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Monday, December 9, 2019

Football

Following upset of UCF, Cincinnati comes to Houston


Houston holds a 15-10 all-time lead over Cincinnati, including two-straight wins from 2015-16. | File photo

Houston holds a 15-10 all-time lead over Cincinnati, including two-straight wins from 2015-16. | File photo

While Houston is coming off the heels of a much-needed bye week following a brutal opening schedule, Cincinnati will venture to TDECU Stadium on Saturday following its upset of No. 18 UCF, its first win over a top-25 opponent in 10 years.

The Cougars, 2-3 overall, managed to get back to winning ways Sept. 28 after defeating the North Texas Mean Green 46-25, thanks to senior running back Patrick Carr’s three-touchdown showing.

As for the 4-1 Bearcats, their 27-24 defeat of the Knights Friday night snapped a 13-game losing streak to ranked opponents. Cincinnati forced four turnovers against UCF, bringing its season total to nine.

Saturday’s meeting will be the fifth between the two as AAC opponents and 26th overall, with Houston owning the advantage with 15 wins to 10. The pair have split the previous four AAC matchups, and the Cougars own a current two-game win streak.

With a win, the Cougars would move to .500 on the season ahead of another tough matchup Oct. 24 against the SMU Mustangs.

Playing a new Tune

Sophomore quarterback Clayton Tune returned to the turf against UNT with senior quarterback D’Eriq King’s decision to sit out the rest of the season, and he showed signs of real promise.

Playing in his first competitive match since December, Tune had a comfortable night. The Carrollton native threw for 124 yards and a touchdown while connecting on 16 of 20 attempts.

He also added another 100 yards rushing, almost double his total in five games last season on nine attempts.

Through his short career, Tune has recorded nine touchdowns and 919 yards with a 54.7 completion percentage and two interceptions.

With experienced players like Carr, who has eight touchdowns and nearly 1,200 yards as a Cougar, and junior receiver Marquez Stevenson, who has 12 receiving touchdowns and more than 1,300 career yards, assisting Tune, the Cougars look to end the Bearcats’ three-game win streak.

Defense?

While both teams rank in just about average in yards per game offensively, the key come Saturday will be the parity in defensive abilities.

The Bearcats’ 322 yards against per game are good enough to land them at No. 33 in FBS, while the Cougars’ 492 are No. 123 out of 130 FBS squads.

Cincinnati has allowed just 21.4 points per game, including a 42-0 drumming against No. 4 Ohio State, the 42nd best mark, while Houston has allowed 32, ranking No. 105.

If Cincinnati was able to limit UCF’s high-powered, No. 5 offense to 423 yards, 121 less than its season average, Houston’s No. 72 offense may struggle with the visitor’s defense.

Houston’s 160 points against is the third-most in the conference, and Cincinnati’s 107 is the fourth-best.

Different trends

Both teams will enter Saturday’s matchup on winning streaks, but the Bearcats’ three-game streak is much more impressive than the Cougars’ one-game streak.

Houston has lost seven of its last 10 games dating back to the 2018 season, while Cincinnati has lost just two games in the same span.

Both teams are anchored by relatively new head coaches. Houston’s Dana Holgorsen is in his debut year with the program, while defending AAC Coach of the Year Luke Fickell is in just his third season with Cincinnati.

The former’s career record as a head coach is 63-44, while the latter’s is 25-18.

Despite the absence of King, Houston still has a powerful offense to rely on.

The Cougars’ defensive woes, however, will help the Bearcats strive for victory. The differing styles will be a big storyline throughout the game.

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