Cincinnati (2-1) at Miami-Ohio (0-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 21, 4:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Yager Stadium (24,286) -- Oxford, Ohio. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Cincinnati 2-0, Miami 0-0. Away Record: Cincinnati 0-1, Miami 0-2. Neutral Record: Cincinnati 0-0, Miami 0-0. Conference Record: Cincinnati 0-0, Miami 0-0. Series Record: Miami-Ohio leads, 59-51-7.
GAME NOTES: The Miami-Ohio RedHawks hope to turn things around as they play their home opener against the Cincinnati Bearcats in the annual Battle for the Victory Bell game at Yager Stadium.
The Bearcats improved to 2-1 under coach Tommy Tuberville with a 66-9 rout of Northwestern State last week. Cincinnati's first victory was notched with a 42-7 win over Purdue in week one before it was handed a 45-17 loss at Illinois. The Bearcats were expected to be Louisville's top competitor for the American Athletic Conference title this season before they lost starting quarterback Munchie Legaux to a season-ending knee injury in the fourth quarter of their loss to the Fighting Illini.
Don Treadwell's RedHawks have been exposed in the early season. Miami lost 52-14 to Marshall in their season opener and lost by 34 to the Wildcats at Kentucky in week two. The RedHawks had a week off to prepare for their home opener. Miami has gained only 361 yards of total offense and scored just 21 points in total to its opposition's combined 1,266 offensive yards and 93 points.
Miami is 59-51-7 against Cincinnati in the rivalry that dates back to 1888. The Bearcats' 52-14 victory in last season's meeting marked their seventh consecutive win in the series. The RedHawks are also on a six-game losing slide dating back to 2012. These teams have played every year since 1945 in what is the oldest non-conference rivalry in the nation.
Cincinnati had little trouble in its first game without Legaux. Senior Brendon Kay completed 12-of-14 pass attempts for 277 yards and four touchdowns, while the team registered 669 yards of total offense. Kay actually stole the starting job away from Legaux in 2012 and led the team to four wins in five games including a Belk Bowl triumph over Duke. Kay has thrown 14 career touchdown passes against only two picks.
Anthony McClung led the team against NSU with 41 yards and a score on three catches and was one of 12 different UC players to make a reception in the game. The senior wideout has tallied 10 catches for 144 yards on the campaign. Freshman Max Morrison has gained a team-best 190 yards and scored on two of his nine catches. The Bearcats also have two viable options at running back with Hosey Williams (230 yards, three TDs, 7.4 ypc) and Ralph David Abernathy (181 yards, two TDs, 5.0 ypc) both available.
UC's defense allowed 522 yards of total offense to Illinois in its week two loss. It has allowed an average of just 202.5 yards per game in its two wins. The Bearcats' opponents have gone 15-of-41 on third-down conversion attempts and 1-of-4 on fourth-down tries. Greg Blair is anchoring the unit with 21 total stops and is one of eight Bearcats with 11 or more tackles on the season.
The RedHawks generated only 122 yards of total offense and converted only one of their 18 third down plays as they were dispatched by Kentucky in their last appearance. Senior QB Austin Boucher finished with only 23 yards through the air and was sacked five times. He tied Austin Gearing for the team-lead in rushing yards with just 28.
Boucher led Miami to four consecutive wins including victories in the MAC Championship Game and GoDaddy.com bowl in 2010, but was sent back to the bench when the school's all-time leading passer, Zac Dysert, returned healthy for the 2011 season. After being Dysert's backup the past two seasons with limited action, Boucher has failed to impress in his return to the starting role, completing just 14-of-36 passes for 186 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
The team's failure to generate anything on the ground has only made things tougher on Boucher. Miami has not had the option of utilizing its running backs since it has been trailing by a wide margin for most of this season. The RedHawks have averaged only 2.2 yards per carry and Gearing is the top rusher with 27.5 yards per game.
Steve Marck, Rokeem Williams and Dawan Scott are the top three options in the Miami passing game. Marck led the team in the opener with four receptions, for 41 yards and a touchdown before being held without a catch by the Wildcats.
The RedHawks have been just as disappointing on the defensive side of the ball with allowed averages of 283 rushing yards and 350 passing yards per game. Marshall and Kentucky picked up first downs with ease against a defensive unit that has five underclassmen starters. Dayonne Nunley paced Miami's defense with 7.5 total tackles in Lexington and Chris Wade scored the team's only touchdown on a fumble return.
Treadwell's squad is going to take its fair share of losses in what is clearly a rebuilding phase with 12 seniors, 14 juniors, 23 sophomores and 51 freshmen on the roster for opening day. The Bearcats are going to be too fast for Miami and should be able to coast to an easy decision for the second straight week with Kay leading the charge.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cincinnati 42, Miami-Ohio 13
09/18 10:31:42 ET