Game 9 Preview: Cincinnati

The Cincinnati Bearcats invade TDECU Stadium looking to knock off the undefeated Houston Cougars in a key American Athletic Conference matchup. Game time is set for 2:30pm (CST) this Saturday (November the 7th) and will be televised nationally on ESPN2.

Cincinnati (5-3, 2-2 in the AAC East), led by head coach Tommy Tuberville, is entering play Saturday trying to stay pace with Temple in the East but are two games behind having lost the tie-breaker to the Owls, losing 34-26 in their second game of the season. The Bearcats are on a bit of a hot streak however, having won their past two games by a combined 89-20 over UConn and UCF. Tuberville, otherwise known as “The Riverboat Gambler” for his perchance on taking chances such as gambling on fourth downs or calling a trick or gadget play, is 154-88 in 20 seasons as a head coach and 23-11 in his 3rd season at Cinci.

When one thinks of the Bearcats offense, the words explosive, diverse and balanced come to mind as they average 38.4 points-per-game, ranking them 16th nationally. Calling 3rd year offensive coordinator Eddie Gran’s unit balanced would be a major understatement as he’s called for 343 total rushing plays (with 16 touchdowns scored) to 325 passing attempts (resulting in 21 TD’s thrown).  This near 50/50 run-pass ratio philosophy allows them to keep opposing defenses off balance as they average a nation’s fifth best 576.6 total yards-per-game. While passing for 370.6 passing yards-per-game (number six nationally), if opponents sit back and play zone defense they’ll run the ball down your throat to the tune of 206 rushing yards-per-game (29th).

While an ESPN2 announcer said during their last game against UCF that Gran admitted that they “pass to set up the run,” a lot of this philosophy has to do with playing an inexperienced quarterback. Gunner Kiel (6-foot-4 inches, 215 pounds, Jr.) has been in and out of the lineup with neck injuries forcing them to play redshirt freshman Hayden Moore (6’3, 205), who’s started two games before Kiel came back in that win against UConn two weeks ago. Kiel was listed as the top QB of the 2012 class by Scout and was an early commit to Indiana after passing for 4,831 yards and 61 TDs as a two-year starter at Columbus East High School in Columbus, Indiana. A change of heart led him to LSU in January of 2012 before changing his mind again, this time officially signing to play for Notre Dame where he redshirted for the 2012 season. Having decided he wasn’t a fit with the Irish (without much elaboration on why), Kiel transferred to Cincinnati in the spring of 2013 and sat out the season due to NCAA transfer rules. Between his last snap in high school and first of the 2014 Bearcats season, the former five-star QB went 1,029 days between playing in a football game. Ever since then he hasn’t let his foot off the pedal as the gun slinger passed for just over 250 yards-per-game on average last season, while completing near 50-percent of his passes for 31 TDs to 13 interceptions. This season he’s been even better as he’s completing over 68-percent of his passes while averaging 252 yards-per-game, throwing for 12 TDs to 5 picks. He’s missed parts of two games and two other complete games with neck injuries from wicked shots while trying to run with the ball. Kiel is a tough, hard-nosed pocket passer who will stare down a potential hit while standing tall in the pocket until the very last second before releasing the ball. Kiel is also fearless in his scrambling ability as he’ll run for extra yards instead of just trying to get down before being tackled. He’s missed five career games due to injuries. While having the arm to make every throw on the field his weakness may be his strength as sometimes he relies on that arm in forcing passes into tight windows that maybe he shouldn’t. Kiel is at his best when throwing on-rhythm when releasing the ball quickly instead of having to go through his progressions.

Despite coming back from his neck injuries, Kiel has had to win the starting job from Moore over the past few weeks as the redshirt freshman has passed for nearly 500 yards in two starts against Miami (Fla) and BYU with 2 TDs, against the Canes while losing at BUY the following week. For the season Moore has passed for over 1,400 yards (to Kiel’s 1500) with 8 TDs. The younger QB has also thrown 6 interceptions as he has the same confidence in his arm that Kiel does in his in sometimes forcing the ball while also staring down his receivers which is a huge no-no. Moore is probably the better athlete of the two though Gran will have them throwing off the run via bootlegs on play-action. Kiel completed all 15 of his passes in last week’s victory over UCF for 319 yards and FIVE TD’s while Moore completed 11-of-15 himself. The two have thrown a combined 11 interceptions this season, tied for 109th nationally.

