CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 15: Isaiah Pead #23 of the Cincinnati Bearcats runs for a touchdown during the game against the Louisville Cardinals at Paul Brown Stadium on October 15, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
I couldn't resist doing an extra Bulls Recon this week because it involves asking questions to Scott from Bearcats Blog, the defending champion of the Protect Your Unit game. In this edition, we talk about what it feels like to have actual rivalries, Cincinnati's bounceback season, and our mutual fear and loathing of our future as not-at-all-proud members of the SUNBEAST.
1. What is it like winning a rivalry game? What is it like having a rival? What is it like winning?
It's very nice! You get trophies! Winning rivalry games is a nice fall back for when you have a horrible season. Like UC last year. They won four games, but they beat Miami and Louisville, thus keeping the Victory Bell and the Keg of Nails for another year. Those are lower key rivalries though. If UC/Louisville was like, I dunno, Auburn/Alabama, I would be sad when a Card fan poisoned the drug dealers in the bad part of Clifton.
The best part of the rivalry is traveling to road games and there are a large group of fans wearing your team colors. It's great if you like high fiving strangers.
Winning is good and all, but no one goes on rants when they win, and you don't end up in This Week in Schadenfreude.
2. Is Cincinnati's defense really improved from last year, or has the weak schedule so far been more of a factor? The only team they've played with a decent offense was Tennessee (before Tyler Bray got hurt), and he lit them up.
That's the $64,000 question. Austin Peay is 83rd in total offense, Akron 109, Miami 104, Louisville 100 and NC State at 77. Sure, the UC defense did a part in that, but those teams can't move the ball on anyone. In scoring, AP is 99 in D2, NC State 40, UofL 111, Miami 112, and Akron 114. They haven't been shutting down the elite as you can clearly see. The defense has been great against the run, but the level of competition has been so low that it's hard to get a great read.
That said, the UC defense has shut them all down. None of those games were particularly close, in large part because the defense didn't give up points. My biggest worry is that USF does what they did last year, and throw the ball left and right. Tennessee did that with great success, and no one else has had an above average QB. I'm worried.
3. Obviously USF had no idea how to stop the Bearcats on offense last year, but other teams have been more successful. What tends to slow your offense down?
This year the answer is simple, shut down Isaiah Pead. Pead was quiet against Miami the first half. In the third quarter he got a pair of scores that powered the win. Last week, only 50 yards the first three quarters. Then he takes the first carry of the 4th for fifty yards. He's the playmaker. Zach Collaros has never lost a game against South Florida that he's finished, but his receiving corp is a step down from the past few years. D.J. Woods is nice, Anthony McClung has potential, but there is no guy that Zach can just throw it up to like Armon Binns or Mardy Gilyard. As Pead goes, so do the Bearcats.
4. Are you ready for some SUNBEAST? No, seriously, this is going to be awful, isn't it. Is your throw up actually going to be in this league? Or do you think you might escape somehow?
It's going to be worse than either of us can imagine. I think people see what the league is going to be and they think "Hey that's not so bad, Houston isn't bad, SMU is nice, East Carolina is a team that plays sports." But then it's game time and watching your team play SMU is always demoralizing. I remember when ECU had David Garrard and still thinking that they sucked because they were East Carolina.
There is no escape. The Big 12 is definitely taking Louisville and it sounds like BYU. I don't know how Cincinnati could outmaneuver West Virginia, unless they say "we played in back to back BCS games no one watched." We already lived Conference USA. Being forced to basically go back there isn't very fun. I don't know what happens in hoops. It's like UC and USF worked so hard to build something for their football teams, and slowly but surely things started working out. Now the rug is pulled out and we have to dread the future and opponents like my vomit in Week 9 in 2014. (Editor's note: "My vomit" is a perfect substitute for "Southern Miss.")
5. How do you see this game shaking out? Do you envision Cincinnati being a serious contender by the end of the season? You do get West Virginia at home...
I have no idea how this game shakes out. I think it's going to be either a shootout, but since it was last year, this might be a defensive struggle. USF doesn't give up points, Cincinnati doesn't give up points, that looks more likely.
The homer in me absolutely sees UC challenging for the Big East crown. This four-game stretch, @USF, @Pitt, WV, @Rutgers, is the season. There is no reason to think they can't win all four of those games. At the same time, they are probably the best teams UC will play this season. I think playing West Virginia at Paul Brown Stadium could be a bit of a disadvantage. Louisville had a strong crowd last week. The turnout was 40,000, but that's in a 60,000-seat stadium. West Virginia fans are insane. I'm imagining a Steelers fan-like takeover of PBS.
As for Saturday, I'm leaning USF, something like 23-17.
Thanks to Scott for answering my questions. My answers to his questions will appear on Bearcats Blog sometime soon.