There is a buzz surrounding this one as Indiana welcomes its highest ranked nonconference foe to Memorial Stadium since it faced USC in 1981.
The No. 8 Cincinnati Bearcats will be joining the Big 12 conference at some point in the relatively near future, and they already have the look of a Power Five program under head coach Luke Fickell. UC is a legitimate threat to run the table and end up in the College Football Playoff.
Indiana, on the other hand, is looking for a bit of a reset after a season-opening hiccup in Iowa City. A win over a top ten opponent in front of national television audience would go a long way towards putting IU right back in the national conversation.
It’s the Hoosiers and Bearcats in front of a sold out Memorial Stadium in Bloomington.
No. 8 CINCINNATI (2-0) at INDIANA (1-1)
- Kickoff: Noon Eastern
- Location: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Ind. (52,656)
- Television: ESPN, Dave Pasch (p-b-p), Dusty Dvoracek (analyst) & Tom Luginbill (sideline)
- Stream: Watch ESPN
- Radio: IU Football radio network
- Odds: Cincinnati is a 3.5 point favorite
- Weather at kickoff: 82 degrees, partly cloudy, wind 5 mph, 4% chance of precipitation.
- Series: The Hoosiers and Bearcats will meet for the first time since Sept., 23, 2000, a 42-6 IU victory in Bloomington. Indiana leads the all-time series, 9-3-2, including a 6-2-1 edge at home.
- The Coaches:
Tom Allen is 25-23 (.521) in his fifth season as Indiana head football coach. His 24 wins over his first four years are the most for an IU head coach during that span.
Luke Fickell owns a 37-14 (.726) record in his fifth season as Cincinnati head coach. The Bearcats are 33-6 (.846) since the start of 2018. Fickell posted a 6-7 mark as Ohio State head coach in 2011.
Indiana will wear throwback uniforms from the 80s and 90s against Cincinnati.
To order a jersey from Adidas, GO HERE.
— Indiana Football (@IndianaFootball) September 17, 2021
TALE OF THE TAPE
THE COMPLETE BIG TEN WEEK 3 SLATE
|Urbana-Champaign, IL (Conf.)||TV: FS1 Stats Radio: Busey Bank Illini Sports Network Video|
|Coral Gables, FL||TV: ABC Radio: Spartan Media Network Video|
|Norman, OK||TV: FOX Stats Radio: Huskers Radio Network Video|
|Bloomington, Ind.||TV: ESPN Stats Radio: IU Radio Network; Sirius 83, XM 83, SXM App 83|
|Ann Arbor, Mich.||TV: Big Ten Network Stats Video|
|Boulder, CO||TV: Pac-12 Network Stats Radio: KFAN 100.3 FM Video|
|South Bend, Ind.||TV: NBC Stats Radio: Purdue Sports Network Video|
|Iowa City, IA|
|Piscataway, N.J.||TV: Big Ten Network Stats Radio: WCTC 1450-AM, WOR 710-AM, XM 196, Sirius 106, Scarlet Knights App Video|
|Durham, N.C.||TV: ACC Network Radio: WGN Radio AM-720|
|University Park, Pa.||Video|
WHEN CINCINNATI HAS THE FOOTBALL
Cincinnati is difficult to stop offensively because they can beat you both on the ground and through the air. Jerome Ford is a speedy former Alabama running back who has 234 yards and four touchdowns through the first two games with a 7.8 yards per carry average.
Quarterback Desmond Ridder is simply a winner. He is 33-5 as a starter since he took over in 2018. Ridder can beat you through the air or with his feet. He has passed for 7,443 yards and rushed for 1,841 during his time at UC. Last season Ridder completed 66.2 percent of his passes, and he stands at 72.3 percent thus far in 2021.
Ridder likes to spread the ball around. Six Bearcats account for the team’s seven touchdown catches, led by Tyler Scott’s two. He and Jadon Thompson also have a team-high five catches among 13 with a reception this season. Scott is the team’s leading receiver with 155 yards. Collectively, tight ends have caught six passes for 68 yards and four of Ridder’s six touchdowns on the season.
The key in this one is likely Indiana’s ability to control the line of scrimmage to slow the run and force Ridder into mistakes through the air. He has thrown 21 interceptions throughout his career. IU is still looking for its first INT in 2021.
One thing to keep an eye on is how well Cincinnati’s offense handles the crowd noise. The Bearcats haven’t played a road game with fans since 2019, and even then didn’t routinely encounter a crowd as large as what is expected at Indiana. Head coach Luke Fickell knows it will play a role.
“Offensively, we just haven’t been in that situation in a long while,” Fickell said this week. “We’re making checks and things like that, even the cadence. I don’t know exactly how bad (the crowd noise) could be, but we know it’s going to be somewhat of an effect. It’s something we haven’t seen in a year and a half. These are things you always have to prepare yourself for.”
WHEN INDIANA HAS THE FOOTBALL
Indiana is trying to get right on the offensive side of the ball, but they will face a tall task on Saturday.
Cincinnati brings a veteran defense to Bloomington. According to their depth chart, all eleven starters are upperclassmen, with four graduate players, four seniors, and three juniors. The Bearcats defense allowed just 325 total yards per game and ranked 13th nationally in total defense in 2020.
A trio of linebackers — Deshawn Pace, Joel Dublanko, and Darrian Beavers lead the team in tackles.
The Bearcats are elite at cornerback led by All-American Ahmad Gardner. His matchup with Ty Fryfogle should be a fun one to watch.
Defensive end Myjai Sanders, who led the team in sacks and tackles for loss last year, is an NFL prospect who returned for his senior year. Defensive backs Coby Bryant and Gardner combined for seven interceptions last season.
“When you think about the defensive end position and the cornerback position, those are two positions that you put a lot of value on because those affect your quarterback,” Tom Allen said this week. “They make it challenging.”
Cincinnati didn’t allow more than 13 points in a five-game stretch in 2020, and they’ve only allowed 10.5 points per game through two 2021 contests, albeit against inferior competition (Miami of Ohio and Murray State).
Indiana’s offense has failed to inspire confidence through two games. Can quarterback Michael Penix, Jr. round back into form like he has over each of the last two years after he came back from injury? If he does, and offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan comes up with a more dynamic scheme, Indiana can win this game.
This one could go either way, with a big play by a defense or special teams likely the difference.
The gut feel, until Penix shows us more, is to go with the Bearcats.
TDH: Cincinnati 27 Indiana 23
Athlon Sports: Indiana 24 Cincinnati 20
College Football News: Cincinnati 34 Indiana 24
Cincinnati Enquirer: Cincinnati 31 Indiana 17
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