The Bearcats 116th ranked -1.13 turnover margin should be music to Cougars defensive coordinator Todd Orlando’s ears as Houston is FIRST nationally with a +1.88 turnover margin. The “Jack Boyz,” Houston’s secondary, 12 interceptions are 11th nationally, their fumbles recovered of 10 is second and their overall 22 turnovers forced are also tied for first in the nation. Saturday’s contest between Gran and Orlando should be quite the chess match as the first year DC runs a very aggressive defense which will full out blitz in order to hurry opposing QB’s, often leading to turnovers such as the “pick-6” last week against Vanderbilt by shutdown cornerback William Jackson III (6’2, 195, Sr.). The Coogs shutdown corner jumped his receiver’s route knowing the QB had to get rid of the ball early or take a sack in taking the ball 55 yards to the house to put the game away against the SEC foe. Jackson is third in the nation with 17 passes defended while intercepting 3 passes and recovering a fumble.

This same aggressiveness could also hurt the Cougars however as Gran loves to stretch the field both horizontally as much as he does vertically via the screen game, whether it’s quick screen’s to a plethora of wide receivers outside, screens to his running backs or tight ends. If the Coogs front-7 don’t get to Kiel or Moore early in their progressions, Cinci QB’s have the arm strength and accuracy to get the ball downfield as Gran loves to call “shot plays”  as the Bearcats have 62 plays of over 20 yards or more ranking them fifth nationally. The Coogs meanwhile have allowed opponents to complete only 54.4-percent of their passes this season (32nd) while allowing 236.2 passing yards-per-game (77th). Orlando’s defense has allowed only 103.6 yards on the ground (11th) for a total of 339.9 yards (30th). Most importantly, Houston opponents have only scored 17.2 points-per-game ranking them 18th in the nation.

Cincinnati’s balance is prevalent not only in their run-pass ratio, but in how they distribute the ball both through the air and on the ground. The Bearcats have four wide receivers with over 1,000 career yards (and six they rotate in and out of the lineup), led by slot receiver Shaq Washington (5’9, 179, Sr.), who is the school’s all-time leading receiver in receptions with 205 while catching a pass in 35 straight UC games. A deft route runner, the former high school QB has 55 receptions this season for 645 yards and 4 TDs. Fellow slot receiver Max Morrison (6’1, 182, Sr.) has 32 receptions for 403 yards with 2 scores. Alex Chisum (6’3, 200, Sr.) splits time with Morrison and has 23 receptions for 273 yards with a TD as well. Gran loves using his slot receivers in “quick hitters” such as quick slants over the middle as well as shallow crossers in order to bump defensive backs to get them the ball in space. All three slot receivers are adept at finding holes in opposing secondaries zones as well.

Houston head coach Tom Herman mentioned during his Monday weekly media press conference how it would be difficult having Jackson cover Washington all game as they move him all over the field (just as Houston offensive coordinator Major Applewhite does with Coogs leading receiver Demarcus Ayers). With this, safeties Trevon Stewart (5’10, 195, Sr.) or Adrian McDonald (5’11, 205, Sr.) may have to cover Washington and Morrison at times. Cincinnati’s outside receivers are just as much threats as their slot receivers as Johnny Holton Jr. (6’2, 191, Sr.), Chris Moore (6’2, 203, Sr.) and Mekale McKay (6’5, 210, Sr.) all average over 20 yards-per-reception led by Holton’s 26.7 (400 yards on only 15 catches). McKay averages 24.6 ypr on 11 grabs (for 271 yards) while Moore’s 21 catches for 454 yards gets him 21.6 ypc. Holton leads the outside receivers with 5 TD grabs while Moore has 3 and McKay 2. As if the Cougars defense didn’t have enough to contend with the Bearcats receivers, tight ends D.J. Dowdy (6’4, 248, Jr.) and Tyler Gogswell (6’5, 254, So.) are receiving threats down the seam and especially in the red zone as 4 of their combined 9 catches (for 99 yards) have gone for TDs.

