The Bearcats roll into their second and final bye week of the year just one month into the 2012 season. Conference realignment is at fault for this as has been repeated ad nauseum. But despite playing just two games Cincinnati has quite a bit to work on during their off-week.
I’m not sure if it was a factor of the team not giving their opponent their due respect and assuming they could sleepwalk their way to a win or if they flat out had a bad game. Either way, the Bearcats displayed a below-average performance against Delaware State. They did some things right but work needs to be done. The good news is that the bye week gives Butch Jones, his staff, and these players the time to review game tape and make adjustments for their matchup with Virginia Tech in just over a week.
The first area of focus should be, well, focus. Turnovers, mental mistakes, and costly penalties are, at their core, a direct result of a lack of focus. The coaching staff will probably hammer home the message of paying close attention to detail and never taking a play off. They certainly have enough evidence from last week to throw at their team. Overall I expect a much more mentally prepared Bearcat football team next game.
Also the bye week will provide an opportunity for Cincinnati to lick their wounds. It’s only been two games but UC has had their fair share of bumps and bruises in a short amount of time. Strong safety Drew Frey didn’t play against Delaware State because of an injury he sustained in practice. Rumor has it he was held out for ‘precautionary’ reasons and would have played if the opponent was bigger but two weeks off will ensure he’s as close to 100% as possible against Virginia Tech. In addition linebacker Corey Mason and receiver Anthony McClung were sidelined during the game and will have the opportunity to get healthy.
Finally the game against Delaware State showed that the Bearcats have a ton of options behind their starters. Damon Julian got the start over Alex Chisum, Shaq Washington and Danny Milligan got a ton of reps, Parker Ehinger saw plenty of playing time at right guard, and Malcolm Murray filled in admirably for Drew Frey. They all played well and actually made the job of UC’s coaching staff harder because of the tough decisions they will have to make with regards to splitting reps. On the flip side they can rest assured knowing that if a starter were to go down for a significant amount of time, or if they just needed a breather, there probably would not be much of a dropoff with the backup stepping into his place. This bye week will allow the coaching staff to evaluate their personnel and attempt to field the best possible team against Virginia Tech.
Big East Games – 2012 Record: 13 – 5 (72.2%) – No BEast-on-BEast action this week.
Western Michigan vs. UConn: I like this matchup for the Huskies. Western Michigan boasts a solid quarterback in Alex Carder but he will be facing perhaps the toughest defense he will play this season. UConn has almost always played well on that side of the ball but now, as in years past, their offense is horribly inconsistent. If the Huskies can finally get some semblance of a passing game it should prevent the Broncos from loading up the box and stuffing the run. I think that happens this week. UConn 35, Western Michigan 10
Penn State vs. Temple: Two or three years ago Penn State would have ran Temple out of the stadium. Now the gap in talent and coaching is remarkably smaller. Still the Owls are still a few years away from making a splash on the big stage and they are traveling into the unfriendly confines of Happy Valley. Give me the home team. Penn State 35, Temple 20
Gardner Webb vs. Pittsburgh: The Panthers looked very, very good in their win over Virginia Tech last Saturday. After two weeks of some of the worst football the city of Pittsburgh has seen, it looks like the new coaching staff and players are starting to mesh. Even if they take a step back this week I don’t think the Panthers will have any trouble with Gardner Webb. Pittsburgh 38, Gardner Webb 9
Ball State vs. South Florida: The Bulls appear to have started their October collapse a month early in their sloppy loss to Rutgers last Thursday night. They looked unprepared and unmotivated. And while USF is facing a MAC opponent, Ball State looks to be rebounding from a tough couple of years since Brady Hoke left. This could be a trap game for the Bulls who must shore up their run defense to succeed in this game. South Florida 24, Ball State 21
Arkansas vs. Rutgers: As much of an a-hole as Bobby Petrino was/is, he ran a heck of a program down in Fayetteville. John Smith might of fallen on his sword in hopes of keeping the momentum going but let’s be clear; John Smith is no Bobby Petrino. The Razorbacks have loads of talent however Rutgers boasts the best defense in the Big East and is coming off a huge win on the road against South Florida. This will be a hostile environment for the Scarlet Knights but I think they escape victorious. Rutgers 21, Arkansas 17
Florida International vs. Louisville: The Cardinals look to avenge an embarrassing home loss to the Golden Panthers last season. They are a very good team right now and should take care of business on the road. The only thing the Cardinals need to look out for is a 2nd half comeback. They have nearly allowed Kentucky and North Carolina to beat them in the 4th quarter. FIU boasts an offense that can accomplish this. I still think UL wins, though. Louisville 34, Florida International 13
Minnesota vs. Syracuse: It seems like every week we’re talking about the Orange taking on a BCS opponent. Oh yea, it’s because they basically are. After playing spectacular in two tough losses to Northwestern and USF, Syracuse played mightily worse in their victory over Stony Brook. They travel to Minnesota this weekend and look to get a marquee win over a Big Ten opponent. I think they do it. Syracuse 33, Minnesota 27