#36 Cincinnati Football 2019 Preview

Cincinnati Bearcats
Overall Rank: #36
#2 American
 Cincinnati Logo
Head Coach Luke Fickell and his staff have done an excellent job in quickly resurrecting the Cincinnati football program in just two years. The 2018 season started with a bang as the Bearcats went out to the Rose Bowl and physically dominated UCLA in a 26-17 victory. Cincinnati took the momentum from that win and ended up with an 11-2 record overall and are looking to replicate last season’s success in 2019.
2018 Record: 11-2, 6-2
2018 Bowl: Military Bowl vs. Virginia Tech (35-31 W)
Coach: Luke Fickell, (15-10 at Cincinnati, 21-17 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Denbrock
Defensive Coordinator: Marcus Freeman
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Michael Warren II, RB, 1,329 yards
Passing: Desmond Ridder, QB, 2,445 yards
Receiving: Josiah Deguara, TE, 468 yards
Tackles: Jarell White, LB, 58
Sacks: Bryan Wright, LB 5.0
Interceptions: James Wiggins, S, 4
Other Key Returnees: WR Rashad Medaris, OL Morgan James, OL Chris Ferguson, DE Michael Pitts, LB Perry Young, CB Coby Bryant, CB Cam Jeffries, S Derrick Forrest, P James Smith, CB Arquon Brush   
Key Losses: DT Cortez Broughton, DT Marquise Copeland, DE KImoni Fitz, WR Khalil Lewis
Michael Warren II is the leading returning rusher from last season as he rushed for 1,329 yards and 19 touchdowns. Warren II, along with Gerrid Doaks who missed the 2018 season with an injury, should provide a nice 1-2 punch to control the clock for Cincinnati. Desmond Ridder will need to take that typical big jump in his sophomore season that most quarterbacks go through at the college level. Ridder did a nice job of managing the offense last year as a freshman as he accounted for 25 touchdowns and only threw five interceptions. Wide receiver and offensive line have key issues that need to be addressed since the Bearcats need to replace the lost productivity of Khalil Lewis who was a stalwart last year catching the football. Rashad Medaris, Thomas Geddis, and Jayshon Jackson will all be in the mix to take over as that go to pass catcher. Michigan transfer James Hudson will be counted on heavily at left tackle to stabilize the left side of the line while the right side of the offensive line returns in 2019.
The back seven is going to have to lead the Bearcats defense in 2019 as the defensive line will need to be rebuilt. Perry Young and Bryan White are quality playmakers at linebacker that can cause plenty of problems for opposing offensive coordinators every week. James Wiggins picked off four passes in 2018 and is back at safety to lead a pass defense that was pretty stingy last season. Cincinnati allowed 190.5 yards per game through the air. Michael Pitts is the lone returning starter along the defensive front and he will need to have a big season rushing the quarterback as the Bearcats need to replace 14 sacks from Cortez Broughton, Marquise Copeland and Kimoni Fitz from 2018. Punter James Smith can also take some pressure off of the defense if he can match or surpass his 46.6 yards average per punt from last season.
The Bottom Line:
UCLA comes to Nippert Stadium on the opening Thursday night of the season to complete the back end of a home and home series with the Bruins. This should be a hotly contested battle as UCLA will be better in year two under head coach Chip Kelly. A trip to Ohio State follows in week two which is never an easy trip for anyone to go to Columbus and win. The conference schedule is more road heavy in 2019 as the Bearcats have to go to Houston, South Florida, and Memphis while hosting UCF. If the passing game can take that next step forward and produce about 275-300 yards per game through the air, then Cincinnati will contend for the conference championship. Defensively, despite the defensive line issues, the Bearcats should still be a rock-solid unit that will keep them in just about every game. Look for around eight to nine regular season wins for Cincinnati, which will stabilize the rebuilding project of Coach Fickell and position it for bigger things in 2020.
Projected Bowl:  Birmingham Bowl
2018 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 239.5 (15th in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 219.0 (76, 8)
Total Offense: 458.5 (23, 4)
Scoring Offense: 34.9 (23, 4)
Rushing Defense: 113.0 (13, 1)
Pass Defense: 190.5 (26, 3)
Total Defense: 303.5 (11, 1)
Scoring Defense: 17.2 (8, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.00 (69, 7)
Sacks: 2.38 (47, 5)
Sacks Allowed: 1.92 (49, 5)