It’s been over half a decade since Cincinnati has failed to win at least six games, but all signs point to a bowl-less holiday season for coach Tommy Tuberville and the Bearcats after a crippling 20-9 loss at UConn last week.
Cincinnati (3-3, 0-3 American) has dropped three of its last four games, posting its first zero-and-three mark in conference play since 1999 — when Bob Huggins was still dominating C-USA — and there has been nothing that might suggest there’s any potential for a season-saving turnaround.
The Bearcats rank 11th out of 12 in the AAC in scoring offense (23.0 points per game) and 8th in scoring defense (25.3). But more specifically, they are 117th nationally with a powerless running game — one that managed to produce two total yards during Saturday’s loss. They have no answer at under center, either, remaining adamant with not playing the best third-string quarterback in college football history in Gunner Kiel.
“If it takes formations, if it takes blocking schemes, we can’t go into every one of these games and think a quarterback with his arm is going to win these games,” said Tuberville after Saturday’s loss.
“It happened last year. We were barely over .500 last year and we couldn’t run the ball. This year we have to find a way to run it. Until we do that, we’re going to struggle.
“It’s no doubt that if you can’t run the ball, if you’re one-dimensional, if you’re counting on your quarterback throwing for 500 yards a game, then you’re not going to win, especially on the road. They did a good job of forcing the run and forcing us to be one-dimensional. Two yards rushing, you’re not going to win many games.”
According to multiple projections, the Bearcats will win one more game this season: next week versus East Carolina. That’s it. From there, it’s losing football and an early start to the offseason.
ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) gives Cincinnati a 66.3 percent chance to beat the Pirates — a 2-4 team with a first-year head coach — at Nippert Stadium in Week 8. Its next best opportunity for a win? Nov. 25 at Tulsa in the regular season finale, where the formula gives the ‘Cats a 34.9 percent chance to leave on a high note.
MasseyRatings.com believes much of the same. An ECU win and then five straight losses, albeit four of them coming by eight points or less. All will come against opponents that sit outside the top 35, with Temple, Tulsa and UCF sitting at No. 70 or lower.
The FPI ranks UC No. 81 in the FBS. USA TODAY‘s Jeff Sagarin has it at No. 86. Football Outsider’s FEI ratings drop Cincy even further, down to No. 89 behind programs such as UTSA, Ball State, Wyoming, and … Tulane.
Yes, that Tulane.
Luckily for Cincinnati, projections do not decide the outcomes of games. Great players and great coaches do. Half of the season still remains, and with a week off, there’s time to look in the mirror, reflect, and work on fixing at-large issues that would prevent the team from becoming bowl eligible down the road with a schedule that in reality isn’t all that demanding.
If the correct adjustments are made, basketball season won’t be the only thing Bearcats fans can look forward to in December.