To help us get to know Cincinnati, we asked fellow SB Nation writer Blaine Huber a few questions about Hayden Moore and the Bearcat defense.
Vanquish The Foe: It sounds like Coach Tuberville is going to make his decision between Gunner Kiel and Hayden Moore right before the game. Statistically, both quarterbacks are very similar. What are the differences between the two signal callers?
Blaine Huber, DownTheDrive.com: Cincinnati is fortunate in that both quarterbacks play a similar game in the sense that they both have impressive arm talent and enough mobility to run some of the Bearcats' read option looks. Kiel, being a junior, brings more experience to the table and I think a firmer grasp of the mental side of the game, but Moore has shown over the past couple weeks a confidence beyond his years against quality competition. Both quarterbacks play with poise, can make all the throws, have enough mobility to be a factor scrambling and know how to lead this offense. For what it's worth, Tuberville spent the last couple weeks saying there wouldn't be a quarterback controversy when Kiel came back and was cleared to play, yet here we are, waiting for a game-time announcement. I think that speaks volumes of Moore's play this season, but also that neither quarterback limits the Cincinnati offense and both are pretty similar in what they bring to the table and what they provide for the Cincinnati offense.
Vanquish The Foe: The passing game isn't the only dangers part of the Bearcat offense, with Tion Green and Hosey Williams leading the charge. What kind running attack do these two guys bring to the table?
Blaine Huber, DownTheDrive.com: Green, Williams and Mike Boone, who is coming back from injury, make for one of the more formidable three-headed monsters you've never heard of nationally. Green is more of a power back with surprising shiftiness. He's a guy who has really developed his pass-catching skills out of the backfield too. Green is the biggest back at 230 lbs. I consider Williams to be more of the "balanced" back with great speed, power and good receiving skills himself. Boone is the opposite of Green where he brings the most speed out of the backfield, is the most polished receiving back and, despite that, seeks out contact with the ball in his hands. All three of them could be outright starters and find a great deal of success as they are all multi-faceted, play with power and have enough burst to break plays. In fact, they are so interchangeable that the coaches let them sub themselves. They have their own rotation amongst themselves where the back on the field can call one of the others on as a sub whenever they need it.
Vanquish The Foe: In their two losses this season Cincinnati has given up point totals of 34 and 53. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Bearcat defense?
Blaine Huber, DownTheDrive.com: The defense is certainly the weak phase of the game for Cincinnati. Injuries and early season struggles have forced the coaches to reshuffle the depth chart a bit, but linebacker Eric Wilson has remained a bright spot all season racking up tackle after tackle. Overall, the strength of the Cincinnati defense is that there are a number of players who can make plays. Silverberry Mouhon is a talented defensive end, safety Zach Edwards has played well and corner Leviticus Payne was playing linebacker up until a couple weeks ago until injuries forced him outside. That said, the youth that is being cycled through does result in some mental errors, although they played well against Miami (FL) in Cincinnati's last game. One major issue for Cincinnati this season has been an inability to create impactful plays defensively. Sacks have been hard to come by and the Bearcats only have two interceptions on the year. A lack of consistency at each level has also been rather problematic. Things looked much better in Cincinnati's last game, but it's still feels like a work in progress defensively.
Vanquish The Foe: Aside from Gunner Kiel, are there any key contributors that are going to return to the field this weekend?
Blaine Huber, DownTheDrive.com: Boone coming back is big. He will be rotated in at running back. Johnny Holton and Chris Moore also return at the wide receiver position. Holton and Moore are very talented receivers who are good to have back on the field.
Vanquish The Foe: BYU's defensive front seven will attempt to apply lots of pressure on the quarterback with various blitz packages. How has the Cincinnati offensive front help up so far this season?
Blaine Huber, DownTheDrive.com: Actually pretty well. They've only given up six sacks all year and one of those was in garbage time against Alabama A&M in Week 1. Cincinnati's offensive line has held up, even against some talented fronts and complicated schemes. Miami (FL) has a host of talented pass rushers and they only got to Moore twice. Temple uses one of the more complicated defensive blitz schemes you'll see at the college level, but only got home once after getting 10 sacks the week before against Penn State. BYU may bring something to the table that could complicate things, but thus far, Cincinnati's offensive line has played well.
Vanquish The Foe: BYU's special teams units have struggled with dynamic kick and punt returners. Do the Bearcats have an game-breakers on special teams?
Blaine Huber, DownTheDrive.com: Cincinnati has yet to break one on special teams, but they have a couple dynamic returners. Shaq Washington takes care of punt returns and he nearly returned a punt return against the Hurricanes. He is pretty shifty and has a nice burst. On kick returns, Holton and C. Moore are both pretty explosive. Moore is a burner with a lot of speed and Holton is a solid returner himself. Washington is probably the closest to "game-breaker" status, but all three are starting senior receivers with a lot of play-making ability with the ball in their hands.
Vanquish The Foe: How do you see the first ever meeting between these two team playing out?
Blaine Huber, DownTheDrive.com: I can't imagine anything but a high-scoring game. If Mangum plays for BYU, this could be very similar to Cincinnati's game against Memphis a couple weeks ago where it is an exciting, back and forth, high-scoring affair. The Cincinnati defense has a tall task on the road, especially if Mangum starts. The Cincinnati offense, regardless of the quarterback, is so explosive with so many weapons that they should score their fair share of points. In my min, a lot hinges on Mangum's status and Cincinnati's ability to avoid turnovers. With Mangum, it's a toss-up for me. Whoever avoids mistakes.