A lot University of Cincinnati fans are buzzing about the potential of their Bearcat football team. It makes sense with the start of the college football season only nine days away, but UC fans are finding themselves talking more about 2014 than the 2013 season that begins in less than two weeks.
It’s understandable. After all, former five-star quarterback Gunner Kiel will be able to play in 2014. Rated as the top quarterback prospect in the nation by both Rivals.com and Scouts.com, Kiel committed to Indiana, then LSU, spent a year at Notre Dame and has now found his way to UC, where he will sit out a year before playing.
Wide receiver transfer Mekale McKay will also have his first year of eligibility at UC in 2014. The 6’6”, 195 lb. receiver played all 12 games at Arkansas last year, pulling in two touchdowns and 317 yards.
Even the optimism around former Australian professional rugby player, Lindsay Crook has been dampened due to an ACL tear. Crook is in good spirits, but will sit out the entire 2013 season. Giving him a year to learn the game and be better prepared to start his American football career.
The 2014 season clearly has some compelling story lines, including extensive renovations to historic Nippert Stadium, but there is still a lot to be excited about in 2013.
The Bearcats won 10 games for the fourth time in five years, and earned a share of the Big East title in 2012. For 2013, Cincy returns 12 starters (7 offense, 5 defense), welcomes new head coach Tommy Tuberville and are picked to finish second in the inaugural season of the American Athletic Conference.
So what are the keys for the UC Football Bearcats to fulfill and possibly exceed expectations in 2013? We’ll bullet it for your viewing pleasure.
- QB – Tuberville has yet to name a starter, but all signs point to sixth-year senior Brendon Kay. Kay leapfrogged Munchie Legaux last year, and having Kay start would deliver much-needed relief to UC fans who suffered from every commentator’s infatuation with Legaux’s obviously unique name last year. Whoever starts should get some added protection from an offensive line that returns all five starters.
- Defense– There are a lot of holes to fill on a defense that allowed only 18.5 points a game last year. It will be hard to repeat that performance from a year ago, but look to Greg Blair to play a big role. Blair lead the team in tackles with 138 in 2012, and returns at middle linebacker for his senior season.
- Avoiding a ‘Transition Year’– Under first-year coach Butch Jones the Bearcats posted a dismal 4-8 record. A quick learning curve will be needed to adapt Tuberville’s Air Raid style offense and will be vital in fulfilling expectations.
- Finding Playmakers– The Bearcats have lost star receiver Kenbrell Thompkins to the New England Patriots, as well as starting RB George Winn. Look for Tuberville to find new ways to get the ball in the hands of UC’s fastest player, RB Ralph David Abernathy IV. WR Anthony McClung is also poised for a breakout year.
2013 Season Outlook
The 2013 schedule stacks up pretty well for the Bearcats:
August 31 vs. Purdue
September 7 at Illinois
September 14 vs. Northwestern State
September 21 at Miami (Ohio)
October 5 at South Florida
October 11 vs. Temple
October 19 vs. Connecticut
October 30 at Memphis
November 9 vs. SMU
November 16 at Rutgers
November 23 at Houston
December 5 vs. Louisville
UC apparently agreed to be part of an AAC/BIG10 Challenge this year that they neglected to inform the rest of either conference of. The Bearcats start the season with a difficult opener against the Boilermakers and then travel to Champaign to face the Fighting Illini, but after that it should be smooth sailing until a run in with the Scarlet Knights on the road.
The Bearcats may be slightly overmatched against Purdue, but you can barely call Illinois a BIG10 team after they lost every conference game they played in 2012 in route to a forgettable 2-10 season.
If UC is able to get past a Rutgers team picked to finish just behind them in the AAC, that December 5th matchup against the Cardinals of Louisville could have conference championship, BCS and potentially national championship implications (for the Cardinals that is).
2013 Season Prediction
The Bearcats will finish 9-3 in 2013 and second in the AAC, which will land them in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Don’t book your flights just yet, UC fans. If the Bearcats struggle to adapt to Tuberville’s new style of play, it could be a long season.
But, hey; there’s always 2014, right?
Photo: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images
Latest posts by Matt Chinn (see all)
- National Championship Preview: Ohio State vs. Oregon - January 12, 2015
- Sugar Bowl National Semifinal Preview - December 31, 2014
- Big10 Championship Preview: Ohio State vs Wisconsin - December 5, 2014