Tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 pm eastern on ESPNU, the Cincinnati Bearcats travel to Washington DC for a 'neutral site/home' game against the 25th ranked Virginia Tech Hokies. The game was bought out by FedEx Field for 3.5 million dollars. That is a nice chunk of change, but it also puts the Bearcats at a big disadvantage if you believe in the power of homefield advantage. Vegas certainly does. That's why the Bearcats are 6.5 underdogs to the Hokies. Virginia Tech isn't ranked in every poll, just the AP. They are coming off a dominant win over Bowling Green. The teams have one common opponent, Pittsburgh. Cincinnati smashed Pittsburgh at home in the season opener. Virginia Tech was smashed at Pittsburgh the following week. While it seems easy to compare the teams based off that one game, you can't actually do it. The game was nearly a month ago. Cincinnati has had just as many bye weeks as they've had games played in that time. The lack of games for the Bearcats could be an advantage and it could be a disadvantage for Cincinnati. I'll touch on that later in the Paw Points. For now, let's see how the Bearcats and the Hokies shake out.
Coach: Butch Jones 16-11
Vs Virginia Tech: 4-5
Last Meeting: 2009 Orange Bowl (20-7 L)
Series Neutral Site Record: 1-1
Last UC Win: 1995 16-0
Leading Passer: Munchie Legaux 34-55, 61.8%, 413 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs
Leading Rusher: George Winn 35 carries, 242 yards, 2 TDs
Leading Receiver: Ralph David Abernathy 7 catches, 95 yards, 2 TDs
Quarterbacks: Munchie Legaux is the duel threat starter for the Bearcats. Legaxus is second on the Bearcarts in rushing yards. He has 14 attempts for 142 yards. He has the best yards per carry on the team as you can see. That's even more impressive because sacks count against rushing yards for quarterbacks. Legaux was the leading rusher in the Bearcats victory over Pittsburgh. A lot will be made of turnovers. In his last outing, Legaux turned the ball over 4 times. 3 of them were because of decisions and choices he made, one of them was because he was sacked. It is very safe to say that Cincinnati will lose if Legaux turns the ball over 4 times.
Running Backs: The Beracats running game could be challenge by the Virginia Tech front 7, but no front 7 has been a challenge to George Winn. Winn has ran for 242 yards and 2 TDs on nearly 7 yards a carry. He has more than double the carries of Jameel Poteat and should see many of the early carries tomorrow. Winn has lost only 7 yards this season. Jameel Poteat has the second most carries on the team with 16. He's ran for 69 yards, 4.3 a carry. He has yet to bust out like the other backs. Ralph David Abernathy IV saw an increase in carries against Delaware St. He's run for 72 yards. As mentioned, he's the leading receiver in terms of catches, yards and touchdowns. Expect him to be on the field when UC needs to make a big play.
Receivers: The receivers for the Bearcats have yet to break out. At all. They've shown the ability to make some plays, but none of them have taken over a game. The closest to doing that is the best receiver on the roster, Anthony McClung. UC has tried to get McClung involved in different ways. He has 6 catches for 75 yards and 1 TD. They've used screens, long passes, short passes, intermediate routes all to get the ball to him. He also has 1 ill advised run play. Kenbrell Thompkins, 5-70, seemingly has only been utilized on deep patterns. Damon Julian, 4-62-1, may have Wally Pipped Alex Chisum, 1-7, with his impressive game against Delaware St. But that was a Delaware St. I think Julian has potential, but we've seen what Chisum can do on a big stage. But then again, that was last season. Someone in the group, including Travis Kelce (3-47), needs to step up. Pitt went deep against Tech with great success. The Bearcats have the talent to do the same. It's just if they can put it together.
