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11 Up, 11 Down: Cincinnati

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The Bulls look for their first three-game winning streak in the series.

NCAA Football: Illinois at South Florida Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati: 2-4 (0-2 AAC)

Head Coach: Luke Fickell (First year)

Famous Alumni: Former President William Howard Taft, a bunch of basketball players, and... that’s about it.

The Bearcats are still trying to figure out who they are under new head coach Luke Fickell. Inconsistency has plagued this team in 2017 while they try to wash off the stench of Tommy Tuberville.

UC struggled in their only two wins: week one versus an Austin Peay team on a very long losing streak at the time (26-14) and a week three upset of Miami (OH) (21-17). Yes, UPSET of MIAMI THAT IS IN OHIO. In their four losses, they have given up at least 32 points, capped off by the 51 C. hit them up for last week in a game where they didn’t even play the fourth quarter.

Let’s look closer at the numbers.

Peripherals

Team S&P+ (Overall) Offensive S&P+ Defensive S&P+ Special Teams S&P+
USF 21 25 32 45
UC 101 100 89 115

The Bearcats are averaging 22.8 points per game, and a measly 4.8 yards per play. They are converting 38% of their third downs.

Junior quarterback Hayden Moore has had an up-and-down 2017 campaign, to be kind. He’s completed just 53% of his 242 pass attempts for 1,375 yards and ten touchdowns and five interceptions, with a long of 46 yards.

While the Bulls defense has been much improved in 2017, throwing the ball is the only conceivable way the Bearcats will pull off the upset, and the odds of that are not great. The S&P+ data gives them just a 10% chance to beat the Bulls.

When Cincinnati Runs...

Team Rushing Success Rate Run Explosiveness Stuff Rate
UC Offense 118 30 101
USF Defense 1 101 2

When I said throwing the ball was the Bearcats only chance, I really meant it. They have been an abomination rushing the ball this year. They average a paltry 3.6 yards per rush and just over 100 yards per game.

Run defense has been the biggest area of improvement for USF from the 2016 season, and a major reason why the team has been able to get off to their 5-0 start. Opponents have the lowest running success rate in FBS, and USF’s “stuff rate” (holding ballcarriers to zero yards or less on a carry) is second.

The Bearcats are getting stuffed on 22% (101st) of their attempts, while the Bulls defense has stuffed 32.6% of the rushing attempts against them.

When Cincinnati Passes...

Team Passing Success Rate Pass Explosiveness
UC Offense 118 92
USF Defense 4 21

Along with their weak rushing attack, Moore’s inconsistency as a passer has torpedoed the Bearcats offense. His favorite target is 6’0” junior Kahlil Lewis (31 catches, 325 yards, 4 TD). Lewis accounts for a team-high 55 targets with a 56.4% catch rate. Expect the Bearcats to keep him away from USF cornerback Mazzi Wilkins as much as they can.

When USF Runs...

Team Rushing Success Rate Run Explosiveness Stuff Rate
USF Offense 44 28 71
UC Defense 88 84 68

Since the Bulls moved senior center Cam Ruff back to his natural position after the Stony Brook game, they’ve hit 300 yards rushing in every game. Senior running back D’Ernest Johnson has run for over 100 yards in each of those games.

USF’s stuff rate (19.9%) is up slightly from last season (16.7%), which is going to happen when you lose two NFL-caliber players in Marlon Mack and Rodney Adams.

The Bearcats are allowing opponents to rush for over 221 yards per game, including 224 to Austin Peay and an astounding 569 to Navy.

This is where the Bulls will win the game.

When USF Passes...

Team Passing Success Rate Pass Explosiveness
USF Offense 110 8
UC Defense 82 124

Senior quarterback Quinton Flowers has struggled at time this year with accuracy on nearly every route. He has typically been very good on deep routes in the past but has misfired on those throws more this year.

He’s completing 52.9% of his pass attempts, which is well under his career average of 60.2%. While inconsistent, he has still been able to hit on some big plays, including three plays of at least 35 yards against East Carolina.

UC has a slightly better pass defense than rush defense, which is skewed slightly because they have played Navy already this year. The Midshipmen only threw three passes against the Bearcats, completing two of them for 54 yards and a TD.

C. torched the Bearcats for over 300 yards in the air and five touchdowns while completing 16 of 19 pass attempts.

Expect chunk plays from the Bulls through the air.

Special Teams:

Does Cincinnati have Emilio Nadelman or Large. Adult. Punter? No? Advantage USF.

UC is 4-for-8 on field goal attempts spread out over three different kickers.

Their punter is quite large himself though. Freshman James Smith is 6-5, 220 pounds. This could be the heaviest punting duo in NCAA history. We’ll have Jamie look that up.

Bottom Line:

It would be a huge upset if the Bearcats defeated the Bulls at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday. And it would crater any goodwill this team has built up to this point. It is homecoming and there should be a sizable crowd on hand. USF should rise to the occasion big time.

Bulls win 55-14.