The Bearcats are back in action this week against their semi-arch rival the Miami (OH) Redhawks. It’s the 117th meeting between these two programs with the latter owning a 59 – 50 – 7 record despite Cincinnati winning the last six games. Interestingly enough, the Bearcats haven’t boasted a lead in the Battle for the Victory Bell series since 1915. That’s not too surprising considering over the course of both programs’ very long football history the Redhawks have been the more consistent program.
But the pendulum has swung in Cincinnati’s favor of late what with the renaissance of the football program and the commitment to playing top-tier football in Clifton. In order to regain the lead in the series the Bearcats will have to win the next 10 straight. I don’t see that being much of a problem. UC should win no less than 90% of the games in this series going forward given the opposite trajectory of these programs. Win number one towards that goal begins this Saturday in the friendly confines of Nippert Stadium, whited out and sold out for your pleasure.
1) Stuff the Run on First Down
The Redhawks try to establish the run on early downs and rather pathetically I might add. Over half of Miami’s rushing attempts have been on first down which is not a surprise considering Don Treadwell’s offense. But they are only averaging just 3.7 ypc compared to 4.2 ypc on second down. The strategy here is preventing big gains early which will get the Miami offense out of rhythm, forcing them to pass, and letting Dan Giordano and Walter Stewart do what they do best; make quarterbacks rethink their decision to play football.
2) Keep Dysert in the Pocket
Miami’s running game is bad, like 112th-in-the-country bad. Thomas Merriweather graduated after the 2010 season and the Redhawks haven’t found a semblance of balance on offense since. And to be honest with you they haven’t boasted a remotely decent running game since 2007 when they were 85th in the country averaging 135 yards per game. Since then they have never ranked higher than 102nd and one year ranked dead last in all of college football running the football. The one bright spot for the Redhawks has been Zac Dysert who is leading the team in rushing yards despite runningback Jamire Westbrook having the slight edge on carries. I would expect Jancek to entrust one of his linebackers to spy the Miami QB and ensure he doesn’t pick up yards with his legs, which he is more than capable of doing.
3) Avoid Surrendering the Big Play
As awful as Miami’s running game is, they actually have one of the best passing attacks in the country. The Redhawks average 285 yards through the air per game which is good 30th best in the nation. Even more so they are very adept at picking up huge chunks of yardage through the air averaging 7.5 yards per pass with 14 passes of 25 yards or more (12th best). It’s no surprise considering the amount of weapons at Zac Dysert’s disposal such as Andy Cruse, Dawon Scott, and Nick Harwell, who should be back for this game. Cincinnati has been extraordinary and preventing the big play this season allowing just three passes of at least 25 yards but they will be tested on Saturday.
4) Don’t Force Passes
The Redhawks are loaded with veterans in the secondary, veterans who have picked off opposing quarterbacks 7 times so far this season which is T-15th best in the country. Munchie is progressing as a quarterback but he has been known to trust his Howitzer of a right arm at points this season. Given how hard he’s worked and his dedication to making the correct choices as Cincinnati’s leader, I wholeheartedly trust him to work through to his check downs if his first options aren’t open. But he has a tendency to sometimes key in on a single receiver or pass the ball too late. Munchie can’t afford to do it in most games and especially against this secondary because they will make him pay.
5) Read-Option, All Day Baby
Urban Meyer and Butch Jones run similar offenses in that both require the quarterback to beat the defense with his legs as much if not more so than his arm. Now Braxton Miller might be the most athletic running quarterback in the country but Munchie Legaux isn’t too bad in his own right. On opening weekend Miller gashed the Redhawks for 161 yards and a pair of touchdowns. There’s no reason UC’s quarterback can’t put up similar numbers. Overall, Miami’s run defense has been about as bad as their rushing offense. Sounds like they need to import some better players for practice each week. On the season the Redhawks are giving up about 250 yards per game against the run which should have Legaux, Winn, and Abernathy licking their chops. Given how solid Miami has been in the back end and porous in the front seven it only makes sense for the Bearcats to, you know, play to their strength and exploit their opponent’s biggest weakness. I’m thinking Cincinnati rolls up around 300 yards rushing on Saturday.
Big East Games – 2012 Record: 21 – 7 (75.0%)
Syracuse vs. Pittsburgh: The ACC jokes aside these are definitely two programs going in exactly the opposite direction. Both enjoyed a much-needed bye last week to allow the Orange to get their acts together and the Panthers to continue to learn Paul Chryst’s system. Even with two weeks off and SU boasting home field advantage I don’t think it changes the result of this game. The Panthers are just rolling right now. Pittsburgh 30, Syracuse 20
Rutgers vs. UConn: Nothing’s stopping the Scarlet Knights right now and especially not UConn. If the Huskies struggled to score on Buffalo they are going to have a heck of a time against a Rutgers defense that is giving up just 12.8 points per game in 2012 (10th best). And the offense ain’t too shabby either. When the dust clears I think Team Jersey will have won big. Rutgers 38, UConn 13
Temple vs. South Florida: I really, really should take the Bulls in this game just based on the fact that the talent level is so much different between these two teams. But I’m not convinced the coaching is that far apart. USF’s Skip Holtz has looked extremely rattled in his first few games of 2012 and is leading the Bulls down a dangerous path. Right now I think Steve Addazio is a better coach and will have his team ready to go coming off a bye week. Temple 20, South Florida 17