Immense pressure will be on Houston’s secondary, led by the previously mentioned Jackson at corner and the Stewart/McDonald combo at safety. With Stewart and McDonald being used as much as they are in Orlando’s blitz packages, corner Brandon Wilson (5’11, 200, Jr.) along with nickel back Lee Hightower (6’2, 200, Jr.) and dime back Khalil Williams (6’0, 200, So.) will cover Bearcats receivers in one-on-one matchups at various points throughout the game. For the season McDonald has 50 tackles, 5 passes defended, 4 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries while Stewart has 43 tackles but 6 tackles-for-loss as a more of an ‘inside-the-box safety,’ while also adding 3 sacks and passes defended, 2 fumble recoveries and an interception. While Wilson may not have the coverage skills of his counterpart Jackson, he’s definitely a hard hitter with 2 forced fumbles on ferocious hits and he’s solid in run support as well. Hightower has been consistent as a nickel back with 23 tackles, 2 passes defended and an interception after returning from mid-season knee surgery last year. Williams has 4 passes defended and an interception which he returned for 49 yards as well.

Gran will get the ball to his outside receivers via deep posts, crossers and jet sweeps so it’s imperative that the Houston secondary re-route Cinci receivers at the line-of-scrimmage while pressuring their QBs. Of course this is easier said than done as Gran will have his receiver’s line up in bunch sets that don’t allow for bump-and-run coverage which also places pressure on safeties to defend the middle of the field off a free release at the line of scrimmage.

For the season Cinci’s offensive line has allowed 15 sacks (53rd nationally) while Houston defenders have taken opposing QBs to the ground 25 times (12th).  The Bearcats have a veteran O-line which was ranked second in conference entering the season with 76 returning starts by the unit as a whole, led by mammoth left tackle Parker Ehinger (6’7, 318, Sr.) who’s starting his 33rd straight game at the position. Center Deyshawn Bond (6’1, 291, Jr.), right guard Ryan Leahy (6’6, 292, Jr.) and right tackle Justin Murray (6’5, 304, Jr.) are also multiple year starters while left guard Idarius Ray (6’6, 312, Jr.) is a junior college transfer out of Amarillo, Texas. JC transfer Delonte Murray, who started at right guard last week for Leahy and rotates in is a monster at 6’5, 334 pounds.

They’ll be facing a Houston defensive line that knows how to disengage and shed blocks in order to cause havoc behind the line of scrimmage. Defensive ends Tomme Mark (6’2, 305, Sr.), Cameron Malveaux (6’6, 270, Jr.) with Nick Thurman (6’4, 290, Jr.) and Zack Vaughn (6’4, 270, RFr.) in reserve along with B.J. Singleton (6’4, 305, Jr.) and Jerard Carter (6’3, 290, RFr.) in reserve at the nose do the dirty work that don’t show up in the final stats having combined for 10 TFL and 3 sacks. Singleton leads the crew with 3 passes batted down at the line while Malveaux leads in both TFL (4.5), sacks (2.5), and total tackles with 20 as he uses his lean (for a defensive lineman), long body to get off the snap quickly. Both Thurman and Carter have 2 fumble recoveries each. Outside rush backer Tyus Bowser (6’3, 240, Jr.) acts as a de facto defensive end and has 5 sacks and TFL a piece while forcing and recovering a fumble on the season.

The job of the Coogs defensive line is to occupy blockers to allow their linebackers to shoot the gaps quickly to make tackles, sacks or basically pressure the QB. Nobody embodies the chaos Orlando wants to cause than outside linebacker Steven Taylor (6’1, 225, Jr.), who lines up all over the field so offensive linemen can’t get a read on where he’s coming from. Improving every season from a true freshman year in which he had 89 tackles, 10.5 for loss and 3 sacks to this his true junior season where he has 61 tackles, 13 for loss and 8 sacks through only 8 games. His sacks and tackles-for-loss rank him 11th and 7th respectively in the nation.  Inside linebacker Elandon Roberts (6’0, 235, Sr.) meanwhile only leads the nation in solo tackles with 63 including 10.5 for-loss. While I expect Hightower to start as Cinci loves to run 4-receiver sets, inside linebacker Mathew Adams (6’0, 230, So.) has played better of late after getting off to a slow start.

