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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Football

Gridiron Spotlight: Cincinnati looks to upset Ohio State


Cincinnati and Houston will meet Oct. 12 in TDECU Stadium. | FIle photo

Cincinnati and Houston will meet Oct. 12 in TDECU Stadium. | FIle photo

Every week, the Gridiron Spotlight looks across the vast landscape of college football to find which non-Houston game will impact the Cougars the most.

While UH’s season is still young, there are plenty of teams to look at when it comes to awarding the distinction. This week, however, the choice is clear.

Coming off a big 24-14 win at home against UCLA, Cincinnati, who earned 48 points in the AP Poll following the win, will travel to Columbus, Ohio Saturday to take on No. 5 Ohio State, the biggest and most competitive opponent that the Bearcats will face throughout their non-conference schedule and possibly the entire season.

Should Cincinnati find itself victorious against Ohio State, the Cougars and the Bearcats’ Oct. 12 matchup in TDECU Stadium, both teams’ second conference game of the year, can carry a lot more weight.

Here are the keys to shutting down an OSU team that just came off a 45-21 win at home against FAU to open up the season:

Contain Justin Fields

Heading into the season, many were unsure of Buckeyes sophomore quarterback Justin Fields’ ability to lead Ohio State as the program’s newest man under center after transferring from Georgia.

After all, 2018’s No. 1 overall recruit felt growing pains in the offseason, going 4-13 in an OSU spring game that saw the native of Kennesaw, Georgia, struggle to find rhythm.

All that went away after the Buckeye threw for 234 yards and four touchdowns in his Ohio State debut while rushing for another score.

OSU is expected to still play with the high-scoring offense that every Buckeyes fan is sure to recognize, but Cincinnati is not a lowly Conference USA team that makes an easy win for a Power Five school like Ohio State. Not anymore, at least.

In 2018, the Bearcats, who finished the season 11-2 and with UCF led the American Athletic Conference’s charge in establishing the AAC as the sixth Power conference, fielded the seventh best defense in the nation.

Cincinnati let up over 20 points only five times last season, and if it can repeat that 2018 magic with some of its two-sack, six-tackles-for-a-loss performance against UCLA sprinkled on top, the Bearcats can keep Fields under control.

Maintaining consistency

One of the biggest factors in the Bearcats’ win over the Bruins was their consistency throughout the entire game on offense.

Even when leading by two scores in the third quarter, the Cincinnati offense continued marching up the field until the game was all but won.

Sophomore Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder finished the win with 242 passing yards off 69 percent completion along with two touchdowns through the air.

The 2018 AAC Rookie of the Year averaged over 13 yards per completion en route to the victory.

Ohio State’s defense, which ranked 93rd nationally in 2018, may find Cincinnati to be a difficult offense to deal with should Ridder and Co. continue its streak.

If the Bearcats can pull off the win against the Buckeyes, not only will Cincinnati shoot up in national rankings, but the Cougars may benefit as well.

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