Gridiron Spotlight Week 11: Cougars hoping for a USF win
The American Athletic Conference is a beautiful, dark, great, awful place to play football. There are always a few teams that are less than great as the regular season begins to wind down. As a result, many of the matchups feature a mismatch on paper.
This week’s Gridiron Spotlight, however, highlights a game between two teams that currently sport winning records: the USF Bulls visiting the Cincinnati Bearcats.
After starting 7-0, the Bulls have now lost its two previous games by a combined score of 98-51. The Bearcats, on the other hand, have lost just one game this season, a 24-17 defeat on the road. The result is two statistically similar teams that will be meeting in a pivotal conference showdown.
The approach taken by each team is different but effective. USF attempts to be a well-balanced team by running and throwing the ball. It has largely achieved that, ranking No. 29 in both rushing yards per game and passing yards per game. Combined, the Bulls have an offensive attack that trails just 10 teams nationally.
Conversely, Cincinnati leans heavily into its run game. By logging over 230 rushing yards per game, the Bearcats have a Top 20 rushing attack statistically. Compare that to a passing attack that ranks No. 85 in the nation and you get an idea of how Cincinnati wants to attack its opponents.
Regardless of the tactics employed, the results are nearly identical as each team scores slightly over 30 points per game and are separated by less than a field goal.
The biggest difference between these two teams is the defensive statistics. Cincinnati is a Top 10 defense by most statistical categories. It couples the No. 9 passing defense with the No. 12 rushing defense to give the Bearcats an overall defense ranked No. 5 in the nation.
For the proverbial cherry on top, Cincinnati allows fewer points per game than all but five teams in the country.
USF has not had quite the same success on defense as Cincinnati. It is allowing over 440 yards per game, which ranks No. 103 in the country. It would be one thing if the Bulls had a “bend but don’t break” defense, but it also gives up over 30 points per game, which is good for just No. 90 in the nation.
Unfortunately for South Florida, its struggles on defense coincide with Cincinnati’s strengths on offense.
So, what makes this high-octane game impactful for Houston? Cincinnati currently sports a better overall record than Houston andd an equal conference record. In addition, the Bearcats are one of two Group of 5 teams that are ranked higher than Houston, with the other team being UCF.
The Cougars are still looking for an NY6 bowl berth and are currently slated to face UCF in the AAC Championship Game.
Houston will not have a chance to face Cincinnati, however, so it needs someone else to knock off the Bearcats. Houston fans should be hoping the Bulls treat Cincinnati like its own personal china shop.