essentially built up the Bearcats program himself, so it’s hard to say that That Team in South Bend won’t improve on last year’s record.

    Far as I’m concerned with Michigan, they’ll be in a race with Minnesota for most points allowed for the season. I’d have had them ranked in the high 60s.

    @wildcat6 – What do you think the “drop” game will be for NU this year? Even though it’s a home game, I’ve got Central Michigan circled this year.

  23. wildcat6 says:

    @sasser – Looking at the schedule, at Indiana looks like a potential “trap game” for the ‘Cats. But I’d remind everyone that these games are won on the field, not on paper. So while Vandy went 2-10 last year and has a new emergency coach, they went to the Music City Bowl two years ago and beat a Boston College team that had something like an 8-game bowl winning streak.

    A little history lesson for younger ‘Cats fans. Coming off the Rose Bowl appearance in the 1995 season, the ‘Cats went down to Winston-Salem, NC to open 1996 against lightly-regarded Wake Forest. I remember all the touristy North Carolina travel packages offered to NU alums in anticipation of a road sweep at Wake and Duke. The result: a 28-27 defeat at the hands of the Deacs.

    Different era, different coach, true enough, but I’ve seen these situations bite the ‘Cats enough over the years that I’ve learned never to take any game for granted.

  24. wildcat6 says:

    @chaddogg – I love that Fitz story. The man is as intense as he is loyal to his alma mater…which is to say, off the charts.

  25. Glenn says:

    Pretty fair assessment of Cincy, but too low of a ranking. The offensive potential is ridiculous. The defense, if only servicable, will make the team a solid Big East contender. UC should find its way to 9-3 on the year.

  26. eroc says:

    1) i can’t think of a Bearcat fan who isn’t pleased with Coach Jones to date. With all due respect to Coach Kelly, who did a lot of heavy lifting in raising the profile of the Bearcats in the city, state and nationally, Coach Jones has really put forth the effort to raise the profile and make the program his own. Now all he has to do is keep winning ;)

    2) i doubt you’ll find too many Bearcats fans wasting their time trying to make the case. For some reason, despite a track record, however recent, of success the Bearcats can’t seem to shake the perception, nationally, that they are not a top 25 team. Hell, this guy doesn’t even consider the Bearcats a top 40 team. Understanding that every team undergoes some turnover, my question is “How many consecutive top 25 finishes does a team need to have before it starts to garner consideration for a preseason top 40 ranking?”

  27. [...] heading into the season opener. Today’s team, No. 43, is Cincinnati. You can find a larger Cincinnati preview [...]

  28. wick4su says:

    Pasqualoni should be on top of your little list here. Schiano doesn’t even deserve to be on the same list as Pasqualoni until he schedules some tough competition and then actually beats them. You might have to look past the last couple years if you’re really going to compare coaches since 1990.

  29. Daniel Drake says:

    @Wildcat6 – it is Indiana State not Indiana. If Cincinnati loses to a 1-AA team that went 1-10 last year then they will get rid of Jones two games into his career.

    Also….sites for Cincinnati
    http://www.bearcatlair.com (the hyperlink on the article goes to the rivals site of bearcat report) – the most popular subscription site.
    http://www.bearcatnews.com – most members of any site
    http://www.bearcatbanter.com – close to bearcatnews in membership
    http://www.bearcatinsider.com – scout site
    http://www.bearcatreport.com – rivals site
    http://www.bearcattalk.com – new site, but well organized and clean looking

  30. Glenn says:

    @Daniel Drake – thanks for the solid list of Bearcat sites. It’s good to see so many folks out there interested in UC football.

    Wildcat6 is actually a Northwestern fan (their profile is up next) and he was indeed referring to Indiana.

    Go Bearcats…..

  31. Burnt Orange says:

    Paul – I thought this is where we might see the much anticipated worst helmet list. So many of the better candidates have already appeared – San Diego State, Utah State, Western Kentucky, Kansas State. My money is on Oregon State at this point.

  32. kpzero says:

    Walter Stewart will be switching back and forth between linebacker and defensive end.

    The coaches have said that Maalik Bomar will likely be at linebacker when Stewart is at DE. He has hit the weight room hard over the offseason gaining over 20 pounds and has impressed the staff.

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