We begin with UC’s first week opponent Fresno State. As many Bearcat fans remember the Bulldogs made the trip to the Queen City last season and battled the Bearcats before eventually falling 28-20.
In 2010 UC makes the trek to Fresno for the first game of the season in what should make for a good early season test for the two-time defending Big East champions.
Last season the Bulldogs ran very successfully against the UC defense racking up 290 rushing yards, led by Ryan Matthews’ 145 yards. Luckily this season the Bearcats don’t have to contend with Matthews who left for the NFL after leading the NCAA in rushing in 2009.
However, the Bulldogs rushing attack should still be potent as they return all five starters on the offensive line, four of which are seniors, and bring back last season’s second leading rusher in Robbie Rouse. Last year Rouse had 479 yards on 82 carries (5.8 yards per carry) and four touchdowns. He also ran for 50 yards in five attempts vs. UC in ’09.
Fresno State also returns senior quarterback Ryan Colburn who proved last season to be a good game manager. He had 2,459 passing yards, completing 181 passes in 298 attempts (60.7 completion percentage) and had a respectable 19/11 touchdown to interception ratio.
Colburn seems to fit well into the ball control offense the Bulldogs run as he won’t beat you too often with the big play, averaging 8.3 yards per attempt last season.
One of the big questions for the Bearcats heading into the 2010 season is if the defense will be better than last year. While the early indications are that they will be better, they definitely face a stiff task right out of the chute with the Fresno rushing attack.
That question could just as easily be applied to the Fresno State defense, a unit that in ’09 ranked 98th in total defense allowing 413 ypg and 28.38 ppg.
The Bulldogs do return eight starters on defense including senior middle linebacker Ben Jacobs and senior defensive end Chris Carter. Jacobs led the team in tackles with 106 last season, while Carter had 13 tackles for loss and five sacks. Both were first team All WAC selections last year.
Just like the Bearcats, Fresno State will have its hands full with the potent Cincinnati offense that is poised to put up big numbers and big points again under new head coach Butch Jones.
While Cincinnati will be unveiling their new head coach, Bulldogs will be led by their long-time head coach Pat Hill. Hill has amassed a 100-66 overall record at Fresno State and a 58-16 record at Bulldog Stadium.
Factoring in the Fresno running attack and their success at home, this makes for a very tough first game of the season for the Bearcats. The Cincinnati offense may experience some transitional growing pains and the defense will have its hands full with the Bulldogs offensive line and run game as they travel roughly 1,900 miles across the country
However, looking into the crystal ball, the Bearcats have too much for the Bulldogs and should take care of Fresno in a close game. Prediction: 28-24.