Tomorrow night at 7 only on ESPN3, the Cincinnati Bearcats made the their first trip in 19 years to the Glass Bowl to face the Toledo Rockets. This is a very tricky game. It's technically the first road game of the season. Technically besides playing Virginia Tech in the stadium of the Washington Redskins was a UC home game. This, this is the first road game. This is the second biggest non-conference game of the season for the Bearcats. It comes with a short week ahead for a massive Big East showdown with Louisville on Friday night. I don't think you can write LOOK AHEAD GAME in big enough font. I'm not thinking Cincinnati is going to go up to the Glass Bowl and lose, but this game has danger, Will Robinson written all over it. Especially if the Bearcats come out as flat as they have lately. The first half against Fordham was flat, same with Miami, same with Virginia Tech. Remember they were losing the Tech game. Same with Delaware State. The only game they started fast was Pittsburgh. It would be great to get into a swing like that tomorrow night. It's not a conference game, but it would be an absolute deflating loss going into what could be the highest Big East profile game of the season.
Coach: Butch Jones 19-11
Rank: 18/21/21 BCS
Vs Toledo: 4-2
Last Meeting: 16-23 L 2001 Motor City Bowl
MAC Win Streak: 10
Spread: 6.5 favorite
Leading Passer: Munchie Legaux 81-144, 1,208, 11 TDs, 3 INTs
Leading Rusher: George Winn 81-521-4 TDs
Leading Receiver: Kenbrell Thompkins 16-238-1 TD
Quarterbacks: This is a pretty big game for the Cincinnati starting quarterback Munchie Legaux. He's turned it on in the 3rd quarter of the last 2 wins. He's turned it off in the second quarter of those games. He was generally fine against Fordham, but threw 7 incomplete passes in a row. Toledo has picked off over 1 pass a game this season. Now is not the time for a shaky Munchie game. If he's playing well, Cincinnati should have no trouble. I'm banking on a great game with his arm and his legs from number 4.
Running Backs: The Bearcat run game last week was a group effort. The Bearcat run game this week should revolve more around the workhorse George Winn. Winn had a solid effort last week. He's averaging over 100 yards a game this season. If he kept up this pace for the rest of the year, Winn would have a 1,350 yard season. Toledo has been run on this season. Winn could crack 100 again. Ralph David Abernathy IV is the third leading rusher with 147 yards and the third leading receiver with 210 yards. He's gotta get the ball at least 10 times tomorrow night. I don't expect much from anyone else.
Receivers: UC has 4 receivers who have over 200 yards. Kenbrell Thompkins leads the way with 238, Travis Kelce has 222, RDA IV 210 and Damon Julian 207. At the beginning of the season, I don't think anyone would have guessed 3 of those names. I don't know what's up with Anthony McClung. He didn't play last week. He's an OR on the depth chart with Danny Milligan this week. Maybe it's Butch Jones keeping Toledo guessing. Maybe there is something more behind McClung's injury. Maybe Butch Jones is just caught up by #Thrilligan.
Offensive Line: Cincinnati averages 5.7 yards a rush, 8.4 yards per pass for a total of 6.8 yards a play. That kind of offensive momentum has been provided by the very solid Bearcats offensive line. The group has seen no change in the starters the last 3 weeks. At left tackle there is Eric Lefeld, Austen Bujnoch at left guard, Dan Sprague at center, Sam Longo at right guard and Parker Ehinger has started at right tackle. It's safe to say that Ehinger has earned his spot as a starter. He started the last 4 weeks, he was at right guard the other game, and he's played well. The potential with him is higher than it is with Sean Hooey.
Defensive Line: The defensive line has a lot of OR in the depth chart, but for the last 3 weeks they've trotted out the same 4 men. It won't change this week either. Walter Stewart and Dan Giordano are the ends and they've started every game. Camaron Beard and Jordan Stepp have started each of the last 3 weeks with Adam Dempsey and John Williams seeing some action. Stewart is having a great year, 22 tackles, 7 for loss, 5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles. He's got the stats that Giordano is missing out on. Giordano has 17 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 7 hurries. Until last week, he couldn't quite get there in time. Williams has been the best tackle. He has 16 stops, 3.5 for loss, 2.5 sacks. Beard has 3.5 tackles for loss. Stepp may start, but Williams plays more. Stepp by the way has 2 tackles for loss and 1 sack.
