Sunday saw the release of the new AP Poll and Coaches Poll. While the Bearcats have always lacked a spot in the coaches poll, the Associated Press poll has been at the forefront with the Bearcats. Sunday was no different.
Coming in at the #10 spot of the AP Poll, Brian Kelly and his Bearcats are now in position to do things many never thought possible. Getting the #11 ranking in the coaches poll strengthens that position and while it’s still too early to talk the future one must wonder just how high this team can achieve.
The previous highest ranking held by UC came just a year ago as the Bearcats got ready for the Orange Bowl and picked up a ranking at #12 in both polls. You have to go all the way back to 1954 to find another Bearcats team that reached that height as they held the same spot in the AP poll then.
But just as was seen on Saturday, staying in the Top 10 is the hardest thing to do in college football and the risk of falling to the bottom of the pack is just a game away.
So how long can Brian Kelly keep the Bearcats in the Top 10? Let’s look at the next couple of games to see where the hardest test may come from.
Miami: The 114-th Battle for the Victory Bell is the first rival trophy on the docket for the 2009 season. Since being embarrassed in 2005 the Bearcats have not taken it easy on the Redhawks having won the past three matchups and Saturday should be no different.
The Redhawks will enter The Battle for the Victory Bell coming off four straight losses this season. Not only have the Redhawks struggled on defense they’ve also struggled to put points on the board having only scored 45 points on the season.
Saturday night the Redhawks loss to Kent State in MAC play 29-19. While this was their best game the team up the road is a long way from where they’ve been in years past.
A change in quarterback to former UC recruit Zac Dysert proved not enough to get their first win of the season. Dysert showed why several college programs were after him going 31-53 for 337 yards while also rushing for 107 yards. The RedHawks offensive output of 552 yards is the most they’ve posted since they gained 577 yards in September of 2007 against Minnesota.
But while the RedHawks may feel better coming into this game they will not come close to stopping the Bearcats defense from putting pressure on them.
But it’s not the offense that has Miami fans upset. It’s the lack of defense as the RedHawks have given up 167 points on the season and Brian Kelly’s offense could be poised to add another 40-50 points to that total.
This game is one that the Bearcats will win and move their record to 5-0 while keeping them in the Top 10 if all teams ahead of them win.
After Miami the Bearcats will get several days to rest and prepare for one of their biggest test of the season.
The story line for South Florida will be several. The Bulls will play their first Big East Conference game of the season this weekend against Syracuse and the chance for the Orange to upset the Bulls could be very high as USF is coming off a huge victory over Florida State on the road 17-7.
Much like Miami, the Bearcats took their licks in 2005 and have had the Bulls number since them. With three wins in a row the Bearcats have taken South Florida’s best shot and came away building confidence in their place in the conference. If the Bearcats are going to stay in the Top 10 rankings this is a must win.
The Bulls now stand 4-0 but other than Florida State have not played a team that has tested them. Wofford, Western Kentucky and Charleston Southern were weeks one-to-three and the Bulls did what was expected outscoring the three 134-20. But the 44.5 points per game average took a deep hit on Saturday as the Bulls only scored 17 points against FSU.
The first story line will be the Bulls loss of Matt Grothe for the season. The Bearcats have had Grothe’s number the past three years and will now have to look at stopping an even better athlete in B.J. Daniels who went 8-21-2 for 215 yards and 2 touchdowns against FSU.
A great athlete, Daniels will be a big test for the Bearcats defense as he’s capable of making things happen with his feet. Against Florida State the redshirt freshman rushed 23 times for 126 yards. Now keep in mind one of those runs went 44 yards pushing down his average per carry to 3.7 yards.
Daniels will be moved out of the pocket rolling it to help open throwing lanes and keeping his abilities to escape open.
The other story line will come from the sidelines. The Bulls made changes to their coaching staff and when Bearcats defensive coordinator Joe Tresey was let go by Brian Kelly last winter it allowed South Florida head coach Jim Leavitt the chance to bring Tresey on board as the new head of his defense. So far that move looks like a good one for the Bulls.
Tresey is sure to have his team focused on having a good showing and with it being an ESPN national broadcast both teams will look to make statements.
The Bearcats will return to Nippert Stadium for the Keg of Nails against Louisville before going on the road to Syracuse to finish out the month of October.
The road to the finish line is still a long way away and there is much football to be played. Finishing undefeated in college football is one of the hardest things to do and the odds are against the Bearcats. But if anyone can pull it off its Brian Kelly and the journey should be exciting.