Justin Ford USA Today Sports

An out of conference match-up with the Miami Hurricanes is a bigger game than many may know for the Cincinnati Bearcats.

Cincinnati is looking for a win on national television against the Miami Hurricanes on Thursday night and the game may have more importance than many might think.

The Cincinnati Bearcats started the season with big expectations with many feeling they could not only win the American Athletic Conference, but be a team that could crash the college football playoffs.

With a high powered offense starting with junior quarterback Gunner Kiel the Bearcats looked ready to be a contender.  But with injuries to top players at key positions the Bearcats enter Thursday’s primetime matchup with Miami sitting with a 2-2 record. 

Over the last two games the Bearcats have accounted for 1,297 yards of total offense and rank third in total offense in the nation. In the game last week, despite losing Kiel in the first half against Memphis the Bearcats still managed to score 46 points. 

Of course head coach Tommy Tuberville knows records and stats don’t equal wins in college football. 

“I know we broke some records and played with more emotion but records don’t mean anything when it comes to winning football games,” said Tuberville at his weekly press conference on Tuesday.  “I wanted to stress that to our football team”. 

Tuberville made it clear that stats don’t mean anything when the ending result is a mark in the loss column. It’s clear the Bearcats have talent all across the board but the turnovers have doomed the Bearcats all year long. So now with the team preparing to start Hayden Moore it’s interesting to see how the Bearcats offense performs in another primetime matchup. 

Last week Moore played sensational football throwing for 557 yards for four touchdowns. In the end though, when the Bearcats had a chance to tie the game with a late touchdown on the last drive, Moore had a careless turnover that ended the Bearcats chances. With 14 giveaways this season Cincinnati leads the 127 schools in total turnovers this season. 

“The way we have turned the ball over is embarrassing,” said Tuberville.  “You can’t overcome those mistakes.”

While it may be easy to pour the blame on the offense with the turnovers the defense has been just as bad. Missed tackles are piling up and are leading to big plays for the opposing team. 

Tuberville pointed out if there was a category for missed tackles the Bearcats would be dead last. Granted losing captain cornerback Adrian Witty for the season is a big loss, but with the talent on this football team the Bearcats are capable of overcoming such a huge injury. 

Junior cornerback Grant Coleman must step up for the defensive backs in order for the Bearcats to stop giving up such big plays. Coleman replaced Witty a season ago so he is familiar with defensive coordinator Steven Clinkscale’s system. Coleman tallied 54 tackles a season ago but gave up a big touchdown play last week to Memphis. 

“He’s got to tackle better and regain his confidence from last year,” said Tuberville.   “He is one of our guys with experience on defense.” The Bearcats secondary will be tested again this week going up against Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya who last season became just the third quarterback in Hurricanes history to throw for over 3,000 yards in a single season since 2003.  Kaaya has also thrown a touchdown pass in all 16 games he has started. 

Kaaya will definitely test the Bearcats and it will be interesting to see how freshman safety Malik Clements responds to the challenge of eliminating the big plays this Hurricanes offense is capable of throwing the Bearcats way. 

Clements, a great young talent out of Virginia will be tested in the spotlight Thursday night as he gets the start for the Bearcats at safety alongside junior safety Zach Edwards. As a Senior last season Clements was ranked 2nd amongst other players at safety in Virginia in 2015 class by Scout.  He had 83 tackles in 2013 and six interceptions. Clements is an athletic safety so it will be interesting to see if his great athletic skill set can overcome the lack of experience factor.

Overall for the Bearcats despite the records they have broken on offense and talent they have on defense side are 2-2. So right now they are an average football team. Coming into the season at this point the Bearcats hoped to be in better position for the AAC crown. The Bearcats still have a chance to turn this thing around and have a successful season and a win Thursday night would certainly help steer the Bearcats in a positive direction for the rest of season, but with another loss it will raise questions about where this team is headed after coming into the season with such high expectations.

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