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Behind Enemy Lines: Previewing the Cincinnati Bearcats with Down the Drive

What does SB Nation’s Cincinnati site have to say about the Bearcats prior to the Battle for the Victory Bell?

Cincinnati v Miami Ohio Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The latest edition of the Battle for the Victory Bell features a Cincinnati squad that has something to prove after being shut out at the hands of Ohio State last week. To preview the ‘Cats, we got in touch with Mike Schneid, managing editor of Down the Drive (SB Nation’s Cincinnati site), to check on the state of the rivalry from UC’s perspective and to see what the keys to the game for Cincinnati are.

Hustle Belt: What have you learned about UC in the first two weeks of the season?

Mike Schneid: The biggest takeaway from Cincinnati through two games is the lack of discipline and the amount of mistakes. In both games against UCLA and Ohio State, they had the same mistakes. - committing 10 penalties (including 6 false starts week 1), missed/blocked field goal, and multiple turnovers. They managed to overcome mistakes and beat UCLA, but were plagued by them (and the talent gap) against Ohio State. These mistakes will catch up to them one of these games.

HB: What’s the morale of the team after losing in the way that they did against OSU?

MS: I’ll let LB Perry Young answer this, using his quote from after OSU loss. ”No one expects to lose. The way we lost, it feels like we beat ourselves. But I told everyone, we’re not losing another game the rest of this season. That’s the mindset we have.”

After hearing from players and coaches, it seems that the locker room is upbeat, that this was a humbling defeat but players are eager to prove that they are not as bad as that 42-0 score indicated and will be focused and motivated to move on and win games.

HB: Are the program and fans excited about playing Miami in this rivalry series?

MS: I personally am not. I’ll be honest. I have been a fan of Cincinnati for 13 years, dating back to my freshman year. That means I have never seen a loss! I don’t personally care for the history of the rivalry, my preference would be to play Miami every other year, or every 2-3 years. Keep the rivalry going without playing annually.

As for other fans, in a poll conduct on twitter, out of 139 voters, 59% want to continue this rivalry. Some fans say they are excited because it’s a yearly win, some fans respect the history of the rivalry and enjoy the game.

I believe the players and coaches enjoy it, because there is a trophy at stake and they see their friends at other school playing big rivalry games, so while no one would ever mistake Cincinnati/Miami for something like Virginia/Virginia Tech, it’s the only thing the Bearcats have, so everyone embraces it.

HB: A lot of Bearcats have sustained injuries in recent weeks. Who will be stepping into new roles against Miami and how confident are you in UC’s depth?

MS: Injuries have been a problem for the Bearcats early on. Running back was supposed to be their biggest offensive strength and some even considered this the best group of RBs UC ever had. Entering week 1, Charles McClelland suffered a torn ACL and Tavion Thomas was removed from the depth chart. Following an injury to Gerrid Doaks, who will be sidelined a few weeks, Thomas is back on the depth chart. Thomas ran for 499 yards and 6 TDs and will be expected to play a much larger role behind Michael Warren, to keep the star back fresh throughout the year.

Before the season, star safety James Wiggins was declared out with a knee injury. His replacement, sophomore Ja’Von Hicks has had an up-and-down start to his career. Hicks had two takeaways vs UCLA (fumble recovery and interception) but also made two mistakes that led to both of UCLA’s TDs. Hicks will continue to work as the starter and must grow into the role.

HB: What has impressed you the most in Luke Fickell’s tenure as head coach?

MS: A few things have impressed me about Fickell. The biggest is the way he values relationships. Previous UC coaches were here to simply do their job and win football games and often had an eye on the future (or recently an eye on the past). Fickell wants to bond with his players and their families. He has developed a strong reputation and strong relationships with local high school coaches. High school football in Cincinnati is a major deal, as you’ll see many midwest schools, specifically Ohio State, recruiting kids from Cincinnati, so those relationships are crucial.

HB: What are the keys of the game for UC in the Battle of the Victory Bell? What are the matchups that you are looking forward to seeing?

MS: The biggest key is the battle of the trenches. Cincinnati’s offensive line was absolutely owned by Ohio State. Can they refocus on recover against Miami’s front seven? QB Desmond Ridder must make quicker decisions, but also must be given the time to do so. Michael Warren had no room to run and will need his guys to create some holes.

I think the Miami wide receivers will offer up a good test for UC CB Coby Bryant. Bryant wasn’t tested much against UCLA and obviously gave up some big plays in an overwhelming game against Ohio State. I want to see how he settles in against Miami’s productive wideouts.

HB: What’s the expectations for Cincinnati this season? What’s the ceiling for UC this season?

MS: Despite Saturday’s misstep, expectations remain the same. This team is capable of going 10-2 and playing in the Cotton Bowl and that is the goal. That starts with beating UCF on October 4th to open up conference play. If Cincinnati cannot beat UCF, winning 8 or 9 games and making a respectable bowl game becomes the goal.