Cincinnati (3-1) at South Florida (0-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 5, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Raymond James Stadium (65,857) -- Tampa, Florida. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Cincinnati 2-0, USF 0-3. Away Record: Cincinnati 1-1, USF 0-1. Neutral Record: Cincinnati 0-0, USF 0-0. Conference Record: Cincinnati 0-0, USF 0-0. Series Record: Cincinnati leads, 7-3.
GAME NOTES: Following a bye week, the Cincinnati Bearcats will get back to work as they open up American Athletic Conference play on the road against the South Florida Bulls at Raymond James Stadium.
After shutting out Miami-Ohio, 14-0, to claim the Victory Bell for the eighth straight season on Sept. 21, the Bearcats were off this past weekend. The Bearcats played well in their non-conference slate, winning three of their first four games. The game on Saturday will bring a bit of normalcy in what has been a difficult few weeks for the program, as freshman offensive linemen Ben Flick was killed in a car accident just over a week ago.
South Florida was coming off a bye but the extra week of preparation didn't help against now No. 14 Miami-Florida last weekend. The Bulls were routed 49-21 by the Hurricanes to drop to 0-4 in their first season under head coach Willie Taggart. South Florida is winless despite playing three of its first four games at home.
There has not been a whole lot of parity in the all-time series between these squads, which began in 2003. Cincinnati has won seven of 10 matchups, including a 27-10 victory at Nippert Stadium a year ago.
Despite a shakeup at quarterback early on, Cincinnati has been playing well on the offensive side of the ball. The Bearcats are scoring 34.8 points per game on 479.8 yards of total offense. The Bearcats currently rank third in the league in total offense.
With Munchie Legaux sidelined for the year with a knee injury, Brendon Kay now has the starting quarterback job to himself. Kay has been solid, if not overly productive under center, throwing for 576 yards and four touchdowns on 67.6 percent passing, while being intercepted twice. Both of those interceptions came against Miami-Ohio, while he threw all four touchdown passes against FCS foe Northwestern State.
Four different receivers have double-digit receptions for the Bearcats, led by Shaq Washington (19 catches for 162 yards). Max Morrison (11 receptions, 208 yards, two TDs) leads the team in yards, while Chris Moore (11 receptions, 158 yards, TD) and Anthony McClung (10 receptions, 144 yards, TD) are also solid contributors. McClung did not play against Miami-Ohio but should be able to go on Saturday.
The Bearcats have had a nice balance on offense, averaging 222.8 yards per game on the ground as well. Hosey Williams and Ralph David Abernathy form an extremely productive tandem. Williams leads the team in yards (308) and touchdowns (four), while Abernathy has picked up 271 yards and a two scores on a team-high 60 carries.
Cincinnati was absolutely dominant on defense against Miami-Ohio, allowing just seven rushing yards and just 87 yards overall, the lowest total in a game since 2004. With an effort like that under their belt the Bearcats are ranked second in the AAC in total defense (253.5 ypg). Cincinnati has been especially strong on third down, allowing teams to convert on just 29 percent of their chances.
The linebacking unit anchors the Bearcats with Greg Blair leading the team in tackles (25), while Nick Temple has a team-best 6.0 tackles for loss and two sacks.
For USF there has been only one bright spot on offense. Running back Marcus Shaw has been stellar, rushing for 525 yards and two touchdowns on 77 carries. His 6.8 yards per carry average is the third best mark in the conference, while he is second in yards per game.
Steven Bench got the start against Miami-Florida under center. The Bulls have really struggled to find the right signal caller with Bench (21 of-51, 317 yards, two TDS, two INTs), Bobby Eveld (17-of-47, 205 yards, two TDs, INT) and Matt Floyd (9-of-20, 72 yards, two INTs) all struggling.
The struggles at quarterback has had a detrimental effect on the production of talented receiver Andre Davis, who has just 14 receptions for 191 yards and a touchdown to lead the Bulls in each category.
The Bulls defense has held up its end of the bargain for the most part. USF is letting up 364.2 yards per game and has forced nine turnovers. Having DeDe Lattimore (40 tackles) helps but there hasn't been much of a pass rush from the team overall (three sacks).
Kay has proven that he can limit his mistakes enough to keep Cincinnati in games. He should find even more success against the Bulls, especially with McClung back. Cincinnati's linebackers will pose enough of a threat to slow Shaw, which will force the Bulls to pass more than they like. If both of those things happen it will be bad news for the Bulls.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cincinnati 33, South Florida 17
10/02 10:38:31 ET