Opponent Watch 2019: Cincinnati




They are the odds on favorite to win the conference title this year. I would be surprised if they didn’t.

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That group — led by departing seniors and all-conference performers Marquise Copeland, Cortez Broughton and Kimoni Fitz — is now arguably the biggest question mark on the depth chart. Not for a lack of talent or potential, but simply because of the quality and experience that was lost.

Part of the on-field culture head coach Luke Fickell has strived to implement is an offensive- and defensive-line program. It resonated on both sides of the trenches in 2018, and the results were clear for the Bearcats. A repeat performance by the defensive line in 2019 will require some significant strides from a promising but unproven group.

Cincy will be tough.

I was looking through Lindy’s today. Our schedule will truly be one of the nation’s best.

Thankfully, our offense, barring an injury to King, should be good enough to give us at least a sporting chance in every game.

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The authentic jerseys worn by the team feature a number of performance innovations, including improved Air Vent Armour Grid, stretch mesh ventilation, improved fit, belt-length cut with elastic hems and lightweight team embellishment.

UC and Under Armour have been partners in innovation since 2015 and these new uniforms represent the first evolution of the Bearcats look over the past four seasons.

They look the same.

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Outlook: Cincinnati followed up a four-win season by winning 11 games for the first time since 2012, a feat that earned Fickell AAC Coach of the Year honors. If the Bearcats hope to build off of last season, they’ll need the offense to pick up where it left off as the defense adapts to the loss of key contributors.

2019 Schedule

Aug. 29 UCLA

Sept. 7 at Ohio State

Sept. 14 Miami (Ohio)

Sept. 28 at Marshall

Oct. 4 UCF

Oct. 12 at Houston

Oct. 19 Tulsa

Nov. 2 at East Carolina

Nov. 9 UConn

Nov. 16 at USF

Nov. 23 Temple

Nov. 29 at Memphis

Expectations

In a word: Intergalactic.

Is that irrational? Unreasonable? Quixotic? Maybe. The offseason hype has entered the “RBU” stratosphere, which seems unfair for such a young group, but certainly isn’t unfounded. The Bearcats were a running team last season, racking up 3,113 yards on the ground — more than double what their opponents gained — and more than the 2,847 yards UC put up through the air as well. Even with Ridder more comfortable under center, the backfield talent is too great to stray far from the ground attack, so expect to see much of the same, if only more distributed. Offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock has a wealth of depth, versatility and skill at his disposal. Whether it in fact translates into the four-headed, eight-stiff-arm monster it looks like on paper should be fun to take in, but regardless, it’s a heck of a place to start.

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The outlook on left tackle James Hudson receiving a waiver for immediate eligibility isn’t trending in a good direction for the Bearcats. One source close to the program told me recently, with each day that goes by without a positive update, they count less and less on the Michigan transfer being available in 2019. Though as far as a timetable on the process, there really isn’t one. UC doesn’t have endless appeals, but the waiver could conceivably come anytime before the season opener on Aug. 29. The Bearcats obviously would want to know much sooner than that — and I would bank on that happening — but there’s no set date, exactly.

I do expect we’ll hear a bit more from the Bearcats on the situation at some point, whether as a last-ditch effort or a response to running out of chances. Players and coaches have remained relatively quiet on the matter since Hudson released his statement in mid-May, allowing the compliance office to continue working to overturn the decision. But things may not remain as cordial toward Michigan or the NCAA if those prospects don’t change.

I wouldn’t classify it as a mistake that they ran Hudson with the first team in spring practice. Hudson is still a young player in a new program and in line to play significant snaps for the first time in his college career. The staff was (and is) really high on his potential, but he still needed those offseason reps. And on top of that, I think they genuinely believed the waiver would get approved, based in part on what they knew about Hudson’s struggles with mental health. It will be telling how much they use him when camp starts up at the end of the month, but the approach in spring was probably the right one.

Not having Hudson at left tackle will shake things up a bit on the line. Senior Chris Ferguson will likely move over from the right edge, opening up a position battle between Lorenz Metz, Darius Harper, Vincent McConnell and Colin Woodside for starting right tackle. There is a great deal of size, strength and martial arts skills in that group, though for now, it’s not enough to outweigh the uncertainty.

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By the way, really frustrates me that the Athletic.net has a Cincy writer, but not a UH writer. I submitted a survey and made sure to note that they needed to add one.

Pitiful that we can’t have a UH specific SBNation site or an Athletic writer.

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Don’t tell me that there isn’t an Eastern media bias…always has been, always will be…

The editor/founder of the USF site reached out to us about it, but writing for basically free doesn’t appeal to either of us. I’ve given it serious thought though.

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I had made an inquiry to SBNation at one point about what it would take to get a site. Response I got was that they weren’t looking for a UH site because they didn’t think the traffic would be high enough at the time. I think this was about 2 years ago, a little after the Horn Coach left.

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To the Mike Bohn question, his “Class of the League” ambitions extend well beyond the confines of the AAC, and he is particularly focused on securing the best possible long-term future for UC athletics, both in terms of conference affiliation and the coaches hired to lead each program. There was a lot of optimism within the university during those 2016 expansion talks with the Big 12, and the progress within the department has only been positive since then. If we learned anything from the AAC’s new TV contract negotiations, it’s that UC already views itself and operates as a P5 program, and will continue to work toward seeing those efforts properly recognized.

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As far as the Bearcats are concerned moving forward, the ramifications are significant. There’s the obvious impact Hudson’s absence will have on a suddenly reshuffled offensive line (more on that in a bit), but there are also still a handful of incoming transfers who are seeking immediate waivers, and whose fates have yet to be determined. Linebacker Darrian Beavers, receiver Blue Smith and safeties Bryan Cook and safety Kyriq McDonald would all require NCAA approval to play this season. (Garyn Prater is already immediately eligible because he was a walk-on at Ohio State, and kicker Sam Crosa is a graduate transfer.) None of the waiver situations are analogous to Hudson’s, so his ruling doesn’t automatically spell a similar outcome for others. Though it probably doesn’t instill much confidence, either.

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Beavers is a Colerain High School graduate who spent two seasons at UConn, playing 24 games and leading the huskies with 4.0 sacks a year ago. He finished his career there with 38 career tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss and 7.0 sacks.

McDonald played two seasons at Alabama, redshirting as a true freshman and playing in 11 games as a redshirt freshman in 2018. He totaled seven tackles and a QB hurry, earning the Alabama coaches’ special teams players of the week for his play against Mississippi State and Auburn.

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