Tomorrow night it’s the Cincinnati Bearcats vs. the Temple Owls under the bright lights of Friday Night Football on ESPN. There are few better locations on a Friday night than at Nippert Stadium when it’s packed to the rafters with punch drunk UC fans. The entire country will be able to witness Cincinnati’s on-campus gem and the kind of homefield advantage it provides these ‘Cats. Overall it’s just a great opportunity to promote the football program and the university nationwide.
But you know what would be devastating? A loss to winless Temple in front of literally everybody. Even the second grader who wet himself on stage at his school class’s Thanksgiving Recital of would be busting a gut.
Cincinnati would be a national laughingstock if they screwed the pooch against the Owls like they did against South Florida. It’s pretty obvious that no matter how similar their records, Temple is a class below the Bulls on the football field. But that doesn’t mean the Bearcats should take them lightly. They were inconsistent and unfocused on offense last week and it cost them dearly. They can’t afford another loss like that this week, especially at home, and especially on national television. Heck, at this point, the Bearcats basically can’t afford another conference loss all season.
Let’s get to the keys to the game.
1) Again, Bottle Up The Run
Like South Florida, Temple is a run-first football team and the Bearcats were pretty successful in this capacity last Saturday. The Bulls rushed for just 112 yards, albeit primarily with a backup runningback, which caused their entire offense to sputter. They finished with just 241 total yards and 12 offensive points. Overall Cincinnati’s defense did an exceptional job against South Florida and it’s a minor miracle they didn’t allow a touchdown despite the UC offense turning the ball over four times.
2) Dink And Dunk
Despite what some of the most vocal corners of the fanbase would want, Brendon Kay is still the starting quarterback for the Cincinnati Bearcats. There’s no reason to bench him at this point. But it goes without saying that Kay is uncomfortable at best in the pocket. He needs a confidence boost and throwing complicated passing plays at him isn’t the answer. Eddie Gran needs to strip the playbook down to his top 10% most essential and simple plays and make sure Kay can run these in his sleep. While some have argued for Gran to open up the offense, that seems ludicrous given the UC’s quarterback’s mental state right now. Short and intermediate passes as well as screens would do Kay some good on Saturday.
3) Keep A Good Thing Going
I’m of course speaking about the offensive line personnel of Lefeld, Bujnoch, Longo, Cureton, and Ehinger. Like I mentioned in the Bulls-game recap, the only time when Cincinnati experienced some form of offensive rhythm was when that combination formed the front five for the Bearcats. Unfortunately it was in the fourth quarter with too little time to do anything about UC’s two-score deficit. But tomorrow night Cincinnati has an opportunity to start those five linemen for an entire game and generate some rhythm and confidence offensively.
4) Avoid Temple’s Redzone
Despite giving up oodles and oodles of yards to opposing offenses, Temple is very stout in the redzone. Of the 26 trips to the Owl redzone teams have taken this season, they’ve converted just eight of them into touchdowns and 13 into field goals. Those are pretty impressive numbers. Given Cincinnati’s offensive struggles this season, when the Bearcats get inside Temple’s 40 or 30 yard line they might want to consider taking some shots at the endzone by way of, say, the 6’6″ MeKale McKay when he’s battling an undersized defensive back. I know this seems counter intuitive to key #2 above but in this area (on Temple’s side of the 50 but outside of the redzone) it might be a good idea to throw it up. Otherwise, I’d like to see a more condensed offense.
5) Make Some Nooooooooooiiiiiiiiiissssseeeee!!!
I’m gonna go out on a limb and proclaim that Temple has never visited Nippert Stadium when it’s rocking like it will on Friday. Now, I can’t verify that statement since the Owls have played in Clifton like a half-a-dozen times but let’s just say they’re unprepared for the environment that they’ll be walking into tomorrow night. That can only happen if Bearcats fans live up to their reputation and are their raucous selves, despite the recently wavering trust in Tommy Tuberville. Tomorrow is the annual Ring of Red game so, as they say, come early, be loud, and wear red! Pump some energy into this team!
AAC Games – 2013 Record: 29 – 7 (80.6%) – Undefeated last week! Scared me there, Rutgers…
Louisville v. Rutgers: The first premiere AAC matchup of the season pits two of the best conference foes head-to-head on Thursday night. If you aren’t watching this game tonight, I don’t know what’s wrong with you. Both the Scarlet Knights and Cardinals boast impressive offensive attacks but the one differentiation between these two strong squads are the respective defenses. That’s where Louisville has the edge. Honestly I think this game could go either way but because of the Cardinals’ advantage on defense, I’m giving them the win tonight. Louisville 31, Rutgers 28
UConn v. South Florida: From two offensive juggernauts to two offensive slugs. There could very well be more defensive points scored in this game than offensive points. This is a tough one to predict but by way of not having their regular head coach, even though it is a guy I have immense respect for, I don’t think the Huskies can pull out a win. South Florida 17, UConn 10
Houston v. Memphis: Out of the three other AAC games this week, this could be the most lopsided. The Memphis Tigers are improving under Justin Fuente but that program is still a year or two away from being competitive on an annual basis. This week they face a Cougars team that is undefeated and looked pretty good in all of their victories. They go 5-0 this weekend. Houston 45, Memphis 26