GAME PREVIEW: Cincinnati at SMU

Cincinnati at SMU
When: Saturday, Oct. 24th, 9:00 PM EDT
Where: Gerald J. Ford Stadium, Dallas, Tex.
TV/Streaming: ESPN2/WatchESPN (subscription req’d)

This American Athletic Conference clash may not have been the preseason pick as the top game in the conference but these two undefeated schools have played their way into this one. Both Cincinnati (9/10) and SMU (16/16) come into this game ranked in both the AP and Coaches polls and will clash in what I believe will be the best college football game of Week 7.

The two teams have different styles. Cincinnati is a run first and play hard-nosed defense, while SMU runs an uptempo offense and plays opportunistic defense. See the statistics each team has in comparison below thus far on the season:

The Bearcats are coming off an unexpected bye week following a COVID-19 issue within the program. Cincinnati’s last game was Oct. 3rd–a 28-7 home victory over USF.

The Mustangs, on the other hand, are coming off an overtime win at Tulane and the last home game two weeks ago was another close victory against last year’s AAC champion Memphis.

This is the homecoming game for SMU and will look to win for the second time against Cincinnati. The two teams did not play last year as in past years, the two schools were in opposite divisions. The most recent game between these two teams went to overtime with Cincinnati pulling out the win also in Dallas. See highlights of that 2018 contest below:

Cincinnati Bearcats (3-0 overall, 1-0 AAC)

The Cincinnati offense is led by senior QB Desmond Ridder. He has totaled six touchdown passes but has also been intercepted four times in three games this season.

Senior RB Gerrid Doaks leads the running game with 145 yards and four touchdowns (plus two more receiving touchdowns) so far this season, but Cincinnati is used two other backs to spell Doaks.

Fellow RBs Charles McClelland and Jerome Ford have combined to take the other half of the team’s carries. Ridder also contributes to the running game with 71 rushing yards.

The defense though is the strength of the Bearcats, who have given up just over 12 points per game. The strength of the defense is its secondary and so far the group led by Ahmad Gardner, Coby Bryant, and Arquon Bush. Each of these player each have two interceptions to their credit to go with the team’s total of seven.

Key Player: Desmond Ridder

I look for SMU to stack the box on defense to force Ridder to beat them with the passing game. As mentioned, he has struggled some what in getting the passing game going so he will need to use his arm if Cincinnati wants to go home with the victory.

SMU Mustangs (5-0 overall, 3-0 AAC)

SMU’s uptempo, throwing offense taken things to another level under head coach Sonny Dykes. The Mustangs threw for over 700 yards in the first two games, and then went off against Tulane and Memphis for well over 400 yards against each one.

Leading the way is QB Shane Buechele, who has 1,710 passing yards and 12 touchdowns this season, with just two interceptions.

One big question mark though is the Mustangs will be without leading WR Reggie Roberson, Jr, who had a season-ending knee injury against Memphis two week ago. But fellow WRs Rashee Rice and Danny Gray did show they can also perform against Tulane last week.

Freshman RB Ulysses Bentley IV leads the Mustangs with 506 rushing yards and eight touchdowns through the first five games and shows that SMU is not just one dimensional.

The Mustang defense has used a bend but don’t break philosophy. The SMU defense ranks just 42nd in all of the FBS in total defense (407.4 ypg) and 38th in pass defense (237.0 ypg). But the defense has managed to get 10 turnovers to help turn it back to its potent offense.

Key Player: Shane Buechele

So far, Buechele has come up big especially in the last two games against Memphis and Tulane but this Cincinnati defense will be the best he has faced so far this season. He will need to be careful with the ball and not take sacks. Outside of that, he will need to get all of his receivers involved in the attack.

Fearless Prediction:

The layoff for Cincinnati due to its COVID-19 breakout from a couple of weeks ago will be telling. I think SMU will jump on the rusty defense to score quickly to start the game. But the Bearcat defense will rebound after giving up a few early scores to keep Cincinnati in the game. The Bearcat defense will then pressure Buechele and get a couple of take-aways to set the Cincinnati offense in the second half to make a mild comeback. In the end, I see this one coming down to the final possession and I like what I have seen from the Mustangs over the last two weeks when faced in that kind of situation. Buechele will atone for a couple of errors and led the Mustangs on a game winning drive late. SMU 31 Cincinnati 27

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