Linebackers: The B's lead the LBs and the team in tackles. Greg Blair has 39, 2 for loss, to go with 2 INTs. Maalik Bomar has 38, 1 for loss, with a pass broken up. While those two have made roughly 23% of the Bearcat tackles, everything hasn't been perfect lately. Miami and Fordham really went after the linebackers in pass coverage. Toledo is going to do the same. You might have noticed that the stats for each have been moving like they were a few weeks ago. Teams are game planning around them now. It's time to pick it up. Nick Temple hasn't been on the field as much as the B's, but he's made 18 tackles with a sack. I've been impressed with him lately.
Defensive Backs: The secondary has been making the big plays the past 2 weeks. They scored the first TD in both games on big plays. Cameron Cheatham took a pick back against Miami and his corner mate Deven Drane took a fumble back last week. Cheatham is one of 3 Bearcats with 2 INTs this season. Drane has 1 INT and the fumble recovery. Both have 14 tackles. Arryn Chenault is the 3rd Bearcat with a pair of INTs. He's made 27 tackles, 1 for loss. He's also recovered a fumble. He's always buzzing around the ball. I'm a fan. Drew Frey should be back to starting this week. He sat out both games against FCS teams. Malcolm Murray has been decent in his place with 15 tackles. After Miami and Fordham took to the air on the Cats, it's only going to get more intense the next week. Toledo can throw and Teddy Bridgewater waits on Friday night.
Special Teams: The long snapper Kirk Willis will continue to do all the snapping to Pat O'Donnell, who punts and holds. O'Donnell is averaging 43.4 yards a punt. Opponents are averaging 6.7 yards a return. 7 of POD's 17 punts have gone inside the 20. The Golden Toe Tony Miliano is 6-9 on field goals. He's missed 3 of the 5 longest attempts of the season, 41, 49 and 47 last week. He has hit from 46 and 43. He's 23-24 on extra points. Danny Milligan has returned punts for 20.7 yards a pop thanks to a 42 yard return last week. Anthony McClung is averaging 12.8 on punts. RDA IV is getting 29 yards a kick return.
Coach: Matt Campbell 7-1
Vs Ranked Teams at home: 4-1
Leading Passer: Terrance Owens 148-225, 1,900 yards, 12 TDs, 3 INTs
Leading Rusher: David Fluellen 136-792-9 TDs
Leading Receiver: Bernard Reedy 52-666-5 TDs
Quarterbacks: Terrance Owens came in the second half of the Arizona game and has torn it up since. You can see his stats above. He's completed at least 60% of his passes the last 4 games. His 3 INTs have all come in the past 2 weeks. Owens has gone over 300 yards 3 times this season. Last week he went for 401. Toledo had run that weird QB split thing with Austin Dantin last season, but that has been dropped because Owens is playing very well. And Dantin was 10-25 for 63 yards against Arizona. Owens is very accurate. The Bearcats are going to have to force him into turnovers. They also have to watch him because he might take off. He's the 3rd leading rusher with 192 yards. He's second on the team with 4 rushing TDs. He's a dual threat.
Running Backs: Toledo has run the ball 272 times, 136 of those have gone to David Fluellen. He's averaging 113 yards a game. He's averaging 5.8 yards a carry. He's rushed for over 100 yards the last 3 games, scoring 6 TDs in the process. Arizona held Fluellen to 72 yards and 3.6 yards a carry. Fluellen can hit some home runs. He ran for 213 yards on 21 carries against Western Michigan a few weeks ago. Fluellen also does it in the passing game. He is 3rd on the team in receptions and yards with 21 for 165. Cassius McDowell is the back up. He's averaging 4.7 yards a carry. He has 271 yards and 1 TD this season. McDowell also gets out in the passing game. He's the 4th leading receiver with 16 catches, 148 yards and 1 TD.
Receivers: Toledo's leading receiver Bernard Reedy has 11 catches for 237 yards on the season. Oh wait, that's just what he did last week. Reedy has 52 catches for 666 yards and 5 TDs. He's 11th in the nation in receptions per game with over 7. He's going to be a huge target. Containing him will be a huge factor if the Bearcats are going to win. The other receiver is Alonzo Russell. He's only averaging 18.1 yards a catch. He has 34-615, 3 TDs. As you can read in the RB paragraph, Fluellen and McDowell are the 3rd and 4th leading receivers. Dwight Macon has 12-84, Justin Olack 9-131 and Cordale Scott 7-94-2 TDs. Think of it as Toledo has 4 very good players on offense. Those 4 very good players get the ball a lot. It's working because Toledo is 6-1. Also, I know a girl who knows Justin Olack so it's almost like I know him. Hi, Courtney.
Offensive Line: The Rocket line has helped the team average 4.9 yards a rush, 7.7 yards a pass for 6.3 yards a play. Toledo has given up 16 sacks. Something to watch for. The line is left tackle Josh Hendershot, left guard Jeff Myers, center Zac Kerin, right guard Greg Mancz and right tackle AJ Lindeman.
