We’ve done all the prep work that’s humanly possibly for the Belk Bowl. Now it’s time to take a look at the five keys to Cincinnati’s final game of the season.
1) Protect Brendon Kay
The Bearcats face a monster of a defensive end in Kareem Martin and an active linebacking corps. While Cincinnati has given up just 12 sacks this season, 11th best in the country, UC will be without Austen Bujnoch and Sam Longo today. So keeping Kay upright will be easier said than done against the Tar Heels. If Cincinnati can protect him and get the passing game going, that will only help the Bearcats’ chances.
2) Don’t Get Exposed By Eric Ebron
The North Carolina tight end is a mismatch nightmare, much like Travis Kelce was for the Bearcats last season. Ebron is fast enough to outrun linebackers and strong enough to push around nickelbacks. There’s no right answer for this rubik’s cube of a problem for UC today. The primary issue is that two of Cincinnati’s starting linebackers, Greg Blair and Jeff Luc, are slow in coverage. That puts the task of keeping Ebron in check to true freshman NB Zach Edwards or LB Nick Temple, which removes him from his blitzing duties.
3) Spy Marquise Williams
His dual-threat abilities have torched defenses in recent weeks and like I mentioned above, UC’s linebackers aren’t the most fleet of foot. Regardless, Cincinnati needs to keep one man on defense spying him at all times because UNC head coach Larry Fedora will run that read-option all day long.
4) Play Keep Away With Ryan Switzer
No player in the country has returned more punts for touchdowns this season than Ryan Switzer. He’s taken four to the house in 2013. The good news is that Cincinnati’s punting tandem of John Lloyd and Brendon Kay have been pretty good at neutralizing opposing return men this season. But the Bearcats still have to be aware of Switzer’s explosive abilities. He should not be messed with.
5) Establish The Running Game
The Tar Heels have studs on defense but as a whole their ability to stop the run has been subpar this season. They rank 83rd in the country allowing over 183 yards on the ground per game. To create balance, Cincinnati’s three-headed monster of Williams, Abernathy, and Green need to eat up yards when they get the call. Brendon Kay and UC’s receivers will probably be the difference in this game but shouldn’t shoulder all of the load. The Bearcats have to establish a consistent rushing attack to succeed this afternoon.
That’s it. Enjoy the game and go Bearcats!