It's Homecoming weekend as the Cincinnati Bearcats host the Syracuse Orange for a nooner on ESPNU. The Bearcats are coming off their first conference loss against South Florida, while the Orange are coming off a huge win at West Virginia that has gotten them votes in the polls. The Orange are 2-1 in the Big East, beating South Florida and the Mountaineers. The Bearcats control their fate though, and if they run the table the Bearcats will be 3 time Big East champions. That's not really going to be easy though. The Bearcats starting QB Zach Collaros is listed as questionable, and I doubt he's going to play. That means it's Chazz Anderson time. In the last 3 seasons, Cincinnati is 10-0 starting a back up, including a pair of wins for Anderson in 2008. How do Anderson and the gang match up with the Orange? Let's take a look. Also, take a look at the interviews I conducted with a pair of favorites, Sean Keeley from Nunes Magician, and Brian from Orange 44. Many thanks to them for helping to provide good content for a change.
Record: 5-2, 2-1
Coach: Doug Marrone, 2nd season
QB: Ryan Nassib, 103-188-1,283-12 TDs-4 INTs. Nassib has played pretty well all things considered this season. It's his first year as the starter after splitting time with Greg Paulus last season. Nassib isn't incredibly accurate, his best percentage on the season has been 67%, but he set the record for TDs in a game with 5. He was only 5-15-63 against West Virginia. He's been the definition of game manager, which has been what Syracuse needed.
RB: Delone Carter suffered a hip injury that knocked him out of the West Virginia game, but is expected to play. He has 637 yards, with 5.3 yards a carry and 6 TDs. Carter went for 50 yards last season. His back up is Antwon Bailey. Bailey has 314 on 5.3 yards a carry as well, but hasn't scored this season. He had 19-94 against West Virginia last week, and he scares me a little. Bailey is also a receiving threat, with 16-181-1 TD. Both backs run hard and run well. The Syracuse line has really allowed them to shine. In both road games, they ran wild. Something to watch tomorrow.
WR: Van Chew has a funny sounding name, but there is nothing funny about how well he's played this season. He has 30-498-4 TDs. He's been held under 50 yards just once, last week, and has caught a TD in back to back games. He's the 4th leading receiver in the Big East. Alec Lemon is the second leading target. He has 22-265-3 TDs. Much of that was against Pittsburgh. TE Nick Provo gets involved quite a bit in the passing game. He's hauled in 16-180-1 TD. There are quite a few people with a handful of catches, but those 3 and Bailey get an overwhelming majority of the receptions.
OL: The Syracuse offensive line can run block very well. They help the Orange average 4.6 yards a carry. They have only given up 13 sacks for 92 yards. With the sacks taken out, Syracuse has lost around 40 yards rushing this season. I can't find a recent depth chart to tell you who the starters are, so I'll just give a tip of the hat to all of them.
DL: DE Chandler Jones is the lineman to watch. He has 37-5.5 TFL-4 sacks. He leads the team in sacks, and is second in TFL. Andrew Lewis has 18-1.5 TFL from his tackle position. Mikhail Marinovich has 14-2 TFL-1 sack from end. Brandon Sharpe rotates at end as well, and has 13-2 sacks.
LB: Derrell Smith is the leading tackler, with 59-3 TFL. He's forced 2 fumbles. Doug Hogue is another playmaker on the unit. He's got 49-4.5 TFL-2 sacks-2 INTs-1 blocked kick. The 2 INTs are tied for the team lead. Marquis Spruill is the third LB. He's got 32-6 TFL-2 sacks. The 6 TFL lead the Orange.
DB: Phillip Thomas is the man getting things done in the secondary. He's got 50-3 TFL-1 INT-3 breakups. SS Shamarko Thomas has 35-2.5 TFL-2 sacks-1 bad ass name. He's joined in the secondary by FS Mike Holmes. Holmes has 35-4 TFL-3 sacks-1 INT. Max Suter is another tackling machine in the secondary, with 30-3.5 TFL-1 sack-1 forced fumble. Jeremy Wilkes plays corner, and has 14 tackles and 1 INT. The Syracuse secondary gets after it.
Special Teams: Ross Krautman sounds like a racist name, but is a good kicker, hitting 10-11 this season. The only miss was from 43. He's hit 19-20 extra points. Rob Long is the punter. He's got a 45 yard average on the nose, with 6 touchbacks, 5 fair catches, 10 inside the 20, 12 over 50. Mike Holmes returns punts, taking them for a nice 14.8 average. Prince-Tyson Gulley, incredibly awesome name, returns kicks. He's taken them for a 23.7 yard average, which isn't too bad.
