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2021 Cincinnati Bearcats: Looking for an Encore to 2020
The Enquirer

2021 Cincinnati Bearcats: Looking for an Encore to 2020

Head Coach Luke Fickell has built a powerhouse program at Cincinnati and has a 31-6 record to show for the last three years. They are coming off a 9-1 season and had a 21-10 fourth quarter lead against Georgia in the Peach Bowl before letting it get away and losing on a last second field goal. The Bearcats return several key players from 2020 and the expectations are through the roof and rightly so. But the AAC conference that they are a member of is extremely tough and they have a challenging road ahead of them. They just might be good enough to come through undefeated.

Offense: Returning All-AAC Offensive Player of the Year Desmond Ridder, is back at quarterback for his 4th year as a starter. He has thrown for 6,905 yards and rushed for 1,825 more and he is in the hunt for the Heisman. He can beat you with his arm and his feet. Jerome Ford is back at running back and if Charles McClelland can return to his form of 2018 that position will be secure. The offensive line lost James Hudson to the NFL but three starters return led by Vincent McConnell and Jake Renfro. The receiving corps is deep and talented. Michael Young Jr. and Alec Pierce are the leading wide-outs and TE Josh Whyle will be used a lot more and could develop into a NFL player.

Defense: The defense lost some great players like linebacker Jarell White and safety James Wiggins. Defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman was lured away by Notre Dame. Former Cincinnati assistant Mike Tressel will inherit a unit that still has plenty of star power. DE Myjai Sanders returns with his 11 career sacks. He is joined upfront by Marcus Brown and Malik Vann. Derrian Beavers is a 260 pound agile linebacker and he is the best in the league. The secondary is stacked with cornerbacks Ahmad Gardner, Coby Bryant, and Arquon Bush plus safeties Bryan Cook and Ja’Von Hicks.

Non-Conference Schedule:

9/4 Miami(Ohio)

9/11 Murray State

9/18 at Indiana

9/25 at Notre Dame

I don’t know if it was by design or accident but this is the perfect schedule for a team that is trying to make the playoffs from a Group of 5 conference. The Bearcats start off with two warm-up games to get the kinks all worked out against Miami and Murray State. Then they go to a Big-10 school and Indiana happens to be good. To me, that is the key game on their schedule because if they win that they will be 3-0 heading to Notre Dame. And, if they knock off the Irish they will have a marquee win that will generate plenty of attention and set them up to run the table.

Conference Schedule:

10/8 Temple

10/16 UCF

10/23 at Navy

10/30 at Tulane

11/6 Tulsa

11/12 at South Florida

11/20 SMU

11/27 at East Carolina

Thee conference schedule is set up perfectly for Cincinnati. The games against the tougher teams are all in Ohio. UCF, Tulsa, and SMU all have high hopes and they are all home games for Cincinnati. There are road games at Navy, Tulane, South Florida, and East Carolina and these four teams are rated in the bottom part of the league by most pundits.

Summary: If the Bearcats can run the table, they will have a marquee win against Notre Dame on their resume as they try and make a case to be in the Final-Four Playoffs. But, they have to do it first and talk is cheap. They have the coaching, the talent, and the schedule. But they also have a huge bullseye on their back and they won’t sneak up on anybody. Can they handle the high expectations and the pressure that comes with it?

Predicted Finish: 1st Place in the AAC

Overall Record: 11-1

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