#75 Cincinnati Football 2017 Preview

Cincinnati Bearcats
Overall Rank: #75
#6 American
By the end of the 2016 season, Cincinnati had fallen apart. The offense could not do anything and the defense was consistently put in impossible situations. Coach Luke Fickell hopes to quickly turn things around. The new head coach comes to the Bearcats after a long-stint with Ohio State. He played for the Buckeyes from 1993 to 1996, was a graduate assistant in 1999 and returned to the Buckeyes in 2002 and had been there ever since until taking the Bearcats job.
2016 Record: 4-8, 1-7
2016 Bowl: None
Coach: Luke Fickell (0-0 at Cincinnati, 6-7 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Denbrock
Defensive Coordinator: Marcus Freeman
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Mike Boone, RB, 388 yards
Passing: Haydon Moore, QB, 1,744 yards
Receiving: Devin Gray, WR, 860 yards
Tackles: Marquise Copeland, DE, 59
Sacks: Cortez Broughton, DT, 2.5
Interceptions: Alex Thomas, CB, 4
Other Key Returnees: WR Kahlil Lewis, LB Kevin Mouhon, CB Linden Stephens
Key Losses: RB Tion Green, QB Gunner Kiel, WR Nate Cole, S Mike Tyson, LB Eric Wilson, S Zach Edwards, LB Antonio Kinard
Coach Fickell is a defensive guy and his offensive coordinator, Mike Denbrock, will be tasked with improving the offense. The new staff wants to move faster, but run much tougher than Cincinnati did last year. Much of that toughness will have to come from senior running back Mike Boone who averaged just 3.7 yards per carry in 2016. Haydon Moore will have some competition at quarterback, but should be the starter after throwing for 1,744 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. He has not been particularly efficient, but as long as he can keep the turnovers down and get rid of the ball quickly, he will be effective. And getting the ball to the receivers quickly is not a bad plan for this team. There is a lot of talent at wide receiver. Devin Gray caught 58 passes for 860 yards last season and Kahlil Lewis added 48 receptions for 605 yards. Those two can make some big plays and help open up the rest of the offense.
Despite the tough spots the defense was put in last season, they did pretty good. There are some key pieces to replace, but on the whole the Bearcats should be strong on that side of the ball. Cortez Broughton and Marquise Copeland anchor a tough defensive line. The unit has not been very effective getting to the quarterback, but there is potential. At linebacker Kevin Mouhon needs to get more involved in the pass rush and somebody has to replace Eric Wilson and his team high 129 tackles. The secondary would benefit greatly from a pass rush. A decent opposing quarterback with a strong offensive line could pick apart Cincinnati way too easily and that has to change if the Bearcats are going to compete in the AAC.
The Bottom Line:
Cincinnati is not too far off from turning things around. The defense is solid and should remain that way and the offense cannot get any worse. If the new scheme works for this offense and Moore and Boone can be effective moving the ball, Coach Fickell will have a good start to his stint at Cincinnati.
Projected Bowl: Boca Raton Bowl
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 118.2 (117th in nation, 11th in conference)
Passing Offense: 255.9 (44, 6)
Total Offense: 374.1 (99, 9)
Scoring Offense: 19.3 (123, 11)
Rushing Defense: 189.6 (75, 8)
Pass Defense: 233.3 (74, 6)
Total Defense: 422.8 (72, 6)
Scoring Defense: 26.9 (55, 4)
Turnover Margin: 0.08 (54, 7)
Sacks: 1.58 (101, 9)
Sacks Allowed: 2.17 (73, 6)