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USF football: Five things to know about Cincinnati

The Bearcats can exit Raymond James Stadium with an outright East Division title.
Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder leads the No. 17 Bearcats into Raymond James Stadium on Saturday to face USF. [JOHN MINCHILLO  |  AP]
Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder leads the No. 17 Bearcats into Raymond James Stadium on Saturday to face USF. [JOHN MINCHILLO | AP]
Published Nov. 12, 2019

A quick look at No. 17 Cincinnati (8-1, 5-0), which plays USF (4-5, 2-3) Saturday at 7 at Raymond James Stadium:

1. These guys will be geeked up

Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell's team can clinch no worse than a share of the AAC's East Division crown with a win Saturday at USF. [JOHN MINCHILLO | AP]

The Bearcats arrive in Tampa with tons of incentive. At worst, they’ll be playing for a share of the East Division title. However, if Temple (6-3, 3-2) loses at home to Tulane earlier in the day, Cincinnati can win the division outright by defeating the Bulls.

2. Not a statistical champion

Purely from a numbers perspective, the Bearcats don’t overwhelm anybody. They entered last weekend’s game against Connecticut 34th in the Football Outsiders’ S&P+ ratings, rank seventh in the American Athletic Conference in yards per play (6.0) and are dead last in penalty yards per contest (79.6).

But they play defense and force a lot of turnovers, a pretty sure-fire formula. Cincy leads the league in turnover margin (plus-8), has an AAC-best 13 interceptions and allows only 135.8 rushing yards a game.

MORE BULLS: USF’s Charlie Strong: ‘You don’t ever give up on a game’

3. Refocused for stretch run

After a couple of shaky victories against Tulsa (24-13) and East Carolina (46-43), the Bearcats appeared considerably sharper Saturday, albeit against one of the worst teams (UConn) in Division I-A.

The Bearcats, who led 38-0 at halftime en route to a 48-3 romp, amassed 307 yards on the ground, scoring on seven of their first eight possessions. None of their first five touchdown drives lasted longer than 2:48.

4. Tailbacks in tandem

Cincinnati running back Michael Warren II (3), seen running for a first down against USF in the teams' 2017 meeting, leads the Bearcats with 699 rushing yards. [JONES, OCTAVIO | Tampa Bay Times]

Cincinnati will attack the AAC’s ninth-ranked run defense (194.0 ypg) with a pair of sturdy downhill backs who sometimes resemble clones of each other.

Junior Michael Warren (5-foot-11, 222 pounds), last season’s bell cow, now is spelled periodically by 6-foot, 230-pound classmate Gerrid Doaks. Together, they have run for 1,075 yards and 13 touchdowns.

“It’s not so much they run away from you, they run through you,” Bulls coach Charlie Strong said. “So we’re gonna have to be really good tacklers.”

5. They’ll try to make Jordan McCloud beat them

Cincinnati safety Ja'von Hicks (3) reacts after intercepting a pass during the first half of the Bearcats' 24-13 win against Tulsa in October. [JOHN MINCHILLO | AP]

You can bet your Quinton Flowers jersey the Bearcats will take a cue from Temple, which successfully harassed Bulls quarterback Jordan McCloud (nine sacks) with mostly a four-man rush.

Cincy will show an even front when hybrid linebacker Michael Pitts (team-best 4.5 sacks) lines up on the edge. Strong said the Bearcats also will blitz middle linebacker Bryan Wright (61 tackles, 2.5 sacks, four QB hurries).

If they successfully can generate pressure up front, defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman (you know, the guy who shut down UCF) can employ a variety of different coverage schemes to confuse McCloud. Watch for sophomore safety Ja’Von Hicks, who has four of Cincy’s 13 picks.


  1. Former USF quarterback Quinton Flowers is on the opening-day 52-man roster for the XFL's Tampa Bay Vipers. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    Plant High’s Aaron Murray and Wharton High’s Chase Litton join USF’s career total yardage leader in the quarterback room.
  2. USF coach Brian Gregory's team (8-11, 1-5 American Athletic Conference) is on a four-game skid entering Sunday afternoon's contest at No. 25 Houston. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    In a conference teeming with parity, the notion of USF reaching the NCAA Tournament isn’t far-fetched.
  3. New USF offensive coordinator Glenn Spencer addresses players during the Bulls' first team meeting of 2020. [Joey Knight]
    The coaches each get a $10,000 bonus for a regular-season win against UCF.
  4. Jeff Scott takes over at USF in his first head coaching stint and if he instills a bit of Clemson swagger and culture, who's to argue with what works. [SCOTT KEELER  |  TImes]
    The Bulls’ new football coach is installing the cornerstones of the ultra-successful national championship program in Tampa.
  5. New USF football coach Jeff Scott, right, talks to members of the football team during a meeting at USF last week. Since then, Scott and his staff  have remained on the recruiting trail, landing six new non-binding commitments. [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    New coach Jeff Scott has received six new commitments since Sunday.
  6. USF Bulls guard Laquincy Rideau (3) shoots a 3-pointer over Wichita State Shockers guard Dexter Dennis (0) during the first half at the Yuengling Center. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    The Bulls shoot 30 percent from the floor in a 56-43 defeat at the Yuengling Center.
  7. Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall's club was ranked as high as 16th in the Associated Press poll earlier this month before losing two in a row last week. [MICHAEL PEREZ  |  AP]
    Both teams will try to break out of skids in tonight’s ‘Coaches vs. Cancer’ game at the Yuengling Center.
  8. Chamberlain offensive tackle Cesar Reyes said via Twitter on Sunday he plans to sign with USF. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    The Bulls fortify depth at quarterback and on the offensive line.
  9. USF sophomore Elisa Pinzan had seven 3-pointers Sunday in the Bulls' 64-57 loss to UCF at the Yuengling Center. [JOEY KNIGHT | Times] [Joey Knight]
    The Knights sweep a weekend of basketball against the Bulls.
  10. USF senior point guard Laquincy Rideau (3) drives in the first half of his team's 55-54 loss Saturday at UCF. [Photo provided by UCF Athletics] [UCF Athletics]
    The Bulls coach doesn’t hold back following his team’s controversial 55-54 loss in Orlando