What does the opposition think of the final matchup between Cincinnati and Rutgers? OTB reached out to SB Nation's own Down The Drive for the opponent's point of view, and I must say, these are some of the most interesting answers we've had this year. Enjoy!
Q: UCF and Louisville have been getting all the press as conference favorites this season, but the Bearcats are sitting pretty with a 4-1 conference record. The toughest part of the schedule remains to be played, but Cincinnati can find itself in the BCS with a little luck. How does this year's team compare to others in recent history?
Down The Drive: It doesn't really compare to any of the teams from the Brian Kelly era. The offense is no where near as explosive or dominating at the 2009 team's was, but it is still good the passing game in particular. The defense has better numbers, to this point, than any UC defense is recent history, but it is still something of a question mark. That being said I think this team is better than anything from the Butch Jones era, but there was a definite learning curve with this team.
Q: Tommy Tuberville was quite a surprise when he was announced as the head coach for the Bearcats. What is the fan sentiment regarding his tenure so far? How long does he stay in Cincinnati?
DTD: Fan response has been positive outside of the lunatic fringe who were convinced that the reason the Bearcats lost to Illinois and South Florida was that Tommy Tuberville golfed every single day. Never mind that he hadn't golfed outside of the bye week since July, and that the only supporting evidence of his golf addiction is that he has two country club memberships. But outside of those crazy people Tubs has gone over very well.
Personally I think he stays in Cincinnati for a good long while. Tubs wanted out of Lubbock to be sure, but Cincinnati had its own draw for him. His wife and most of her family is from southern Indiana. So coming to Cincinnati was like coming to a second home. He has said, more than once, that if he leaves Cincinnati it will be without a wife. That could all be the ramblings of a master liar. But at this stage of his career he wants for nothing either financially (he makes 2.2 million a year, has a house in Indiana and a condo on the Banks) or with the facilities, 86 million dollar renovation of Nippert Stadium. If the SEC would come calling he might listen, but what AD in that conference is making that call?
Q: How much of a surprise is Brendon Kay? He's had a bit of a roller coaster career battling for starter with Munchie, but now seems to be having his best year ever. Would he have eventually been the starter had Legaux not gone down with an injury?
DTD: Hard to say. Munchie's numbers are similar to last season, but he was playing much better before he got hurt. Kay is not really that much of a surprise in his play, he is playing slightly above his level from last year, despite a never ending assortment of bumps and bruises. The real surprise is how good the Bearcats receivers have turned out to be. Five different receivers have 250+ yards, and there is a real balance to the group. There are chain movers like Shaq Washington, deep threats like Chris Moore and Mekale McKay and guys who do a little bit of everything like Anthony McClung and Max Morrison. Four of those guys are brand new pieces, and no one expected anything near the level of production they have put up.
Q: The offense gets a good amount of press, but through Saturday, Cincinnati ranks 8th in the nation in total defense. Was that expected given the returning players?
DTD: The total defense numbers are a bit misleading. It has to be acknowledged that the Bearcats have played four of the five worst offenses in the country and that has predictably made the defense look far better than it is. In reality this defense is comfortably one of the 30 or so best in the country, but it is not an elite group, they just aren't consistent enough to be considered as such. That being said top 30 is fine for a group that had to replace three of the top four defensive ends up front, and three of the top 5 defensive backs. UC isn't suffocating week to week, and by design they give up a disconcerting amount of easy yardage underneath, but they are excellent, or maybe just lucky in the red zone.
Q: What might happen Saturday that would completely surprise Rutgers fans while being completely unsurprising to Cincinnati fans?
DTD: UC can't run. The Bearcats will come into Saturday's game boasting the top rushing attack in the AAC, Rutgers fans will leave the game wondering how that could be. The complexity of the schemes has muddled the identity of an offensive line that was really effective in 2012 with the inside/outside zone concepts. This year the Bearcats have gone to a gap scheme and the struggles have been mighty. Outside of a single outliers generated by the sieve formerly known as the Temple run defense the Bearcats haven't topped 4 yards per carry since September.
Q: Do you have a prediction for the final score?
DTD: Rutgers 24 Cincinnati 21. I don't feel great about this game, and I just assume a loss anytime the Bearcats play on the road.
So there you have it. A big thank you to Matt Opper of Down The Drive for his collaboration on this piece.