Offensive Line: The Bearcat front 5 from left to right are Eric Lefeld, Austen Bujnoch, Dan Sprague, Sam Longo OR Parker Ehinger and Sean Hooey. Ehinger played a lot against Delaware State and he played well enough to get into a position battle. Longo was the full starter, on the depth chart at least, 2 weeks ago. I'm hoping they both play to kick some ass and we can't tell who is in the game. The Bearcat line has only 1 penalty so far. They've given up 3 sacks. UC averages 6.5 yards a rush, 7.5 yards per pass for 6.9 yards a play. The line has been outstanding this season. They are in for a major test, but we have no reason to doubt they can't be up for it.
Defensive Line: Dan Giordano has gotten off to a very nice start. He's made 12 tackles, 0.5 sacks and put 3 hurries on opposing QBs. He leads the team in hurries. Walter Stewart leads the team in sacks and tackles for loss. He's got 3.5 TFL and 2 sacks. He's also forced a fumble with one of his 11 tackles. Those two have raised hell from the end position. John Williams has clogged the middle with 8 tackles, 2 TFL and 1 sack. Adam Dempsey has 1 tackle and is the other starter. Brandon Mills is a rush end who has done just that with 1 sack and 1 hurry.
Linebackers: The surprise of the defense to me has been the play of Greg Blair. He has 17 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 break up and 1 hurry. He has not only taken over the middle linebacker role, he's fit right in with the excellent middle linebacker play we've been privy to as Bearcat fans. If you counted his solo tackles only, Blair would be 5th on the team with 9. Same with his assisted tackles. There is some question if Blair can keep it up, but that's why we watch. Maalik Bomar has played very well. He has 13 total tackles, 1 of those was for loss. He hasn't been talked about as much, but Bomar keeps progressing. Nick Temple has 6 tackles and 1 sack. He's the odd man out when UC goes with the DB heavy defense. Temple is a very good special teams player though.
Defensive Backs: It would be hard to say that anyone in the secondary has stood out more than Arryn Chenault. He's tied for 4th on the team in tackles with 11, 1 is for a loss. He picked off his first career pass against Delaware St. He's been a nice find at safety. The corners, Cameron Cheatham and Deven Drane, have played well. Cheatham has 7 tackles, 1 for loss. Drane leads the team in passes broken up with 3. Drew Frey had 5 tackles against Pitt. He missed last week but is back in the lineup. There seems to be a little battle brewing at the nickel spot. Chris Williams has 4 tackles, but so does Aaron Roberson. Roberson has 2 of those tackles for a loss, 1 of them a sack, and he forced a huge fumble against Delaware St. I've been impressed with Roberson.
Special Teams: Pat O'Donnell is the UC punter. He's averaging 41.7 yards a punt. 2 of his 7 kicks have been inside the 20. 2 have been touchbacks, which kills the net some. He kicks off as well. 8 of his 12 kickoffs have been touchbacks, which is a better stat. Anthony McClung has handled punt returns. He has 8 for 131 yards, a 16.4 yard average. Yes, a UC punt returner can average double digits. Ralph David Abernathy IV is getting 31.3 yards a kick return. The UC long snapper is Kirk Willis.
The Golden Toe Tony Miliano is the Bearcats leading scorer with 15 points. He's 3-3 on field goals with a long of 46. He is 6-7 on extra points. He's also -
- the leading scorer off the field.
Coach: Frank Beamer 212-99-1
Road Record: 0-1
At FedEx Field: 0-2 (Ls in 2004 and 2011)
Leading Passer: Logan Thomas 61-118, 51.7%, 851 yards, 7 TDs, 4 INTs
Leading Rusher: Michael Holmes 35 carries, 151 yards, 3 TDs
Leading Receiver: Marcus Davis 14 catches, 274 yards, 1 TD
Quarterbacks: Logan Thomas is one of the better QBs in the ACC, maybe the nation, in terms of talent, but he's not gotten off the to the best start. After 2 weeks of completing over 55% of his passes, Thomas has been at 45% and 42% the last two weeks. He was just 11-26 against Bowling Green, but threw 2 TDs. He's thrown a TD pass in every game. His 4 INTs have come in the last 2 weeks, 3 against Pitt, 1 BG. He looks deep and has completed a pass of at least 30 yards in every game this season. Thomas has been sacked twice in every game. That's why he has a team high 44 rushing attempts. He's second on the team with 119 yards. He led the team with 15 rushes against Bowling Green and was second with 65 yards. He's a threat with his legs. He had 40 yards against Georgia Tech. He's a big, physical player who could give UC fits. Or he could play into their hands.
