Season Report Card: Cincinnati
Cincinnati’s didn’t face a bowl-eligible opponent until Week 12 when it took apart a free-falling Rutgers squad, 52-17 and then squeaked by Houston the following week. By then, however, it had already compiled two confusing losses to poor Illinois and South Florida teams.
The Bearcats showed a lot of promise when they fell to Louisville in overtime, but followed it up with a total blunder in the final exam, getting smacked around by North Carolina in the Belk Bowl.
Luckily for UC, the postseason didn’t keep it from a passing grade. Here is Cincinnati’s report card for the 2013 season.
On paper, this was a good year for the Cincinnati offense. It scored over 30 points a game, finished top 25 in team passer efficiency, and converted on third down. But we really have to take a deeper look here, because a lot of these numbers can be deceptive, considering the schedule it played. The Bearcats had a difficult time moving the ball on Houston and didn’t show up against North Carolina, and their red zone numbers were downright unacceptable—but that was much in part to the putrid field goal statistics. I was never sold on the "Jordan-Luallen-not-so-clever Wildcat formation", either.
Cincinnati’s defense finished inside the nation’s top 25 teams in most major stat categories, including 14th in points allowed and 6th in rushing yards. The defensive line anchored this unit, seemingly always putting pressure on quarterbacks and blowing up plays in the backfield. Unfortunately, the Bearcats’ D proved inconsistent at times, allowing 45 points to Illinois (what?) and letting both Louisville and North Carolina rush for over 170 yards apiece.
Special Teams: F+
There weren’t too many teams with a worse special teams unit than that of Cincinnati’s. While the kickoff coverage was decent, the Bearcats finished 121st in net punting average and 115th in punt return defense—both evident in the final exam. To top it off, Tuberville had to go the season without the security of a solid place kicker, as Tony Milano struggled to make just 41.2 percent of his field goals.
This is just the second time in seven years where Cincinnati didn’t win at least 10 games, and while nine is very close, it’s pretty evident that the quality of opponents were far below average. Luckily for Tuberville, he’s an excellent recruiter and has set himself up to be successful in the near future. Oh, and it helps that both Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater will no longer be in the league come next fall.
I projected Cincinnati to finish second in the conference behind Louisville with 11 wins. It certainly had the right pieces to beat Illinois and South Florida, but those pieces were never put together. An embarrassing defeat to a barely bowl eligible North Carolina team in the Belk Bowl shows that a lot needs to be done this offseason if the Bearcats want to remain relevant in a questionable American Athletic Conference.
Follow @Tyler_Waddell on Twitter