Tale of the Tape: Houston versus Cincinnati
When the No. 25 Cougars host the University of Cincinnati Bearcats during today’s homecoming game, both teams will be looking to build off dominant home victories, with Houston thumping Vanderbilt 34-0 and Cincinnati taking down the University of Central Florida 52-7 in week nine.
Both the Cougars and Bearcats bring top 10 offenses to the table, but which will have the advantage come kickoff?
Quarterback matchup: Ward vs. Kiel and Moore
Greg Ward Jr.
Recently named a semifinalist in both the Maxwell Award for the Collage Player of the Year and the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award, Ward has been a force on the field for the Cougars this season.
The very definition of a dual-threat quarterback, the junior is ranked 11th nationally in total offense, averaging 333.1 total yards per game, and is doing it the air and on the ground, with 244.4 passing yards a contest and leads the NCAA with 16 rushing touchdowns.
Gunner Kiel and Hayden Moore
Junior Gunner Kiel is coming off his best game of the season, completing 15 of 15 passes for 319 yards and five touchdowns, and is second in the AAC in passing efficiency with a 166.3 rating. Still part of a quarterback rotation with redshirt freshman Hayden Moore, neither Kiel or Moore are much of a running threat.
They have combined to produce the sixth ranked passing attack in college football, averaging 370 yards per game while tossing 20 touchdowns and completing 64 percent of their passes on 320 attempts.
Who wins: Ward may pass the ball less than his Cincinnati counterparts, but he is cleaner with it, throwing two interceptions on the year compared to the 11 interceptions Kiel and Moore have thrown. Combine that with Ward’s mobility, and the Cougars should have the better quarterback situation Saturday.
Running back matchup: Farrow vs. Boone
This running back and quarterback duo have spearheaded the eighth-best rushing attack in the nation with a 5.41 per carry average and 273 yards per game. UH’s ground game has found the end zone 32 times in eight games, second to only Georgia Southern’s 35.
Farrow started the season slow by his standards, but has regained his 2014 form when he rushed for 1,037 yards with 14 scores. He has emerged as the Cougar’s leading runner again and should continue to be a workhorse back for his team.
The Bearcats have a three-headed monster at running back, splitting carries nearly evenly between their top two guys, with sophomore Mike Boone providing a change of pace. Though he may get less touches, Boone is easily Cincinnati’s most dangerous weapon, averaging 9.1 yards per carry, threatening to find the end zone at any opportunity.
Who wins: While Cincinnati certainly has a variety of options in its backfield, UH has both of its leading rushers on the field the vast majority of the time. This along with sheer volume of carries gives the Cougar’s ground game the edge.
Receiver matchup: Ayers vs. Washington
Though Ayers production has slowed down the past few games, his impact on the field continues to shine through. Offensively, be it as a receiver or a runner, the junior has made his presence felt with 56 receptions for 713 yards and five touchdowns as Ward’s go-to option, adding 14 carries for 120 and another score on the ground. On special teams, Ayers leads the league in punt returns with a 14.4 average and a 73-yard touchdown.
Fresh off the first multiple touchdown game of his collegiate career, the senior receiver leads the Bearcat receivers with 55 receptions for 645 yards and four touchdowns and continues to improve as a route runner. Working primarily out of the slot, Washington has the quickness to get open inside, but has also has the long speed to go deep downfield.
Who wins: Both leading men have similar body types and skill sets and Washington may have the experience over Ayers, but the Cougar product is simply too versatile for the Bearcats. Ayers lines up all over the field and has already proven himself as a playmaker when given the opportunity.