#6 Ohio State Buckeyes (3-0) vs. Cincinnati Bearcats (1-1)
at Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati
3:30 PM EST ESPN (Commentators: Jeff Hullinger, Todd Christensen, Stacy Paetz)
In what is being branded as the Battle of Ohio, the unbeaten Buckeyes and the Cincinnati Bearcats will square off tomorrow at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. Before the season started, this was looked at as a game that could be tougher than expected for the Buckeyes. A few people still feel that way, but for the most part, this game is now expected to be an uphill battle for the Bearcats.
Cincinnati brings a potent passing attack to this game, led by sophomore QB Gino Guidugli. Guidugli came onto the scene last year as he had to fill in due to injury, and he rose to become the QB of the present and future for Cincinnati. All he did was throw for 2,573 yards, 18 TDs, and win the Conference USA Freshman of the Year. The 6-3, 220 pound Guidugli has gained a reputation for coming through in the clutch and bringing the Bearcats to comeback victories. So far this season, he is 38 of 68 for 559 yards, 4 TDs, and 4 INTs.
Guidugli's top target will be LaDaris Vann, the small but quick senior receiver who is currently leading the team with 163 receiving yards. Also watch for multi-talented George Murray, who is listed as the back-up quarterback but is also the second-leading receiver on the team, as well as Tye Keith and Jon Olinger. In the backfield, the Bearcats bring an experienced tailback in senior DeMarco McCleskey, who is leading the team with 209 rushing yards. Tedric Harwell will also get a carry here and there, and Buckeye fans will also be watching for Richard Hall, the RB who transferred out of OSU to UC. The Bearcats return three starters on an OL that wanted to improve on pass protection from last year; three sacks have been allowed this year. Overall, through two games, the offense has averaged 410.5 yards a game.
410.5 is a nice number. Unfortunately, the UC defense has given up 436.5 yards per game. The overall defense needed to step up coming into the year, but early returns are not positive. The defense gave up these numbers to TCU and West Virginia, who aren't exactly Miami and Florida State. The prime player on defense is DE Antwan Peek, who holds the UC sack record with 23.5 and counting (1.5 this year). He brings good speed and will be looking to add to that total in this game. The defense is capable of bringing a good pass rush and has some experienced players in the secondary in CB Blue Adams, CB Zach Norton, FS Ivan Fields and SS Doug Monaghan, but the D overall has still had problems stopping opponents.
One of the reasons this game was a concern to start the season was the Bearcats' ability to move the ball through the air, and that's still a concern, but after watching OSU stop two offenses that had a stronger passing attack in Texas Tech and Washington State, the guess is that the Buckeyes will be able to keep UC's passing game in check. No one has been able to run on OSU yet, so McCleskey may be hard-pressed to get rushing yards. Offensively, OSU has to be excited after seeing how West Virginia was able to run all over the place last weekend against Cincinnati. Even though Maurice Clarett is not expected to play, the Buckeyes should be able to establish the run. The Buckeyes should be able to throw the ball with some success in this game as well; look for an efficient mix of the two this weekend. On special teams, the Buckeyes should be able to continue their success; Mike Nugent has been as good as anyone through three games. UC has a quality kicker in Jonathan Ruffin, but they need work on kick coverage.
The Bearcats will be fired up for this one though, so OSU can't take it lightly. The Bucks seem like they are focused on this game, and if they bring their A game, Cincinnati will have a hard time keeping up. If OSU makes mistakes and is off their game, the Bearcats could hang in there. The guess here is that UC might be able to hang around for a little while, but in the end, the Buckeyes will be able to do what they did to Texas Tech and Washington State -- pound the ball on the ground and open up a big lead. Not even the lousy playing surface at Paul Brown Stadium should prevent that.