#42 Cincinnati Football 2015 Preview

Cincinnati Bearcats

Overall Rank: #42
#1 American

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Cincinnati went 7-1 in American Athletic Conference action last season, but just 9-4 overall, which included a 33-17 loss to Virginia Tech in the Military Bowl. This year could be even better. Coach Tommy Tuberville returns a bevy of talent on offense and there is hope that the defense can do enough to keep the Bearcats in every game.

2014 Record: 9-4, 7-1
2014 Bowl: Military Bowl vs. Virginia Tech (L 17-33)
Coach: Tommy Tuberville (18-8 at Cincinnati, 148-85 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Eddie Gran
Defensive Coordinator: Roberty Prunty

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Mike Boone, RB, 650 yards
Passing: Gunner Kiel, QB, 3,254 yards
Receiving: Shaq Washington, WR, 761 yards
Tackles: Zach Edwards, S, 121
Sacks: Silverberry Mouhon, DE, 4.0
Interceptions: Zach Edwards, S, 2

Other Key Returnees: WR Mekale McKay, WR Chris Moore, WR Max Morrison, OL Parker Ehinger, LB Leviticus Payne, K Andrew Gantz

Key Losses: RB Rod Moore, QB Munchie Legaux, OL Eric Lefeld, LB Jeff Luc, LB Nick Temple, DL Terrell Hartsfield

Quarterback Gunner Kiel lived up to his potential after coming to Cincinnati from Notre Dame. As a sophomore in 2014, he threw for 3,254 yards and 31 touchdowns, while being picked off 13 times. With a year under his belt, Kiel should be even better this time around. It will help that the top seven pass catchers return. Shaq Washington is the possession receiver in the slot and he could become Cincinnati’s all-time leader in receptions by the end of the year. In 2014, he caught 66 passes for 761 yards and four scores. Mekale McKay and Chris Moore are the big outside targets. Those two caught eight touchdown passes each. Max Morrison is another dangerous receiver to watch out for. The 6-1 senior is often overlooked by the opposing secondary, but he caught 45 passes for 458 yards and four touchdowns a year ago. The Bearcats will be among the nation’s leaders in the passing game, but they do hope to balance it out more this year with a stronger ground attack. The return of Hosey Williams, who missed most of last season with an injury, should help. In 2013, Williams led the team with 655 rushing yards. Mike Boone led the team with 650 yards and nine touchdowns in 2014 and those two should provide a dangerous 1-2 punch in the backfield.

The defense allowed 27.2 points per game, ranking seventh in the AAC, but that number quickly went up against any team with a serviceable offense. The numbers do get skewed a bit in the AAC where there were a handful of teams last season that struggled to score against anybody. When it mattered most, the defense was not able to get the job done; and now only a few starters return. In the front four, Terrell Hartsfield and his 9.0 sacks will be tough to replace. End Silverberry Mouhon is the new leader of a young defensive line. At linebacker, both Jeff Luc and Nick Temple are gone after combining for 247 tackles in 2014. That is a lot of production to replace. The secondary has issues of their own, but they do return safety Zach Edwards and will get cornerback Adrian Witty back from injury.

The Bottom Line:
Once again Cincinnati is working with a new defensive coordinator. That may not be a bad thing, but it is tough to find consistency on that side of the ball as it is. In the new AAC East, Cincinnati’s schedule looks reasonable. They do play Memphis and Houston from the West and both are on the road so the draw could have been a little nicer. However, there is not a good reason for this team to lose more than one conference game in 2015. The September 24th game against Memphis should be interesting and non-conference games against Miami and BYU are the Bearcats next two games. That three game stretch will tell us how good this team really is by the middle of October.

Projected Bowl: Miami Beach Bowl

2014 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 156.5 (72nd in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 303.6 (13, 2)
Total Offense: 460.2 (27, 2)
Scoring Offense: 34.0 (29, 3)
Rushing Defense: 183.7 (85, 9)
Pass Defense: 255.4 (97, 8)
Total Defense: 439.1 (96, 9)
Scoring Defense: 27.2 (68, 7)
Turnover Margin: 0.15 (53, 5)
Sacks: 2.69 (29, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 1.38 (22, 2)


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