Breaking Down the 2018 UC Football Season – Storylines and Predictions

We are less than a week away from kicking off game one of the University of Cincinnati 2018 football season, and we could not be more excited!  Let’s take a glimpse at some of the storylines, road trips, position battles, predictions, and general thoughts we have heading into the next football season.

  • The number one question everyone has is who will start at QB?  Likewise, who will finish the year at QB?  All signs point towards senior #8 Hayden Moore starting.  He is the only quarterback on the roster with game experience – period.  And he is a senior.  Very few head coaches in the country would rock the boat and go elsewhere on the roster.  Fans have been frustrated with Hayden, his Favre-like turnovers and interceptions, his lackluster deep ball, his difficulty reading defenses, and his lack of improvement over the years.  Listen, I get it!  But Moore has been through a number of coaching transitions and scheme changes.  He was the victim of quarterback musical chairs under Tommy Tuberville.  A lot of issues have been out of his control and he has not once complained to the media.
  • We do expect redshirt freshman #9 Desmond Ridder to get his chances throughout the year – whether we blow out a lesser opponent like Alabama A&M, Moore gets hurt, or Moore has a bad day.  Ridder should be able to get his feet wet in 2018 and likely start the remaining three years of his career.  Ridder has a very high ceiling.  He has thrown some great balls throughout the scrimmages this summer.  Even if he doesn’t take over this year, he certainly is the favorite for the next three seasons in Clifton – and how long has it been since UC had a three-year starting QB?  The last time a Cincinnati quarterback even started every game in a season was in 2005 with Dustin Grutza. The future is bright guys and gals!
  • #11 Bryan Wright transitions from freakish defensive end to a massive roaming 6’ 4” 245 lb. middle linebacker.  This will be great to watch when the Cats are on D.  You won’t be able to miss #11.
  • Freshman phenom #42 Malik Vann will in all likelihood get some serious playing time during his true freshman year.  The four-star recruit decided to stay home.  Rooting for him on Saturdays will be great.
  • #3 Michael Warren, II and #23 Gerrid Doaks. The sophomore running back tandem showed signs of promise last year.  Entering year two, thunder and lightning should take a lot of the load off of the passing game.  Warren looked like a freight train at Camp.  Doaks has been largely sidelined with a nagging injury – but we all saw his elusiveness and speed last year.  We can’t wait to see how the coaching staff interchange the two throughout the season, as both are capable starters.
  • Who will emerge at corner under Coach Mike Mickens?  Coach Mickens is the best defensive back in UC history and he made significant improvements to the secondary at BGSU the last year years.  #7 Coby Bryant has a high ceiling.  Will he emerge as a playmaker this year?  Grad transfer #14 Cameron Jeffries is immediately eligible and has made plays at camp.  Someone has to step up!
  • How much will the defense improve from year one to year two with the coaching staff in place?
  • What true freshman will play besides Malik Vann?
  • What receiver will step up?  Will #1 Khalil Lewis have the senior year we are hoping for to prove his readiness for the NFL? Players like #17 Rashad Medaris and #83 Josiah Geguara will be relied upon heavily.  Who will be this year’s Shaq Washington and Armon Binns?  Will a receiver or tight end emerge as a QB safety blanket?  This is one of the biggest unknowns.
  • How will the new redshirt rule be utilized?  Who will get to play up to four games throughout the year?
  • The Bearcats start off playing week one of the regular season – no waiting around for us Bearcats fans.  What’s worse than a bye week out of the gate?  Remember, 2014?  We had to wait three weeks until September 12th just to blowout the Toledo Rockets at Paul Brown Stadium.
  • Not only does UC play right away – the Bearcats take a road trip across the country to the most significant and truly beautiful stadiums in all of the country – the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.  We are absolutely jacked to fly out and cover this game in-person.  7 p.m. Prime time. ESPN.  All the buzz will be on this game with Chip Kelly returning to college football after a five-year hiatus.
  • The Bearcats should be 5-1, heading into week seven on the road on October 20th against Temple.  I truly hope UC can give UCLA all they can handle, but the talent gap, coupled with traveling across the country, Chip Kelly, and absolutely no idea how his playbook will look, will likely result in an L.  This game reminds me of playing Navy last year combined with the road trip UC made to Fresno State in 2009.
  • Navy comes to Nippert Stadium for the first time in history on November 3rd.  Will the Bearcats be able to learn from their mistakes last season?  Can we beat a triple option team?  This will be a fun one.  If you’re only planning to attend one home game this year, circle this date.

Season Prediction: In year one under Coach Fickell the Cats went 4-8 and missed a bowl game.  I think we can all honestly expect at least a 6-6 season with a trip back to a bowl game in 2018.  The season does lead to a possible ceiling of up to 9-3.  However, I simply do not see us escaping UCLA, Navy, and UCF.  South Florida will also be a tough game.  However, having those warm-weather softies come to Clifton in November and losing all-world Quinton Flowers definitely makes this matchup winnable.  Butch Jones led the Bearcats from 4-8 to 10-3 in year two.  Why can’t UC make the same improvement leaning on the best recruiting class in Bearcats history?

By Andy Smith