After going 4-8 in year one, Cincinnati exploded in year two to an incredible 11-2 year despite injuries and a freshman QB. Granted, they got lucky a couple of times, but the record book won’t come with an asterisk. Now, 14 starters are back from that team including QB Desmond Ridder and RB Michael Warren II and the two teams they lost to last year (UCF, Temple) now must both travel to Cincy, but cards on the table, this feels like a team that will face some real regression to the mean that might offset any growth from the returning starters.
The offense looks awesome. Desmond Ridder was about as good as you could get for a freshman QB, throwing four times as many touchdowns as picks and making a big difference in the run game.
Outside of #1 receiver Kahlil Lewis, everyone is back among pass-catcher including deep threat Rashad Medaris (18.2 YPC), red zone monster TE Josiah Deguara, and some interesting underclassmen like Jayshon Jackson. They also add two Ohio State transfers in Garyn Praeter and L’Christian Smith.
1,300-yard rusher Michael Warren is back (5.4 YPA). Backups Tavion Thomas (5.6 YPA) and Charles McClelland (7.7 YPA) added almost 1,000 more, and oh yeah, 2017’s top RB is back in Gerrid Doaks, who averaged 5.9 YPA then. This is one of the best RB units in not just the G5 but the nation.
The line doesn’t look great, where just two starters return, but they do add a four-star Michigan transfer in James Hudson. The other two spots will likely need to be filled by unproven underclassmen tough, so the line may be a weak spot. This has the potential to be a top-level G5 offense if they can get the small holes on the line figured out.
The defense was dominant against AAC competition last year, allowing just over 17 points per game.
CBs Coby Bryant and Cam Jefferies return to form one of the most dynamic duos in the G5 after combining for 20 PBUs last year, and James Wiggins and Darrick Forrest return in the back after combining for five picks as underclassmen. They also add a Bama transfer in Kyriq McDonald
The secondary is one of the best in the G5, and the linebacking corps isn’t too shabby either. Malik Clements is a big loss, but Jarell White and Bryan Wright return after combining for 10.5 TFL and five sacks in 2018. Perry Young was injured for a lot of last year but was excellent against the run when he was healthy. UConn transfer Darrian Beavers (7.5 TFL last year) and highly touted sophomore RJ Potts will try to crack the rotation.
Where we really start to run into issues is the line. Michael Pitts is the only returning starter (four sacks, 3.5 TFL), although Kevin Mouhon returns after an injury sidelined him last year. Ethan Tucky will also play the end after two sacks and two TFL last year. The middle is a little sketchy though, with no real known entities. Cincy played a pretty wide rotation so a lot of guys have some experience but none have a lot. Curtis Brooks is probably the biggest name to watch (23 tackles last year) but this unit could struggle.
The defense should be one of the conference’s best despite the holes on the line, I’d expect another good year.
Both lines have some holes but this is probably the top defense in the AAC and a top three offense. This is a top-50 team, how much Ridder’s success last year continues over and play in the trenches will determine if they can climb into the top 30.
To me, the most likely scenario is that they improve a little in the computer rankings, but their record drops a little, as they overachieved last year anyway and the schedule looks tougher with two P5 opponents and the draw of @ Memphis from the West.
|Date||Opponent||opp. rank||Proj. Margin|
|7-Sep||at Ohio State||5||-18.0|
|2-Nov||at East Carolina||107||7.7|
Average Projected Record: 7.2 wins, 4.8 losses (5.1 wins, 2.9 losses)