The Bearcats return seven starters from an offense that was 16th in the nation in scoring a year ago, but most likely gone is trigger man Ben Mauk, who recently lost an appeal for a sixth year of eligibility.
"As of right now Mauk is still possible because he has filed yet another appeal," Scout.com's Cincinnati Bearcat Publisher Dave Berk informed. "If it was tomorrow I would guess it would be Dustin Grutza that would start."
Look for Oklahoma to bring pressure early and often on quarterback Dustin Grutza, a senior who has started 21 games over his career, Grutza is an experienced and capable signal caller. Cincinnati could bring in Notre Dame transfer Demetrius Jones, who is at his third school in his college career, as an athletic change of pace.
"If he does not win his appeal it will come down to a three way battle between Dustin Grutza, Demetrious Jones, and Chazz Anderson," Berk explained. "Grutza can run a little. He is athletic, but he won't be asked to tuck it and run in (Brian) Kelly‘s offensive scheme. His main goal will be to not lose games."
After stealing the show in the spring game, Oklahoma's talented, cornerbacks Brian Jackson and Dominique Franks will have to play extremely well against dangerous receivers Dominick Goodman and Marcus Barnett. Both are elusive players who thrive in the Bearcat's spread attack, they combined for over 1,600 yards and 21 touchdowns a year ago.
Defensively, the Bearcats return 6 starters from a crew that was 13th in the nation in scoring, giving up only 18.8 points per game. They are anchored up front by Terrill Byrd, a senior who was an All-American a year ago. Cincinnati's starters average only 256 pounds up front, giving up a 60-pound advantage to the OU offensive line, so DeMarco Murray, Chris Brown, and company could see a lot of carries.
"You could have as many as 10 seniors starting on defense," Berk said of the veteran group. "Their defense is definitely going to be solid."
New starters at both safety positions on a defense that ranked 89th in the nation against the pass a year ago, could mean Bradford may get a few opportunities downfield. Quentin Chaney, who had is breakout game in the Fiesta Bowl with four catches for 129 yards, should match up well with Cincinnati corners Mike Mickens and DeAngelo Smith, both of whom give up four inches to the OU receiver.
"In the defensive backfield you have two returning starters in Mike Mickens and DeAngelo Smith at cornerback," Berk informed. "The biggest thing that the Bearcats lost was the pass rushing from Anthony Hoke at the defensive end spot and Haruki Nakamura at safety, but look for Byrd to step up at end and Cedric Tolbert or Brandon Underwoood, a transfer from Ohio State, at safety."
Overall Cincinnati is a very talented team whose three conference losses were all by a touchdown or less a year ago, they employ the spread offense, which the Sooners will see many times later on in the season, this will provide valuable experience for new starters in the OU secondary. Offensively, the Sooners must take care of the ball against a team that was 6th in the country in turnover margin in 2007.
"This game means National exposure for the program," Berk stated. "It is on ABC television and it will give them a chance to show what they can do and what Kelly's offense can do in front of a national audience."