The Bearcats open 2013 with two Big Ten opponents -- Purdue and Illinois -- both programs that are in re-build mode after changing coaches, the Illini prior to 2012 and the Boilermakers this offseason.
For Illinois, the game has no conference ramification, nor is it a rivalry game. But it's winnable, vaulting it up the list of games to watch entering this season.
Jones guided the Bearcats to a 10-3 record last year, defeating Duke 48-34 in late December in the Belk Bowl. Jones, clearly, had the program in good shape and moving in the right direction. His loss will surely be felt, but given Tuberville's track record (which wasn't helped by his time at Tech) and the Bearcats easy conference schedule, look for Cincinnati to continue the positive march.
But Illinois catches the Bearcats early, the second game of the season, and at home in Memorial Stadium. Playing amid a stretch of five out of six games in the state of Illinois, the Illini have a chance to gain some momentum in the out-of-conference schedule, to gain some victories to help morale and show progress.
Wins in the Big Ten won't be easy to come by. But the favorable OOC schedule gives Illinois a chance to start off on solid footing. That didn't happen last season, as the snowball got rolling after losses at Arizona State and to Louisiana Tech, two teams I say should have never been scheduled to begin with.
Washington in Chicago and Cincinnati in Champaign don't exactly make the most sense either, at least to me, but are more manageable due to location and timing.
Last time: Cincinnati 49, Illinois 36 - Nov. 27, 2009 - Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
Senior quarterback Tony Pike passed for six touchdowns -- five in the first half -- as then No. 5 Cincinnati defeated Illinois in a game that saw nearly 900 yards of total offense.
While the Illini defense couldn't handle Pike and Company, quarterback Juice Williams put up points after retuning from an injury. He threw for three touchdowns and added another on the ground. During the game, Williams became the sixth player in conference history with 10,000 yards of total offense.
But it wasn't enough, as Cincinnati took the win on Senior Day.
No. 5 Purdue