We have a couple of new Big East sites here on SBNation, and one of those is the Cincinnati blog Down the Drive, which is run by Matt Opper. Matt was nice enough to answer a few questions on Butch Jones, Zach Collaros, and his grand creation, the Joe Tessitore Drinking Game, which is sweeping the nation.
Ken: How has the Butch Jones era started for you guys? Do you think he will continue the success that Kelly and D'Antonio had?
Matt: The start wasn't the greatest, but it is getting better game by game. I almost have the same level of confidence in this team here and now as I did prior to the start of the season, which is startling considering the way it started. As for the level of success enjoyed by the men before him, I think he can match Mark if not Kelly. The program is still pretty stable and the recruiting is as good as it was under Kelly.
Ken: The UC offense looks like they are continuing last year's success. How is Zach Collaros doing now that he is entrenched as the starter?
Matt: The offense isn't at last year's level, but it is more balanced and much tougher to stop as a result. Collaros has gone a great job. It took the staff a few games to figure out where Zack is best, which is on play action and designed rollouts. Of his 17 TD passes, by my count 11 of them came off those looks. He can make plays from the pocket, but he makes mistakes in there as well. The thing that has really gotten the offense going was the shuffling of the starting group up front in the Oklahoma game. In the two prior games against FBS teams, they surrendered 13 sacks... in the three games since, just four. The improvement of the offensive line has allowed Isaiah Pead to get loose running, which gives the O the balance it never had under Kelly. It also allows for the frequent repeating of the most sophmorically awesome student body chant ever. Listen for "You Got Pead On." Pead has been the key to the offensive turnaround IMO, he is a home run hitter at that spot.
Ken: The Bearcat defense is giving up a lot of points this season. Any specific reason?
Matt: The biggest reason is the youth on that side of the ball, with just two seniors in the two deep, neither of whom start. Against Louisville eight sophomores started, which isn't ideal. This group will be phenomenal. Next year. For now it is grin and bear it time about the defense. The run defense is pretty good IMO, not great, but solid. But the secondary is very vanilla and can be picked apart by most average QBs.
Ken: How much of a success was the Joe Tessitore Drinking Game? When did you finally black out?
Matt: A massive success. I didn't finish, I like to remember the games that I watch, so I cut myself off at about the 10 minute mark of the second quarter. But none of my friends that played it Friday have talked to me since, so it was clearly good at its job.
Ken: For Bulls fans making the trip up to Cincinnati, where is a good place to eat in the Queen City?
Matt: Penn Station, best subs on the planet in my fairly humble opinion.
Ken: Bonus 6th Question. How many ways do you have your chili?
Matt: No ways. I was among the minority when I lived in Cincinnati that wouldn't eat Skyline. I just failed to see the appeal. This, along with my Browns fandom, always put a bit of a wall up between me and my fellow Cincinnatians. I suppose I can add Joe Tessitore to that list now.
Ken: Finally any predictions on the game?
Matt: UC 24 - USF 17
I think these two teams play into the hands of the other, but as always the team that can generate points on their own will win. Given B.J. Daniels and Co.'s struggles on offense that will be UC.
Thanks again to Matt for taking time to answer our questions. Make sure you visit Down the Drive for all Cincinnati Bearcat news, and make sure to follow Matt on Twitter. DtD should have a few questions up from us in the next couple of days, and we will make sure to have a FanShot up when it goes live.