A look at Cincinnati, which hosts USF on Saturday at Nippert Stadium
Record: 8-1 (4-1 American Athletic Conference)
Wins: at UCLA, 26-17; at Miami (Ohio), 21-0; Alabama A&M, 63-7; Ohio, 34-30; at Connecticut, 49-7; Tulane, 37-21; at SMU, 26-20 (OT); Navy, 42-0
Loss: at Temple, 24-17 (OT)
Coach: Luke Fickell (second season at Cincinnati, 12-9; third season overall, 18-16)
S&P+ ranking: 28th
The breakdown: The AAC's most improved team, Cincinnati is enjoying a defensive renaissance under Fickell, the former Ohio State interim coach (after Jim Tressel's ouster) and co-defensive coordinator on the Buckeyes' 2014 national title squad. The Bearcats rank in the top 15 nationally in total defense (fifth, 276.1 ypg), run defense (15th, 105.2 ypg), pass efficiency defense (fifth, 99.03) and scoring defense (sixth, 14.0 ppg). Last season, they finished 89th or worse in each of those categories. Against Navy, they had 11 tackles for loss and five sacks, holding the Midshipmen to 171 total yards. The three down linemen are seniors, and three of the four linebackers are upperclassmen. DT Cortez Broughton ranks second in the AAC in tackles for loss (15) and fourth in sacks (5.5). On the back end, the Bearcats aren't shy about playing press coverage. Keep an eye on sophomore S James Wiggins, who has three interceptions and four pass breakups. Offensively, veteran QB Hayden Moore remains on the roster, but has relinquished starting duties to 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman Desmond Ridder, a dual threat who has thrown for 1,703 yards (with 13 touchdowns and five picks) and run for 437. The offensive catalyst, however, is 218-pound sophomore TB Michael Warren, who averages 5.2 yards a carry and needs 69 yards Saturday to reach 1,000. He's protected by a line featuring three seniors, all of whom have started every game this season.
Odds & ends: USF and Cincinnati will be playing for the 16th time, tying the Bearcats with Connecticut for the Bulls' most common foe. Cincy has an 8-7 lead in the series, but USF has won the last three meetings. … Cincinnati has recorded two shutouts this season, the first time it has achieved that feat since 1981.
Audible: "The front seven, they're really strong against the run. If we're gonna run the football, we're gonna have to move people off the line of scrimmage, we're gonna have to be physical and aggressive up front." — USF coach Charlie Strong