Just as they employ a number of receivers, the Bearcats will use three running backs in order to wear out opposing defensive lines. Each running back has a different skill set but they’re all used to their strengths by Gran. Tion Green (6’0, 230, Jr.) is the bruising back of the trio and has 542 yards rushing on 105 attempts with 5 TDs. He averages 5.2 yards-per-rush and is key in establishing the Bearcats inside run game. Despite his size Green has good speed and nice vision as he can stop on a dime and cutback quickly. He’ll also be used in Wild “Bear”cat packages and will be thrown to out of the backfield as a safety outlet as he has 52 yards on 10 receptions. Hosey Williams (5’9, 202, Sr.) is the most experienced back and probably their best blocker as he adds 546 yards on 96 carries (5.7 yards-per-carry) with 3 TDs. Mike Boone (5’10, 201, So.) is probably the most explosive back as he averages 9.1 ypc on 48 total rushes through 6 games. He’s rushed for 439 yards with 4 TDs so the Houston front-7 will need to be subbed in-and-out in order to keep up with this prolific Cincinnati offense which will not huddle much as the offense will go up tempo and look to the sideline for their plays as soon as a tackle is made.

Speaking of a prolific and balanced offense countered around a physical downhill running game, the Cougars average 273.9 yards-per-game on the ground and 263.5 through the air ranking them 8th and 35th respectively. The 537.4 total yards per game is seventh best, leading to an average of 45.9 points-per-game that is fifth best nationally. Quarterback Garry Ward Jr. (5’11, 185, Jr.), excuse me- Greg Ward Jr., is putting up Heisman like numbers as he leads the nation with 16 TDs rushing while averaging nearly 89 yards-per-game (710 yards on 122 rushes). Herman continued to harp on his signal caller getting better in each week in the passing game during his weekly media presser via, “He throws it better than people probably give him credit for. He throws better it than people probably want him to for being as dynamic of a runner as he is. He is a very competitive guy. He’s a lot brighter than people realize. He understands football and he gets it. His commitment to championship preparation is continuing to grow, which is positive, but he’s just scratching the surface, and there’s a ton of room for improvement.”

Ward is tied second nationally as he is completing 70.8-percent of his 209 attempts (148 completions) for a an average of 244.4 yards-per-game. His 11 TDs to only 2 interceptions prove he’s progressing as a passer with Applewhite helping his young QB’s progression by having him get the ball out of his hands quickly. Due to Ward’s quick release of the ball and his running ability, opposing defenses have had to back off on pressuring him as the Cougars offensive line has allowed only 17 sacks so far this season. While that number, ranking them 69th in the nation, may not seem that impressive to the naked eye, it should considering who they’ve started along the offensive front. As injuries have mounted, the line has had count them, SIX different starting lineups highlighted by last week’s ridiculous TWO true freshmen and redshirt freshmen each. Alex Cooper (6’4, 305, Sr.) has started the past three games at left tackle after starting the season at right tackle and has started at right guard as well for three games. Mason Denley (6’4, 305, RFr.) has done a remarkable job at left guard as the starter the past three games after both Ben Dew and Josh Thomas were lost for the season due to foot and ankle injuries. Colton Freeman (6’4, 300, RFr.) had started the first six games of the year at center but was moved to right guard two games ago after right tackle Zach Johnson was lost for his final season due to a knee injury. Losing Johnson precipitated Carter Wall (6’4, 300, Sr.) moving from right guard where he had started at for two games to right tackle before having to move back to right tackle with Freeman not being able to play last week due to a neck stinger suffered against UCF. Confused yet? According to this week’s depth chart, the starters will be Cooper, Denley, Noble, Freeman and Wall from left to right tackle. Marcus Oliver (6’3, 295, So.) is still listed as backup to Cooper at left tackle after suffering an ankle injury four games ago. Kameron Eloph (6’3, 290) deserves a special shout out after starting last week at right guard as a true freshman just weeks after moving over from the defensive line. Tight end Tyler McCloskey (6’2, 245, Jr.) has also done a great job in blocking on the perimeter on outside zone or sweep plays as have the wide receivers blocking downfield.

Regardless to say, Herman mentioned his offensive line coach, Derek Warehime and how great a job he’s done this season during his media presser, “We have the best offensive line coach in the country. I can say that without reservation that he’s that good. There’s a culture in that group of toughness and tough love. There’s a brotherhood and a love in that room that won’t allow for anything but success. The next guy has to pick up the rifle and go. The pillar of our success is competitive focus, which in Laymen’s terms means that you are competitively ready when your number is called, and when you jog out on the field you are prepared to win the football game for your team. They have certainly taken that. Our fourth pillar of success is unit pride. The pride in that unit is taken very, very seriously. They have a great leader in Alex Cooper. To have one of your captains be an offensive lineman and a guy that’s played a lot of football around here, goes back to coaching culture and leadership.”

