(21) Cincinnati (5-0) at Toledo (6-1)
Saturday, October 20, 7:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Phil Neuffer, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: A matchup of in-state foes will have added importance with both squads riding winning streaks, as the No. 21 Cincinnati Bearcats and the Toledo Rockets collide at the Glass Bowl.
With a dominating 49-17 win over FCS foe Fordham, Cincinnati improved to 6-0 this season and moved up to No. 21 in the most recent top-25 poll. Dating back to last season the Bearcats have won eight straight games. The win was also the 24th straight at Nippert Stadium against a non-conference foe. Cincinnati is 5-0 overall this season, the first time the Bearcats have accomplished that feat since 2009.
Toledo is also enjoying a rather successful run with a 6-1 overall record. The six wins have come following a 24-17 decision on the road to Arizona on opening weekend. The 6-1 start is the best for the Rockets since 2005. Toledo has been especially impressive on offense in the last two games, scoring at least 50 points in each game.
Although they are only separated by a little over 200 miles, the Bearcats and Rockets have only faced off six times on the gridiron. The last meeting came during the 2011 Motor City Bowl which ended in a 23-16 victory for Toledo. Cincinnati has not played at the Glass Bowl since 1993.
The Bearcats have risen a high-octane offense to its early success. The Bearcats lead the Big East in both points (37.0) and total yards (465.4 ypg) this season. The Bearcats have also made a habit of breaking off big plays with a conference-leading five plays of 50 or more yards, three of which went for more than 70. Those types of plays have helped Cincinnati average a conference best 6.8 yards per play.
"It is all about finding a rhythm in our offense. It's about finding a rhythm, playing our tempo. We want to play fast," quarterback Munchie Legaux said.
Legaux has improved each week as a passer with his 262 yards and 62.5 completion percentage against Fordham his best marks since he completed 74.1 percent of his passes against Delaware State and threw for 376 yards against Virginia Tech. Legaux has also thrown 11 touchdowns to only three interceptions. The junior has the ability to make plays with his legs as well, although he has only 81 yards rushing after a 117-yard effort in week one against Pittsburgh.
Legaux has not keyed in on one receiver in particular this season with four different players having at least 10 catches and 207 yards. Kenbrell Thompkins (16 receptions, 238 yards) is the leader in receptions and yards, while running back Ralph David Abernathy leads in touchdown receptions with three.
George Winn has been an effective rusher as the team's primary back this season, amassing at least 75 yards in every game this season. Winn has a total of 521 yards and four touchdowns on 81 carries. Abernathy has been solid as a backup with 147 yards on 28 carries.
Despite having only the sixth best defense in terms of yards allowed (352.2 ypg) this season in the Big East, Cincinnati has limited opponents on the scoreboard. Cincinnati has the second best scoring defense (14.4 ppg) in the conference. Cincinnati has accomplished this feat by playing best in key situations. Teams have converted only 32.8 percent of their attempts on third downs into first downs, while scoring on only 60 percent of their red zone trips. Both of those marks are second in the Big East.
Greg Blair (39) and Maalik Bomar (38) have manned the linebacking spots effectively, ranking first and second respectively, in tackles. Walter Stewart (5.0 sacks) has been the only real pass rusher on the squad, while Camerron Cheatham has had a nose for the ball with two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Like Cincinnati, Toledo has a very impressive offensive attack that has put points on the board with frequency. The Rockets are second in the Mid-American Conference in both scoring (36.4 ppg) and total offense (475.0 ypg). Those numbers jumped significantly after Toledo put up season-highs of 52 points and 665 yards of total offense in a win against Eastern Michigan last weekend. Toledo has now reached the 500-yard mark three times this season.
A impressive pass-catching display from Bernard Reedy was the highlight of the win against Eastern Michigan. Reedy caught a season-high 11 passes for 237 yards (also a season high) and also brought in a pair of touchdowns. Reedy now has 666 yards receiving this season and 52 receptions which are the third best marks in the MAC. Reedy is paired with Alonzo Russell, who has also had a remarkably productive season (33 receptions, 608 yards).
Receivers are nothing without someone throwing the ball to them and this season Terrance Owens has excelled in doing so. Owens has completed 65.8 percent of his passes, for 1,900 yards, 12 touchdowns and only three interceptions. His 151.6 pass efficiency rating is the best in the MAC. Owens can also create in the run game, with two games of more than 60 yards rushing this season.
Owens has not been called on to rush too often thanks to the production of running back David Fluellen. Fluellen has piled up 792 yards and nine touchdowns on 136 carries this season. He has been especially productive of late, with three straight games of 100 yards or more, including a 24-carry, 188-yard effort against Eastern Michigan.
On defense is where Toledo has faltered at times this season. The Rockets are only ninth in the MAC in total defense (477.9 ypg) and sixth in points allowed (28.1 pg). With that in mind head coach Matt Campbell is well aware of the challenge facing his squad against Cincinnati.
"It'll be a great test for our football team," Campbell said while maintaining a need for the Rockets to stay true to their identity. "I think we for 90 percent of the season we've played with what we do and who we are defensively and I certainly think we won't stray away from that."
Dan Molls will be at the center of the defense's gameplan to contain the Bearcats. Molls has a NCAA-leading 89 tackles this season. Robert Bell (57 tackles) has also been solid, while Jayrone Elliott (five sacks) and Ben Pike (four sacks) have produced well in the pass rush department.
Offense should not be in short supply in this game with two potent offenses going head to head. The difference will come on defense and who can get the most of what will likely be rare stops. Cincinnati has the edge there and the edge what could turn into a shootout.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cincinnati 40, Toledo 33
10/17 10:54:59 ET