UC O-Line vs. OSU D-Line
College football games are often decided in the trenches and this week the match-up is the key match-up to watch when the Bearcats have the ball as Ohio State has one of the best front fours in college football with Joey Bosa, Adolphus Washington, Michael Bennett and Steve Miller.
After missing last week’s game against Miami Ohio, Cincinnati needs center Deyshawn Bond and right tackle Cory Keebler back fully healthy. At times last week the Bearcats had backups at center, left guard and right tackle.
Only a sophomore, Bosa continues his high level of play and could cause problems for the Bearcats. Cincinnati native Washington is playing the best football of his career and is leading the Buckeyes front four with ten total tackles including a sack from his defensive tackle spot. Bennett is the veteran having played in 37 games during his career (17 starts) while Miller is more inconsistent of the four. However, when Miller comes to play, he’s as good as anyone in the country.
The Bearcats must have their best performance of the season and give Kiel time to throw while also opening holes for the Bearcats running attack that has yet to really shine. Advantage: Ohio State
UC Wide Receivers vs. OSU Secondary
The Bearcats have shown they have a deep and talented group of receivers. Now they must show they are dependable in a big game atmosphere against an Ohio State secondary that is young. The Buckeyes have talent, but it is young. Senior Doran Grant is the most experienced of the group with 18 career starts. Redshirt freshman Eli Apple has started the first three games of the season and redshirt sophomore Tyvis Powell is second on the Buckeyes in tackles with 23 so far this season. Sophomore Vonn Bell pushed ahead of Cam Burrows after Burrows started the season opener against Navy. Bell is super talented and is currently fourth on the team in tackles (18) along with an interception.
The Bearcats will need MeKale McKay to make not only the great catches but also the routine ones against the Buckeyes and Shaq Washington will need to use his ability to create in space to keep the Buckeyes off balance in the short passing game to help open up Max Morrison and Chris Moore.
Combined with the Bearcats running back and tight ends, Kiel has thrown to 12 different players in the first two games with six of them, all receivers, posting touchdowns. Advantage: Cincinnati
UC Running Backs / Tight Ends vs. OSU Linebackers
The one area the Bearcats have yet to get in full gear is the running game. Tion Green and Hosey Williams have watched as the Bearcats passing attack has captured the glory early this year and have seen their numbers take a hit from it. With only 41 combined carries between them in the first two games, the pair is still averaging just less than five yards per carry. Green hit holes hard last week for the first time this season and has the potential to be a major power back while Williams is able to hide behind the Bearcats big offensive line. D.J. Dowdy only has two catches but tight end play could be a factor.
Ohio State will counter with senior Curtis Grant, redshirt freshman Darron Lee and junior Josh Perry in their 4-3 alignment. Perry leads the Buckeyes with 26 tackles with three for a loss while Grant is third on the team and Lee fifth. All three players know how to get in the backfield having combined for 11 tackles for loss.
As we said in our look at line play, Cincinnati must get a push from their offensive line and get to second level defenders allowing for some sort of a running game to come in play. We like the play of the three Ohio State linebackers and feel the best way to defeat them will be in the air with short passes and screen plays as all three like to apply pressure in the backfield and could be pulled into over pursuing and opening up the chance to dump off plays to become big plays. Look for Bearcats receiver/running back Ralph David Abernathy IV to have his first chance to have a big game this season. Advantage: Ohio State
GUNNER KIEL VS. OSU DEFENSE
Kiel did some growing up against Miami Ohio as he experienced his first real struggles on the field. However, he’s still hitting on over 65-percent of his throws with an average of just under 355-yards per game. We expect Ohio State to put early pressure on Kiel forcing him to make quick reads instead of sitting back in the pocket like he’s done the past two games where he’s only been sacked two times. While Kiel has found McKay to be his go-to target, this game will force him to look at others opening up the chance for Washington, Morrison, Moore and Abernathy to be the playmakers.
We like what Kiel brings to the field in his first real test and while we don’t expect him to be perfect, he must keep the Bearcats offense honest and not look to go deep on every pass play. If you are looking for an X-factor in this game it is Kiel’s overall play. The Bearcats have yet to show much of their offensive attack in their first two games and have kept several aspects sitting on the shelve leading up to this game. Tommy Tuberville will look to take a few gambles in this game on both sides of the field but his biggest gamble could come on offense with Kiel. Advantage: Even