Opponent: No. 2/5 Cincinnati Bearcats
2021 Record: 9-0 (5-0 AAC)
Head Coach: Luke Fickel (44-14 in four seasons at Cincinnati)
Date/Time/Location: Friday, November 12, 6 p.m.., Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
How To Watch/Listen: ESPN2, 95.3 WDAE, Bulls Unlimited
Series History: Cincinnati leads series 11-7. Last: Bearcats won 28-7 in 2020.
After another disappointing second-half breakdown, the South Florida Bulls are reeling, and welcome in the No. 5 team in the country according to the College Football Playoff rankings in the Cincinnati Bearcats. While the Bulls have struggled in recent years, they’ve somehow always played the Bearcats well over the last few years.
In 2019, the Bulls were a made field goal away from a massive upset in Charlie Strong’s final season as head coach (and probably would’ve saved his job), and in 2020, the Bulls and Bearcats exchanged turnovers early on before Cincinnati settled down. But even still, the Bulls scored to cut the lead to 21-7 and had some momentum before the Bearcats returned the ensuing kickoff back for the touchdown to ice the game.
USF may continue to find some luck tonight with the status of Cincinnati star running back Jerome Ford up in the air. Ford injured his ankle in last week’s game versus Tulsa. The Bay Area product has accounted for nearly 50% of the carries, over 50% of the rushing yards, and a whopping 15 touchdowns on the ground for Cincinnati.
The Bearcats are led by quarterback Desmond Ridder, who’s thrown for over 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2021. He’s also the Bearcats’ second-leading rusher with 224 yards. If Ford can’t go tonight, expect reserve back Ryan Montgomery to handle the bulk of the carries.
Cincinnati is averaging 451 yards per game on offense at 6.7 yards per play. They’ve scored 51 touchdowns, but have recently struggled against bad teams. Their defense has been great all year allowing under 20 PPG, but the offense tends to bog down (because Ridder aint that good), and allows the bad teams to hang around for much longer than they should.
The Bulls have held halftime leads in four consecutive games, but haven’t been able to close out in the second half. Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer has a tall task to help keep the Bulls competitive and in the right position against a talented team.
USF needs to run the ball better than last week (read: Get the ball to Brian Battie more), but Cincinnati is allowing just 3.1 yards per rush. Stranger things have happened though.
It’s clear one of two things will happen: USF keeps it close, and maybe pulls of the upset OR the Bearcats use tonight as a get right game, and the game is over by halftime.
Cincinnati 45, USF 23