#99 Cincinnati 2018 Football Preview

Cincinnati Bearcats
Overall Rank: #99
#10 American
 Cincinnati Logo
It was a bumpy first season for head coach Luke Fickell as he walked into a total rebuilding situation at Cincinnati. However, with the way Fickell and his staff have recruited at a high level over the past two seasons, things are trending in the right direction as far as the replenishment of talent is concerned. If the Bearcats fan base can stay patient, they should be rewarded with gradual improvement in the program over the next couple of seasons.
2017 Record: 4-8, 2-6
2017 Bowl: None
Coach: Luke Fickell (4-8 at Cincinnati, 10-15 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Denbrock
Defensive Coordinator: Marcus Freeman
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Gerrid Doaks, RB, 513 yards
Passing: Hayden Moore, QB, 2,582 yards
Receiving: Kahlil Lewis, WR, 676 yards
Tackles: Perry Young, LB, 101
Sacks: Marquise Copeland, DT, 3.5
Interceptions: Two players with 1
Other Key Returnees: DT Cortez Broughton, P James Smith, RB Michael Warren II, LG Garrett Campbell, RT Kyle Trout
Key Losses: LB Jaylyin Minor, S Carter Jacobs, LT Korey Cunningham, C David Niehaus, OT Kendall Calhoun
Scoring points was a problem for Cincinnati last season as they averaged 20.9 points per game. Hayden Moore is back at quarterback and he is going to have to stay healthy all season long since there is not a ton of depth at the position. Ross Trail announced he would transfer earlier in the offseason. So, if Moore gets hurt it will be up to Desmond Ridder, who is a redshirt freshman, to fill the void. Gerrid Doaks and Michael Warren II are a nice 1-2 punch at running back as they combined for just under 1,000 yards between the two last season. Khalil Lewis brings some playmaking ability to the wide receiver room after catching 61 passes last season for 676 yards and seven touchdowns. It will be a big boost for the Bearcats offense if Lewis can catch about 80 passes and improve the receiving yard total up towards 900.
For Cincinnati to get back to a bowl game in 2018 they will need to do a better of job of getting off the field. Teams converted 43.3 percent of their third downs last year against the Bearcats defense. Perry Young is the leading returning tackler from 2017 at linebacker with 101 and has a nose for finding the football and making plays. Pass rush is another area that must improve as Cincinnati only averaged 1.00 sacks per game in 2017. Marquise Copeland and Cortez Broughton are back at defensive tackle and, if they can become more of a dominant force up front, it will create more opportunities for the pass rush off the edge in 2018. Chris Murphy and Tyrell Gilbert will take on even bigger roles in the secondary as they will need to come up with more interceptions this season to help set the offense up with some short field scoring opportunities.
The Bottom Line:
A trip to UCLA will start off the 2018 season for the Bearcats and that will not be easy but at least the Bruins are in a bit of a transition as Chip Kelly takes over as head coach. The rest of September is manageable with games against Miami (OH), Alabama A&M, Ohio, and Connecticut. Consequently, a great goal for Cincinnati would be to get to 4-1 by the end of September. The stretch of the schedule starting on October 20th at Temple is going to be critical as that will be the first of three out of five games on the road for the Bearcats. Overall, if the offense can improve and score closer to 30 points per game, then they should be in the mix for six wins and bowl eligibility in 2018.
Projected Bowl: None
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 135.3 (99th in nation, 11th in conference)
Passing Offense: 216.4 (74, 9)
Total Offense: 351.8 (101, 12)
Scoring Offense: 20.9 (110, 12)
Rushing Defense: 192.4 (94, 8)
Pass Defense: 236.1 (80, 5)
Total Defense: 428.5 (94, 6)
Scoring Defense: 31.8 (94,7)
Turnover Margin: -0.42 (97, 10)
Sacks: 1.00 (121, 10)
Sacks Allowed: 1.42 (21,4)
Madness 2019 NFL Draft Rankings:
#63 Marquise Copeland
Madness 2018 Recruit Rankings:
#241 Leonard Taylor
#247 Tavion Thomas