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Know Thy Foe: Cincinnati Bearcats

The two best programs in The American the last five seasons face off one more time before joining the Big 12 together

Cincinnati v Tulane
Cincinnati Head Coach Luke Fickell
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

We continue previewing all 12 opponents the UCF Knights will face in 2022 with the Cincinnati Bearcats, who broke the College Football Playoff’s G5 glass ceiling last season.

Game 8: Cincinnati Bearcats

Kickoff: Saturday, October 29th (Time TBD), FBC Mortgage Stadium


Series: Cincinnati leads 4-3. The Bearcats have won three in a row. UCF’s last win was the College Gameday game in 2018.

Last Meeting: Last year — Cincinnati won 56-21 at Nippert Stadium

It was all Bearcats from start to finish. Even though UCF did a good job on Desmond Ridder (13/23, 140 yards, one TD, 14 rushing yards), Jerome Ford was the real problem with 189 yards and 4 TDs. Cincy ran for 336 yards (8.0 per rush) on the day.

About the Bearcats

This Season: Picked to finish 2nd in The American by one point. The Bearcats did, however, get the most first-place votes in The American’s Preseason Media Poll.

Last Season: 13-1, 8-0 in The American

It was a historic year for the Bearcats. They started at 8-0 in the AP poll, ran the table with only two games being decided by single digits, beat Houston in the AAC Championship, and became the first non-A5 team to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff as the #4 team in the nation.

That run ended at the hands of #1 Alabama in the Cotton Bowl, 27-6, but Luke Fickell and the Bearcats extended the path UCF paved in 2017.

Cincinnati’s 2021 Team Stats and Rankings

Category Offense AAC Rank FBS Rank Defense AAC Rank FBS Rank
Category Offense AAC Rank FBS Rank Defense AAC Rank FBS Rank
Rush Yards 173.3 4th 56th 149.1 5th 62nd
Pass Yards 241.2 6th 58th 169.2 1st 2nd
Total Yards 414.5 5th 58th 318.4 2nd 10th
Points 36.4 2nd 13th 16.9 1st 5th

Key Stats: 1st in FBS in Pass Efficiency Defense (103.36), 4th in Red Zone Defense (69%).

Head Coach: Luke Fickell

Playoff Semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic - Cincinnati v Alabama
Luke Fickell
Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

The long-time Ohio State defensive assistant won his third AAC Coach of the Year Award last season and multiple national Coach of the Year awards in 2021, including the Bear Bryant Award, Eddie Robinson Award, and the Home Depot Coach of the Year. It was also the first year of a multi-year extension he signed that ostensibly will keep him in Cincinnati through 2026, well into the Bearcats’ foray into the Big 12, unless someone decides to throw at least $3.5 million at Cincinnati prior to January 1, 2023.

He has been pursued by and turned down several Power Five schools, including Michigan State, Florida State, West Virginia, and Maryland.

Key Players

#6 Ben Bryant — QB

Redshirt Senior | 6-3, 220 lbs | 2021 (at Eastern Michigan): 279/408 (68.4%), 3,121 yards, 14 TD/7 INT

Bryant is an interesting case, having played at Cincinnati as Desmond Ridder’s backup for three seasons from 2018-2020 before transferring to Eastern Michigan as the starter. This season he returned to Cincinnati as a graduate transfer and beat our Evan Prater to take over for Ridder, who is now with the Atlanta Falcons.

Bryant led EMU to 7 wins for only the third time since 1990 and a bowl game for just the fifth time in the program’s 48-year history, despite being sacked an astounding 40 times last season.

#20 Deshawn Pace — LB

Junior | 6-2, 215 lbs | 2021: 94 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions

Cincinnati v Tulane
Deshawn Pace
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Pace is a Bednarik Award watch-lister and true havoc-creator in both run and pass defense. Some sites list him as a safety but Cincinnati’s site has him as a linebacker. Either way, he’s the top returner on a defense that has to replenish after six guys went in this April’s NFL Draft.

Other Stuff To Know

  • After winning the last three against the Knights, Cincinnati is now the only AAC team that UCF has a losing record against (3-4).
  • The Knights have lost three in a row to the Bearcats since the 2018 College Gameday game.
  • Two of Cincinnati’s wins over UCF have been by three points. In the other two, they’ve scored 50+ points.

Let’s enjoy this again:

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