Start Time: 3:30 PM EST, Saturday, November 7
Location: TDECU, Houston, Texas
Weather: 68 degrees with 60% chance of rain
Radio: Houston: here.
Records: Cincinnati: 5-3. Houston: 8-0. Houston leads the overall series 13-10.
Live Stats: here.
Line: Houston -8. Over/Under: 72.
When the Cincinnati Bearcats roll into TDECU Stadium Saturday afternoon this will mark the 24th meeting between the two teams. The Bearcats have been on the wrong side of that margin 10 times but have won the last 5 meetings. Last year the Cougars had the ball on the 10-yard line with a chance to tie it up as time expired but Houston quarterback Greg Ward missed a relatively open receiver at the goal line that ended the game. Of course, that was last year. Ward now has a season of under-center experience and a shiny, brand new coach.
When the Cougars Have the Ball
One of the biggest changes between the hashes for the Cougars has been the ability to score early. Up until two weeks ago, the Cougars were one of two teams to score a touchdown on every opening drive this season. Expect UH to work to get the offense going early Saturday unlike they have against Cincy in the past. The last two times out against the Bearcats, Houston has been outscored early 38-17 and had to rely on the passing game to attempt a comeback.
The Cougars are capable and willing passers, but that’s where the relative strength of Cincinnati’s defense lies, in the secondary. They come in ranked #42 against the pass giving up over 200 yards/game—so again, the term strength here is akin to being the skinniest kid at fat camp.
Expect the Cougars to use the pass similarly to the way they have all year; play action and pre-snap motion with most of the attempts coming within 12 yards, followed by the occasional deep ball to keep the defense honest.
Fortunately for Houston, running the ball against the Cincinnati defense shouldn’t be an issue and should give the Cougars the most sizable mismatch out of any position group battle. The Bearkitten rush defense has allowed over 5.2 yards/rush since the first game and has the least efficient rush defense in the country.
The Cougars, on the other hand, are top 10 team when running the ball and are led by FBS Rushing Touchdown Leader Greg Ward and senior RB Kenneth Farrow. Expect the Cougars to emphasize ball control and ball security this week, especially after Ward’s two uncharacteristic fumbles against Vanderbilt.
The good news for the Cougars is that Cincinnati does not force a ton of turnovers, only eight on the year which ties them for... wow, 109th. I fully expect the Cougars to try to shorten the game on offense by keeping the ball on the ground and out of the Bearcats hands… er, I mean, paws.
Come on, that was funny.
OK, I’m done.
When the Other, Lesser Cat Team Has the Ball
When the great poet Young Jeezy wrote Trap Star he most likely had Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel in mind. This week Kiel is a potential Trap (Game) Star who is coming off arguably his best outing of the season where he completed every single one of his throws in a blowout over UCF. The redshirt junior finished the day 15/15 with 5 touchdowns and 319 yards passing.
It goes without saying, although I’ll write it anyway, that Kiel is seeing the field well and getting the ball out on time (one sack in the past two games). The entire offense—starters, backups, towel boys—had their best outing of the year just in time to trip up the Cougars.
The Cougars are coming off their best defensive performance of the season shutting out SEC lite member Vanderbilt and won’t make it as easy as the wet single-ply UCF defense did for the Bearkats offense.
No, this will be strength vs. strength with Kiel going up against a strong Cougar secondary that figures to have at least one NFL draft pick back there. The Cougars intercepted the Commodores thrice last week, marking the Cougars second straight three-interception game.
The level of competition will be a huge jump up for the Cougars also as they faced the anemic likes of Vanderbilt, UCF, and Tulane the past 3 weeks so expect the Cougars to be tested early and often.
Well it’s homecoming for the Cougars which means… absolutely nothing. Seriously, homecoming to the players is just annoying but maybe Tom Herman will get his wish and the stadium will finally be full?
Back here in reality, the Coogs are still 8-0 and just took an SEC school to the woodshed after which they were promptly dropped 7 places by the CFP Committee. I guarantee that has been mentioned daily at practice this week as the coaches know that the Cincinnati is much better than their record.
My prediction is the game stays close through three, but Cougars come out on top 44-34 with an interception that seals the deal late.
If last weekend is any indication, that win drops the Cougars squarely out of the top 25… bring back the BCS.