Record: 3-4, 1-1
Coach: Butch Jones, 1st season
QB: Zach Collaros, 139-225-1,918-20 TDs-4 INTs. Since young Zachary is probably not going to play, let's run down Chazz Anderson's career stats. He's 56-93-611-2 TDs-3 INTs-2 rushing TDs. Anderson has won both the games he's started as mentioned, but that was two years ago. He was the third string last year, and the back up this year. He hasn't gotten any significant playing time since the UConn blow out a couple seasons ago. He went 4-8-49 yards in the final drive against USF. He's capable of having a nice game, and let's hope he can come through.
RB: Isaiah Pead has 77-595-1 TD. For the second time this season, he was shut down. Not surprisingly, the Bearcats lost. Noel Devine ran wild on Syracuse last week, so there is hope that Pead can do the same to the Orange. John Goebel is the back up, with 26-179-3 TDs.
WR: The receivers have been killing it lately. Armon Binns has 44-683-9 TDs. DJ Woods has 40-687-6 TDs. They are by far the leading receivers in the Big East. They are the only two receivers averaging over 80 yards, both are in the 90s. They are tough to stop. Marcus 'Bones' Barnett has 17-261-2 TDs after a huge game last week. He has catches in just 4 games, and all his yards in two. Ben Guidugli rounds out the receivers list, as the TE has 14-110-1 TD.
OL: I fucked up the offensive line last week. I said Davis started, when he actually he's been benched. The OL is Griffin-Martinez-Kelce-Cobb-Hooey. They didn't run block well last week. On the season, they push for 4.6 a carry. They have given up 23 sacks for nearly a 200 yard loss. If Anderson is starting, they are going to have to give him time.
DL: Dan Giordano continues to be the best d-lineman for UC. He's got 27-7 TFL-3.5 sacks. He's tied for the team lead in TFL, leads the team in sacks, and QB hurries. Brandon Mills has challenged him as of late. He's been on fire. He has 25-4 TFL-1 sack-2 forced fumbles. Derek Wolfe is right there with them, with 25 tackles-3 TFL-2 sacks. John Hughes is not to be forgotten. He has 22-2.5 TFL.
LB: JK Schaffer is still the leading tackler for the Bearcats. He's brought people down 60 times, 2.5 for a loss with 1 INT. The half a man tackle was amazing. You should have seen it. Maalik Bomar has 44 tackles-5 TFL-1 sack-2 forced fumbles. He's continued to play well. Walter Stewart started off slow, but now has 32-7 TFL-2 sacks.
DB: Reuben Johnson has 43 tackles and 4 break ups to lead the secondary. For the 49th week, I predict he will get an INT. Drew Frey has taken a lot of flak for his coverage boo boos, but he has 24 tackles, 1.5 for loss. Wes Richardson has 23 tackles from the other safety spot. Cam Cheatham has 22 tackles-2 TFL-1 forced fumble while playing the corner spot opposite of Johnson. Pat Lambert rotates at safety, and has 22 tackles and an INT.
Special Teams: Jake Rogers is 8-10 on field goals. He's missed from 52 and 48, but he's made his last 7. He's hit 24-25 extra points. Pat O'Donnell is averaging 42.6 a punt, with 3 touchbacks, 6 fair caught and 11 inside the 20. DJ Woods is only getting 8.5 a punt return, and 21.9 a kick return. Anthony McClung came in to return kicks last week, and has 2 returns for 44 yards. I would like to see a change made there, with McClung taking over. DJ Woods is very good, but returning kicks is not something he's good at.
Let's look at the big 3 keys for the game.
- Syracuse is second in the Big East in total defense, and in passer rating. That doesn't look great for Zach Collaros, let alone Chazz Anderson. Anderson has got to stay composed (if) when he starts. The Orange have a top defense, and will take advantage of mistakes. They really got to Geno Smith last week.
- Special teams. Syracuse is near the top of the Big East in the return categories, while UC is at the bottom. Syracuse's kick coverage is the worst in the Big East. McClung or Woods needs to break a return for a big gain. And UC has to bottle up the Orange on punts.
- Pressure the QB. UC doesn't do this at all. Syracuse really doesn't get pressured, so it's going to be tough. But, pressure causes turnovers. I know this from watching other games, not Cincinnati games. The Bearcats have forced 5 turnovers this season. They got the INT against Fresno, the INT against OU, the 2 fumbles against NC State, and yeah, they have forced 4 turnovers in 3 of their 4 losses, which is odd.
Prediction: I picked a higher score than Brian did in our preview, and I think it's because there are going to be big plays. I think UC will give a couple up. I think they will bust the Orange secondary with a couple. It could really be anyone's game, but I think Cincinnati will win. They pretty much have to if they don't want this season to be a disaster. A loss puts them at 3-5, and with games against Pitt and WVU coming up, they could very well have a losing season. As someone who doesn't want to face that cold reality, I'm going to stick with a UC win.
Cincinnati 24 Syracuse 20