Running Backs: Virginia Tech has had a lot of trouble getting someone going on the ground outside of last week. Michael Holmes has gotten the most carries for a back and has the most yards at 151, but he has the lowest yards per carry at 4.3. Holmes has lost 20 yards on his carries, so you would think UC has a shot at stopping him for some losses. Tony Gregory was the leading rusher last week with 11 carries for 68 yards. He has 16 carries for 96 yards overall this season. JC Coleman has 18 carries for 99 yards, 5.5 yards a pop. Martin Scales is getting about 3 carries a game, is averaging 5.2 a rush and has 1 TD. Coleman and Gregory both have 2 receptions, so no one is a threat to make a catch. We should expect a lot of Holmes and Thomas, but anyone else could come in and maybe make a big play.
Receivers: Marcus Davis is the big play threat for the Hokies. He has 14 catches, 274 yards, 1 TD. The TD was an 85 yard reception. Thomas' eye goes to Davis the most, so the Bearcats secondary has someone to key on. Corey Fuller has 12 catches for 184 yards and a score. He had 82 yards against Georgia Tech. Dyrell Roberts has 12-171-1 TD. He has seen an uptick in yards every week so far this season. The receivers fall off a cliff at this point. Demitri Knowles caught a 42 yard TD against Georgia Tech, Randall Dunn had 39 yards and a score against Austin Peay, and Ryan Malleck caught a TD last week. When the ball is in the air, it's going to 1 of 3 guys.
Offensive Line: From left tackle to right tackle the Virginia Tech line consists of: Nick Becton, Matt Arkema, Andrew Miller, Michael Via and Vinston Painter. They have not been a great unit so far this season. Tech is averaging 4.1 yards a carry, 7.1 yards a pass for a total of 5.5 yards a play. They have lost 121 yards on the ground. 42 of those have been on the 8 sacks of Logan Thomas. Virginia Tech has given up 26 tackles for loss. That's resulted in 97 lost yards. The line play has been less than stellar.
Defensive Line: The Hokies are going to throw a rotation at you, just like Cincinnati does. The ends are JR Collins, Corey Marshall and James Gayle. The tackles are Derrick Hopkins, Luther Maddy and Antoine Hopkins. Derrick Hopkins is the leading tackler of the unit with 20. Collins has 17, Marshall 11, Gayle 8, Antonie Hopkins 6. Tyrel Wilson has 12 as a reserve and is probably the best of the bunch. As a unit, hey get after it. Wilson leads the team with 3.5 tackles for loss, Collins has 3, Gayle 2.5 and D. Hopkins 2.5. Wilson is tied for the team lead with James Gayle. Both have 2 sacks. Collins has 6 hurries. Maddy, Gayle and D. Hopkins all have 4.
Linebackers: The star linebacker for the Hokies is Jack Tyler. Tyler leads the team with a whopping 42 tackles. He has 21 solo and 21 assisted. Tyler has 1.5 tackles for loss, 2 hurries, 1 pass broken up, 1 pass defended. He's going to be all over the place. Bruce Taylor has 23 tackles and half a sack. He blitzes a lot with 4 hurries to his name. Ronny Vandyke is the starter for this week. He's made 3 tackles this season. Jeron Gouveia-Winslow isn't listed as a starter, but he might as well be. He has 21 tackles, 1.5 for loss, 4 hurries and a forced fumble.
