In my first article, I gave an outlook for the 2014 season. But this time around I am going to take a look at the Bearcats schedule breaking down the matchups and giving you my predictions for year.
Last season, I was pretty close to predicting how the Bearcats would finish. My only stumbling blocks were UC losing to Louisville, Illinois and South Florida. Losing to Louisville was not a shock because I knew it would be a battle but to get manhandled by Illinois and lose to last place USF was a surprise. Nevertheless we will see if I can do better this season.
Game 1- Toledo Rockets: This is the return game from a few years ago when a ranked UC team went into Toledo and were upset by a pumped up Rockets team. That team was very talented and Toledo is going to bring in a team that will be looking for the upset again after a disappointing 7-5 record in 2013. David Fluellen returns at running back and the defense figures to be a strong point for this Toledo team. The key in this game is that Toledo will be facing a UC team with a much better offense and defense then they faced before. Bearcats open the season with a W 31-17.
Game 2- Miami Redhawks: The annual clash for the bell has lately been a lopsided affair owned by the Bearcats although last year’s game was closer than expected. The Redhawks welcome in a new head coach again and this one still does not figure to be a game. Miami has struggled big time playing in Cincinnati, expect that trend to continue as the Redhawks don’t have enough guns to keep up in this one. UC wins easily 45-10.
Game 3- Ohio State Buckeyes: This is the game that all Bearcat fans have been waiting for ever since OSU paid UC a cool million dollars to move the game from Cincinnati to Columbus. Buckeye fans will tell you it’s because they don’t make any money playing in Cincinnati while Bearcat fans say remember 2002?
Those theories won’t tend to hold any water in this matchup as the Bearcats try to become the first school from Ohio to knock off the Buckeyes in a very long time. One key until this week was weather the Bearcats could slow down Braxton Miller, the Buckeyes Mr. Everything? We’ll we now know Miller will be a non-factor not only for this game but the entire season leaving the Buckeyes with two unproven quarterbacks behind center.
The other will be can Gunner Kiel play under pressure in front of a loud and rowdy crowd of 100k in his first true road test? If this game gets into a scoring fest, UC has a good chance of pulling this one out at the end. But if the OSU defense rattles Kiel, this one could be over quickly. My heart says upset but playing in front of such a large crowd, the Bearcats would have to play flawless. I don’t see it but this one is closer than expected OSU wins this one 37-31.
Game 4- Memphis Tigers: The Tigers had a very difficult 2013 campaign especially when they played on the road. They did get good news when they found out that their leading rusher Brandon Hayes had been granted a 6th year of eligibility. Hayes rushed for 860 yards and figures to be a huge focal point of the offense along with QB Paxton Lynch. Special teams are where Memphis really has the edge returning one of the best kickers in the country, Jake Elliott. The Tigers will find it tough playing this one in the Queen City and their road woes will continue. UC wins this one 38-14.
Game 5- Miami Hurricanes: This is another statement game that the Cats will need to win in order to grab national attention and this one will be tough. The Canes are starting to return to the form that made them a very dangerous team to play in the 80’s and 90’s. The only question mark is who will lead the Canes at QB? They will also try to shore up the defense which gave up almost 27 points per game last year, not exactly great defensive numbers. Although the crowd at Miami is not as loud and rowdy like Columbus, playing in muggy and sometimes rainy south Florida is not easy. The Canes inability to stop UC will be the key and I think UC wins a hard fought game 27-23.
Game 6- SMU Mustangs: The Cats struggled trying to stop June Jones’ air raid attack in their first meeting so figure this one to be a shootout as well. Garrett Gilbert is gone at QB but Sophomore Neal Burcham should be the next in line to lead this lethal offense. The key in this years’ game will be the same as last year, the defense will have to come up with timely stops to slow down the Mustangs from scoring TDs. Holding the offense to FGs and forcing punts will be huge in this game and I think the Cats will be up to the task. UC wins this one 32-23.
That is my breakdown of the first six games of the 2014 season, I will breakdown the second half of the season next week.