The past two weeks Cincinnati has finally looked like the team many projected at the beginning of the season.
While many had the Bearcats set to win their division of the American Athletic Conference, things got off to a bumpy start with losses to Temple and Memphis.
However, the past two weeks Tommy Tuberville has seen his team defeat Connecticut and Central Florida by a combined margin of 69-points.
In both games the Bearcats had comfortable leads at the half as players like Shaq Washington was set up to break the program's all-time receptions record with 205 and Gunner Kiel connecting on 15 straight passes without an incompletion to set a new NCAA record that has stood for 20-years.
With his team looking as if they are clicking on all cylinders and playing their best football of the season, Tuberville now has the task of getting his team ready for Tom Herman’s 8-0 Houston Cougars.
“They are a very talented team,” said Tuberville. “They are balanced on offense and defense plus they create a lot of turnovers. They don’t really have any weakness.
The Cougars come into the game having won six games this season by 21-points or more and have held teams scoreless in the second half the past two weeks.
Tuberville noticed the improvement of Cougars junior quarterback Greg Ward who leads the nation with 16 rushing touchdowns and has improved his throwing mechanics since last season.
“He (Ward) makes a lot of plays,” he said. “He’s hard to tackle in the open field and is throwing the football much better than in previous years. He really is the total package.”
But Ward is not a one-man show as Kenneth Farrow leads the team in rushing with 763-yards and receiver Demarcus Ayers has 713 yards receiving.
With the number of weapons set to line-up against the Bearcats, defensive coordinator Steve Clinkscale might have a few sleepless nights during his preparation for Herman’s high powered offensive attack.
Defensively it will be important for the Bearcats to be discipline and keep Ward in the pocket. If he escapes and gets outside, he’ll be able to create plays for his teammates on the run and possibly making it a long afternoon for the Bearcats.
Offensively it will be the job of offensive coordinator Eddie Gran to keep the ball away from the Cougars and the best way to do that is to use the Bearcats three-headed machine at running back in Tion Green, Hosey Williams and Michael Boone. If the Bearcats can establish the run, they’ll have a great chance to keep the ball away from Ward and keep their defense fresh.
Unlike other teams the Cougars have played, Cincinnati does have a high powered offense of their own as they lead the AAC in total offense averaging 577 yards per game.
Over the last few weeks Chris Moore and Johnny Holton have both found their rhythm adding to the collection of weapons the Bearcats already have. At this point in the season having a healthy offense should prove huge for the boys from Clifton.
Tuberville knows a fast start will be key for the Bearcats to leave Houston with their sixth win of the season.
“We need to put ourselves in a position to win early and play consistent,” he explained. “We can’t have ups and downs or turn the football over because the game will get away from you real quick.”
The Bearcats have the talent to compete with the Cougars on Saturday in TDECU Stadium as we’ve seen this team win games many expected them to lose. While many have jumped on the Cougars bandwagon and will be picking them to beat the Bearcats, this team looks like they have finally started to believe in themselves and should return home with a victory.