Coming off of an 4-8 season in Luke Fickell’s first season as head coach, the Cincinnati Bearcats have kept their cards close to their vest this summer and remain a bit of a mystery offensively. While they don’t posses the firepower of a top team, they do have a few guys who can be a thorn in the Bruins’ side come Saturday.
Although coach Luke Fickell hasn’t named a starter for Saturday’s contest against the Bruins, all signs point to senior Hayden Moore being the signal caller for the Bearcats this season. In 2017, Moore’s statistics weren’t that great, but he did have his moments. He threw for a career best 381 yards in a 32-42 loss at Navy. As a whole, he compiled 2562 yards through the air on 424 attempts, while throwing for 20 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Moore is a senior and quarterbacking on the road is nothing new to him. It’ll be interesting to see if the Bruins come out aggressive on defense and try to force him into making a mistake.
Moore is battling redshirt freshman Desmond Ridder for the job and it appears that Fickell won’t name a starter until gameday.
The Bearcats offensive line, coached by Ron Crook, were the 21st best team in the NCAA in sacks allowed. The O-Line for Cincinnati only gave up 17 sacks during the entire 2017 season. That’s not too shabby. They return every starter from last season and are a well-seasoned group of offensive linemen. They’ll stack up with senior left tackle Dino Boyd, Kyle Trout at left guard, Garrett Campbell at center, and Morgan James and Chris Ferguson on the right side. We’ll have to see if UCLA’s new group of D-Linemen can wreak havoc on a tough Bearcats O-Line.
The Cincinnati Bearcats weren’t shy about using different looks at running back throughout the course of last season. Redshirt sophomores Gerrid Doaks and Michael Warren II figure to do most of the heavy lifting, though. In 2017, Doaks got 87 carries and ran for 513 yards with two touchdowns to his name. Warren was impressive in limited action, running for 324 yards on 54 carries (6.0 ypc) and one TD. He should see a big boost in playing time with the departure of Mike Boone. As a whole, Cincinnati only averaged 4.38 yards per rush, good for 99th in the country. Meh.
The UCLA Bruins’ secondary will have their hands full dealing with Cincinnati’s two leading receivers, Khalil Lewis, and Thomas Geddis. Lewis is the Bearcats go-to WR, hauling in 61 receptions for 676 yards (11.1 avg) and a solid 7 touchdowns last year. He is, by far, quarterback Hayden Moore’s favorite receiver to target, so expect a heavy dose of Khalil Lewis in the passing game. With the Bearcats losing a key wide out in Devin Gray, Geddis will be thrown right into the fire. He caught 29 passes last season for 388 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Bearcats love to use multiple receivers throughout the game, as five receivers caught over 20 passes last season.
The Bearcats ranked 101 out of 129 teams in total offense last season, which is not great. But, you can never underestimate an underdog. It would make all the sense in the world for the Bruins to come out aggressive on defense to try and set the tone early.