They’ll be facing a 4-3 scheme that seems to be based on a “read-and-react” philosophy implemented by first year coordinator Steve Clinkscale. Clinkscale has been the Bearcats defensive backs coach the past two seasons before taking over as a co-DC with defensive line coach Robert Prunty. In dealing with youth to the front-7 and injuries to the secondary, Cinci is allowing opponents to score 26.4 points-per-game (62nd) and 376.9 yards of total offense (55th). They are particularly vulnerable up front as they allow 172.8 rushing yards-per-game (77th) to only 204.1 through the air (43rd). While undersized at linebacker, the Bearcats run defense is surprising as they have two huge defensive tackles in Alex Pace (6’2, 295, Jr.) and Cortez Broughton (6’2, 297, RFr.) with JC transfer Sione Tongamoa (6’1, 287) rotating in regularly. The three have combined though for only 5.5 TFL and 2 sacks (by Tongamoa). Defensive end Silverberry Mouhon (6’3, 255, Sr.) leads the defense with 2.5 sacks. The Bearcats 9 total sacks have them ranked 120th nationally as pressuring the QB has been a problem all season long. Kimoni Fitz (6’3, 243, RFr.), Marquise Copeland (6’3, 240, Fr.) and Mark Wilson (6’3, 246, So.) all play at the end opposite Mouhon and combine for only 3 TFL and a sack with Wilson having 2.5 of the TFL and the sack.

Clinkscale told the ESPN2 announcers last week that his defense was “still looking for an identity,” something you don’t want to be looking for 8 games into the season. Eric Wilson (6’2, 219, Jr.) leads the defense in tackles and fumble recoveries with 76 and 2 from his weakside linebacker spot. True freshman Bryce Jenkins (6’1, 235, Fr.) adds 35 and a sack from the middle and Mike Tyson (6’2, 206, Jr.) has 23 and 2 passes defended from the strong side. Kevin Brown (6’1, 226, Sr.) has 35 sacks as well in reserve while adding an interception.

The linebacking core will be looking for head-on collisions from Cougars running back Kenneth Farrow (5’10, 220, Sr.) who averages 94 yards-per-game rushing with 9 TDs scored and seems to get stronger as the game gets longer. Ryan Jackson (5’10, 205, Sr.) and Javin Webb (5’10, 190, So.) do a nice job complimenting the bruising Farrow as they combine for 67 yards with 5 TDs and have surprisingly been effective between the tackles as well. And of course every defense has to account for Ward in the run game, though Herman would like if his star QB wouldn’t run as much to save wear and tear coming down the stretch run, “He made some ill-advised decisions running the football last week, and probably took off and scrambled on some of his passes too early, which has been an issue for him throughout the season. That’s one that we may not break this year, but we can at least curtail a little bit of it. He’s got to be a little bit more patient. We’re talking a millisecond, half-a-second, three-quarters of a second, but it could be the difference between completing the pass and taking off scrambling and getting tackled for a two-yard gain. We’re continuing to get him better and better.”

The Bearcats secondary, which will play various zone or cover-2 looks, were hurt by early injuries losing juniors Grant Coleman (corner) and safety Andre Jones along with senior corner Adrian Witty. Safety Zach Edwards (6’1, 200, Jr.) leads the unit with 51 tackles, 6 passes defended and an interception (returned for 29 yards). The veteran of the crew plays all over the field as he adds 2.5 TFL and is a hard hitter despite his size, forcing a fumble. Speaking of hard hitters, Cougar receivers will have to be aware that Leviticus Payne (5’9, 191, Sr.) loves to bring the wood from his cornerback spot as he adds 25 tackles, including 2.5 for loss and has forced and recovered a fumble as well. The former high school QB is used in a variety of roles, like run stuffer in the box and has played as a hybrid linebacker/safety before moving to corner because of the aforementioned injuries. Redshirt freshmen Tyrell Gilbert (6’1, 195) and Alex Thomas (6’1, 170) have stepped up at safety and corner respectively with Gilbert contributing 26 tackles and 6 passes defended with an interception while Thomas adds 17 tackles and a pass defended. Carter Jacobs (6’1, 196, So.) and Lindell Stephens (6’0, 180, So.) add 23 and 15 tackles respectively from their nickel and dime back roles with Stephens adding an interception. The Bearcats 8 forced turnovers with 5 being interceptions rank them 110th and 98th respectively.