Defensive Backs: The two corner backs are Kyle Fuller and Antone Exum. The free safety is Detrick Bonner. The Hokies utilize a rover, which is Kyshoen Jarrett. Jarrett likes the role very much because he's made 26 tackles, 2.5 for loss and forced a fumble. He has 20 solo stops. That's impressive. Michael Cole, not the announcer on Raw, has 17 tackles. Exum and Fuller both have 2 INTs. They have also both borken up 2 passes and defended 4 others. Exum has made 15 tackles, Fuller 7. Ty Hodges mentioned this yesterday, Fuller is an elite corner. He has 7 tackles because no one throws on him.
Special Teams BEAMER BALL: The kicker for the Hokies is Cody Journell. He's 4-5 on the season, with a long of 41. His miss was from 38. He has it 14-15 extra points. Maybe there are hidden points here. AJ Hughes is the punter, averaging 39.8 yards a punt. 4 of his 21 punts have been over 50 yards. 7 of them were inside the 20. 7 were fair caught. He has 1 touchback. Joe St. Germain is the snapper. Michael Branthover handles the kickoffs. 7 of his 14 have been touchbacks. When he doesn't kick a touchback, people don't return on Virginia Tech. His net is 62.8 yards. His average kick is 61.1 yards. The opponents average starting position is the 17. Demitri Knowles and JC Coleman return kicks. Coleman is getting 26 yards a return, Knowles 16. Michael Holmes and Kyshoen Jarrett return punts. Jarrett has returned 5, Holmes 2. Jarrett is averaging 35.4 yards a punt return. He took one 94 yards for a TD against Pitt.
Let's pick back up with special teams. Virginia Tech has had 6 punts returned against them for 19 yards, 3.2 yards a return. The longest return was 8. UC has had 3 punts returned on them for 33 yards.
You don't have to look long or hard at what could be the biggest factor in the game. Virginia Tech is renowned for their special teams play. As you can see by the stats, it's been outstanding. UC has been shaky. I would say the 1 big advantage UC has is RDA IV returning kicks. Whether he gets any attempts is another story. It helps UC has a booming leg like Pat O'Donnell. Hughes is no slouch and has better coverage. You can't help but worry that this game could turn on a blocked punt or field goal. UC had trouble with blocked field goals last season.
When the teams line up, the biggest battle is going to be the Bearcat front 4 against the Hokie offensive line. UC struggled against bigger units in Tennessee and Rutgers last season. Bigger doesn't mean good, look at the Pitt game. I'll take Walter Stewart up against nearly anyone. The Bearcats front could force Logan Thomas into airing things out. That plan could work for Cincinnati.
In that same vain, it is a big mystery to how Cincinnati will handle the pressure from Virginia Tech. I'm not so much worried about the line as I am the protection assignments. The Bearcats had a turnover in the Delaware St game because of a blown assignment. You have a lot of young running backs picking up blocking.
Whatever team can do deep on the other has a big chance to win the game. Ty Hodges worried about the deep ball on the Tech secondary. That could mean big plays for Kenbrell Thompkins, who as mentioned as primarily been the target deep. McClung will probably see a lot of Fuller. On the flip side, I trust the secondary, but even last year they gave up big plays in the passing game. Tech will go deep.
I think the best method for Bearcat victory is ball control. UC dominated the second half of the DSU game in time of possession. Tech has lost that battle on average this season. They have a hard time scoring if you keep them off the field.
Jameel Poteat will make a big play or two. Just throwing that out there. Bolder prediction, he gets 100 yards.
This could really be a big game for Chisum or Julian. I think UC will get their first 100 yard receiver.
I'm expecting this to be a defensive battle. It could come down to something as simple as which quarterback can get his team down the field for the score at winning time. I really hope it's our guy. It's Munchie's birthday week. That's got to count for something.
Beat Virginia Tech.