I’m sick of losing. But it wasn’t just the losses themselves it’s the way they lost. Getting manhandled by a Toledo Rockets team was bad enough but then Louisville ripped our hearts out last week beating Cincinnati in overtime. The Bearcats lost those game by a combined 9 points and while some might be calling for the coach’s head I’m in the camp that UC has oodles of motivation heading into this clash with the Syracuse Orange who have been involved in some pretty tight games themselves.
On opening weekend they lost to a Northwestern team in the final minutes but were able to hang on for a 1 point win over the Pitt Panthers and eeked out a late victory over the South Florida Bulls. Unfortunately these are two teams going in opposite directions right now. The Orange have all the momentum but the Bearcats are hungry to get back to their winning ways.
Five keys to the game after the jump.
1) Contain the Syracuse Passing Attack. No I’m Not Joking.
At the beginning of the season I heard ramblings that the Orange were going to focus more on the pass in 2012. I scoffed at those statements thinking Syracuse would continue to be a run-first team using a heavy rushing attack to open up the play action passing game. Welp, I was dead wrong. Led by senior Ryan Nassib, the Orange are shredding opponents through the air this year. Syracuse leads the Big East in passing yards per game, attempts per games, touchdown passes, and is near the top of the conference in completion percentage and yards per attempt. So they sling it around pretty good compared to previous teams and will test the UC secondary who are looking to recover after giving up 416 passing yards to Louisville last Friday.
2) Get to Nassib and Get to Him Early
Syracuse runs a rhythm-based offense in that they utilize Nassib’s quick release, intelligence, and instincts as a senior to move the offense down the field. It’s dink and dunk to an extent but the Orange won’t shy away from the longball. Overall it starts with Nassib’s ability to dissect coverage quickly and get the ball out on an early read. He does both things extremely well but could get tripped up if the Bearcats start throwing zone-blitzes his way, making him think the defense is showing him one thing pre-snap then an entirely difference coverage post-snap. That’s the simple way of getting in his head but getting him to the ground is another matter. The Orange only give up 1.5 sacks per game. Their offensive line is very talented and Cincinnati is without Walter Stewart yet again. But if the Bearcats can breakthrough early it will go a long way to ensuring Syracuse does next to nothing on offense this Saturday.
3) Don’t Be Afraid of Running on 3rd and Medium
For our purposes let’s call “3rd and medium” any yardage from 3rd and 4 through 3rd and 6. Most college football teams would call these passing situations but for the Cincinnati Bearcats it’s different. I simply don’t have faith in Munchie Legaux completing a pass in the face of pressure consistently enough for UC to move the chains. It’s not that he can’t do accomplish that task but I just think he has a better chance of doing it with his legs rather than his arms, especially with his long strides. So why not send either he or the runningback on draws out of the shotgun? I say try it! Most teams will be geared to stop the pass allowing the Bearcats’ big, mobile offensive line to get to the second level and pave a path for the ball carrier to pick up a 1st down.
4) Skew Heavily Towards the Run in General
Syracuse is more vulnerable against the pass than the run. I mean they nearly gave up 300 yards through the air to freakin’ UConn for goodness sake. But no matter what the data says Cincinnati is a run-first football team and should try to pull a different competitive advantage out of thin air. What I expect (hope) to see on Saturday is a Bearcat team that runs the ball at least 60% of the time. Not only does Cincinnati find huge success when focusing on the rushing attack but it will help control the clock and keep the defense rested, which could easily find itself worn out by Syracuse’s offense.
5) Bend Don’t Break
Cincinnati’s defense has defined the “bend don’t break” concept this season. And that concept will be further emphasized against a Syracuse team that puts up a ton of yards but struggles in the redzone, converting just three-quarters of their trips into scores (85th nationally). That’s okay with me. It’s points that beat teams, not yards and if the Bearcats force Syracuse to kick field goals inside the 20 yard line that will only increase UC’s chances of coming out of this one with a W.
Big East Games – 2012 Record: 30 – 11 (73.2%)
Louisville vs. Temple: I can’t really say much about this game. Wow is this going to be ugly. Louisville 48, Temple 13
Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh: This could end up being a really good game. Both the Irish and Panthers are playing their best football right now. I could easily see a trap game coming out of this one even though ND are the overwhelming favorites. I’ll take the Irish. Notre Dame 30, Pittsburgh 23
South Florida vs. UConn: This is a case of who wants it more. Rather, it might be a case of who wants to keep their coach around a little longer. The Bulls and Huskies are playing the worst of any Big East team right now but I’d peg the former as the one that has an edge in this game. Look for B.J. Daniels to lead his team to victory. South Florida 35, UConn 14