The unit also has missed tackles at times this season and has trouble matching up against bigger receivers which could be a problem come Saturday afternoon against a Houston receiver unit led by Ayers 89 yards receiving per game, while his 136.6 all-purpose yards-per-game ranks him 28th nationally. Chance Allen (6’3, 215, Jr.) and Steven Dunbar (6’3, 210, So.) add 95 combined yards per game with Allen being the deep threat with Dunbar the intermediate threat. With Cinci missing so many tackles this season, Dunbar may be able to produce yards-after-the-catch (or YAC) yards that Applewhite has been hoping to see but really hasn’t so far this season. Linell Bonner (6’0, 200, So.) and Isaiah Johnson (6’4, 205, RFr) continue to battle out it for the all-important fourth receiver spot with both having their ups and downs this season. With the inconsistent play, Donald Gage III (5’11, 190, So.) got into the game early last week but has only caught 4 passes for 11 yards on the season. Gage was rumored to have as much potential as any of the receivers before a knee injury cut short his true freshman season during training camp. Bonner has 9 receptions for 124 yards with 2 scores to Johnson’s 6 for 43.

Nothing is special about Cincinnati’s special teams unit as they are average in just about every facet of the game; 98th in kickoff coverage allowing 23 yards-per-return and 97th in punt return coverage allowing 11.4 yards-per-return. The Coogs may be able to take advantage of this behind Ayers 14.4 yard return punt average, ranking him NINTH nationally and Wilson’s 26.7 yard return kickoff average, ranking him 24th.

In the return games, the Bearcats are 48th in kickoff returns (22.2) and 50th in punt returns (9.7) led by Washington’s averaging 11.1 yards per punt return on 9 total returns and Holton’s 22 yard kickoff return average on 10 returns. The Coogs, meanwhile, only allow opponents to average 20 yards per kickoff return (41st) and 4.1 per punt return (23rd) as Herman wants place kicker Ty Cummings (6’0, 185, Jr.) to kick to the goal line forcing opponents to return kickoffs so his coverage unit, laced with many offensive and defensive starters, can make the tackle before the returner gets to the 25-yard line. Houston punter Logan Piper (6’0, 200, Sr.) only averages 40.7 yards per punt but has dropped 11 inside the opponents 20-yard line while forcing another 12 fair catches, putting the Cougars defense in good starting field position.

Sam Geraci’s (6’4, 222, So.) average of 45.1 yards per punt would rank him 11thh nationally if he had enough to qualify. The Bearcats punter has 10 of his 26 punts placed inside opponents 20-yard lines with another 10 booming for more than 50 yards. If the game comes down to field goals, the Bearcats will be at an advantage as Andrew Gantz (5’9, 170, So.) has connected on 17-of-21 field goals for the Bearcats including a long of 51. For his career he’s connected on over 80-percent (33-for-41 entering play Saturday). Which leads us to…

Keys to the game                                                                                                            

Gantz has had to attempt 10 field goals from between the 20 to 29 yard lines, connecting on 8-of-10, because of the Bearcats anemic red zone offense in which they’ve scored TD’s on only 26 of 50 trips (101st). The Coogs defense hasn’t been much better allowing opponents to score on 15 of 19 trips themselves. That 78.9-percent conversion rate is 124th. The Coogs red zone offense on the other hand has crossed the goal line on 30 of 43 trips, ranking them 20th.

The Bearcats have a winning record despite the subpar overall defensive numbers because of their red zone and third down defense. Cinci ranks 35th, allowing opponents to score TDs on only 18 of 35 trips inside their red zone, while ranking FOURTH in the nation in third down defense at an excellent 24.8-percent. Houston is SEVENTH nationally as they convert 49.6-percent of their third downs. So whoever moves the chains consistently and scores more TDs inside the red zone will probably end up winning. Turnover margin (as previously discussed) and penalties also will play a huge role in Saturday’s victor as both teams rank in the bottom tier in penalties committed (Houston with 7.3 to Cinci’s 8) and yards (66.9 and 74.1 respectively).

Final Prediction

The past few weeks I’ve short changed the Cougars defense, but this week they’ll face the best offensive club they’ve seen to date. In the end I feel Houston’s run offense will control the game allowing Orlando to blitz Gran’s offense into submission to the tune of a 34-24 victory for the good guys. 

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