Defensive Line: The Toledo front starts ends Hank Keighley and Ben Pike with tackles Elijah Jones and Phil Lewis. Pike is called a Leo. No word on if he is a Leo. Elijah Jones is the one to watch. He has a group high 24 tackles, a team high 5.5 for loss, 1.5 sacks, 2 hurries, 1 forced fumble and he has an INT. Keighley has 18 tackles, 5 for loss. He had 1 sack and forced a fumble. Lewis had 16 tackles, 1.5 sacks and he recovered a fumble. Pike has 15 tackles, just 5 solo, but 3 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Jayrone Elliot is a rush end. He has 4.5 sacks to lead the Rockets.
Linebackers: Vladimir Emilien is the Star, by position, Dan Molls the Mike and Robert Bell the Will. Dan Molls is the star by statistics. He has 89 tackles, 3.5 for loss, 1 sack, 1 INT, 3 passes broken up and 1 fumble recovery. He's very good. He would be second on team in tackles just with his 48 solo stops. Bell is second on the team in tackles with 57. 1.5 of them are for loss. He's also broken up 3 passes and recovered a fumble. Junior Sylvestre has 26 tackles, even though he's listed as the back up to Emilien. Trent Voss has 22 tackles, 2,5 for loss, 1.5 sacks. Emilien has 17 tackles and an INT.
Defensive Backs: The Toledo secondary have been ball hawks this season. They have a Cheatham at corner, but Cheatham is the first name of Cheatham Norrils. The other corner is Byron Best. Jermaine Robinson and Mark Singer are the safeties. I mentioned earlier Toledo had 10 INTs, well 3 have come from Jermaine Robinson. He has broken up a team high 7 passes. On top of all that, he has 45 tackles, 1 for loss and he forced a fumble. He's good. Norrils has 42 tackles. He's picked off 1 pass and broken up 3 others. He might have so many tackles because people throw on him a lot. Singer is second on the team with 2 INTs. He's also broken up 3 passes to go with his 31 tackles. Chris Dukes has 16 tackles as an additional corner. Best has played in just 5 games. He has 2 forced fumbles to lead the team.
Special Teams: Matt Wall is the long snapper. Vince Penza is the only man he will snap to, because he is the punter and the holder. Penza is averaging 41.7 yards a punt. He's put 12 of 30 inside the 20. Toledo's opponents average 6.1 yards a punt return. Penza holds kicks for Jeremiah Detmer. Detmer is 13-18 on field goals, missing at least once from every distance he's attempted. He's had 1 blocked. Detmer is 30-30 on extra points. Bernard Reedy returns kicks and punts. He has taken both back for TDs this season. He is averaging 13.8 yards a punt return and 26 yards a kick return.
Toledo is averaging 44 points and 503 yards of total offense the last 4 games, according to the game notes. Their wild 52-47 win last week skewed that a tad. But the fact remains this is a team that can put up points in a hurry. We've seen lesser teams than Toledo move the ball and move the ball well on the Bearcats defense.
I harped on the fast start a lot in the opening paragraph, but it begs repeating now. Cincinnati has to take the Glass Bowl out of the game. This is the biggest home game of the season for the Rockets. They are going to be pumped. The fans will love seeing an in state team come sauntering in. It's up to the Bearcats to start the game by slapping them in the face and showing who is boss.
I want to see something from one of the receivers. Toledo can be had in the passing game. Kenbrell Thompkins was the man against Virginia Tech. Travis Kelce had 100 yards last week. It's time for someone to go HAM. Toledo's safeties take a lot of chances. The Rockets are giving up over 310 passing yards a game. Someone needs to break them down.
What could open that up is the run game. I expect George Winn to have a very solid 18 carries, 100 yards, 1 TD tomorrow night. He can do it. I think Munchie runs for around 40 yards, RDA for 20 and maybe a Poteat carry or two gets 10. That's 170 rushing yards being conservative. That should be enough to win.
As mentioned, Toledo has given up 16 sacks in 7 games. If the Bearcats can get pressure and get Owens off rhythm, that's when the corners can make big plays. I would love to see Giordano start turning more of those hurries into sacks.
On a scale of 1-10, I'm a solid 6 on the worry meter. I think there is a chance for upset. But I also believe that Butch Jones has been jamming that in the player's heads all week. He's from the MAC, he knows what it's like to play there. I'm assuming he knows how to win there. Even though Cincinnati has lost the last 2 meetings to Toledo, they are better than the Rockets. While the chances of getting caught in a look ahead game are high, that snap and clear, every game is critical approach of Jones should work here.