Once again the BYU Cougars will face a team they have never met on the gridiron in the Cincinnati Bearcats. As always when we have a new team to play we throw the common opponent into the mix. But in 2015 the teams have yet to play a common opponent. So that leaves us with common opponents from last year. And once again we are going to look at the games against the Connecticut Huskies and the Memphis Tigers.
Memphis 2014 ( @ CIN 41-14 L, vs BYU 55-48 L )
Memphis beat both schools last year but it was a much different story for each team. Cincinnati was beat handily by the Tigers in Cincinnati while the Cougars took the Tigers to overtime in the bowl game. For the Cougars the game was exciting to the finish and had people on the edge of their seats, while the Bearcats lost a yawner by 27.
UConn 2014 ( vs CIN 41-0 W, vs BYU 35-10 W)
Once again the UConn Huskies were outmatched and fell to two superior teams. Not only did both teams destroy UConn, they were never really close and UConn was forced to take beatings at their hands. Both games were at home for the Huskies and they still were left for dead early.
The outlook for this week will be a roller coaster ride for most of the week. In the second half of the ECU game the Cougars were hit with the injury bug once again as Tanner Mangum went out with a hamstring injury. He came back in for the final, and game winning, drive but fans will be on the edge of their seats all week as news filters out in regards to his availability for Friday night. However, once again fan expectations have been elevated as the Cougars are now 4-2 regardless of their injuries in what was a very tough opening six weeks.
The glaring positive of the night was the 45 points that were put up by the offense. The Cougars have been moving the ball in most weeks but were having a hard time finding the endzone. This week they found it over and over again. Algernon Brown was a key component of the success this week as he finished with four touchdowns, three on the ground, and 134 yards rushing. The Cougars as a team ended up with 167 yards of rushing and over 500 yards of offense in the game, once again bringing excitement back to the Cougars offense.
The game was made much closer than it should have when, in part because of a couple of injuries. We all saw how much of a hit the team took when Mangum went out, but the defense ended up giving up over 500 total yards, almost 400 through the air. Part of this can be attributed to the loss of their offensive leader, and part of it is due to the suspension of two players in the secondary. However, the big hit was when Micah Hannemann went down with a leg injury. With him out the Cougars were forced to move Kai Nacua into his spot, not the natural position for Nacua. It seems that all should return this week but the defense will need to buckle down if they want to beat Cincinnati.
The match-up to watch should be the Cougars secondary against the talented quarterbacks for the Bearcats. Hayden Moore and Gunner Kiel have led the Bearcats to almost 2000 yards passing in the first five games of the season. One of the ways they have made teams pay through the air is by spreading the ball around. Five receivers have over 200 yards receiving, with another only eight yards short of that number. The duo has thrown 12 touchdown passes, to seven different receivers. As they look for their receivers it will put the Cougars secondary in a tough position as they try and slow down a high octane offense. With most of the defense back from injuries or suspensions, the secondary should be at their best as they take on a tall task, but the question is if they can slow them down or if the game becomes a shootout.
The Keys to Watch
When the Bearcats have the ball:
Watch for the offense to put the defense to the test as they run a fast paced offense and love to see the ball in the air. However, they won't forget about the run as they still average 201 yards per the game on the ground. Watch for a big dose of running backs Tion Green and Hosey Williams as they own almost 2/3 of the teams carries and almost 2/3 of the teams rushing yards. It has yet to be determined who will start at quarterback as Kiel is coming back from an injury but will be competing for the starting job this week. Watch for the athletic and fast receivers to put pressure on the secondary as they try to get open for their quarterback.
Watch for the Cougars to have a much better pass rush than in previous weeks as they should be at, or close to, full strength. With a better pass rush, the Cougars can rush the quarterbacks into throws that can be picked off, as the Bearcats QB's already have 10 interceptions on the year. Watch for the Cougars to try rely on confusion and blitzing to force short passes that can then be dropped for short yardage.
When the Cougars have the ball:
At this point watch for Mangum to play, however it mayl be at a restricted game plan that limits his mobility. If Mangum is limited in his mobility, watch for less roll out passes and more of the quick hits to his big receivers. The Cougars will continue to throw the long ball but it will be much more selective without the ability to scramble. Watch for Brown to continue to pound the ball and force the defense to play the run, opening up the middle for the receivers.
Watch for the Bearcats to put as much pressure on Mangum as possible as they work to make sure he doesn't have time and is putting stress on his legs. As they force quick throws from the young quarterback, watch for the secondary to bump the receivers off their routes so the timing is off and passes are off target.
One of the long running traditions for the Bearcats is their band storming the field. In 1954 the band was looking for a way to spark interest with the students and band members and so the band director came up with a plan. Before kickoff the brass and woodwind band members lined up behind the top row in the stadium and after playing their music, the charged the field by running down the 60 steps with their instruments to meet the rest of the band. The fans loved it so much that it has continued on since and is a staple in the university history. For more information take a look at this piece by UC Magazine.
The Cougars and Bearcats will next meet in Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati on November 12th, 2016.
The Broadcasting Details
Time: 6:00 pm MDT
Where: Lavell Edwards Stadium-Provo, Utah
Radio(BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143
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