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The Opposition: Houston looks to pull off upset of the season with win over No. 6 Cincinnati

UH junior quarterback Clayton Tune airs out a pass against SMU during the 2019 season. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

UH junior quarterback Clayton Tune airs out a pass against SMU during the 2019 season. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

Houston will look to rebound from its 44-21 loss against UCF when it travels to Ohio on Saturday to take on undefeated No. 6 Cincinnati.

The Cougars’ (2-2, 2-1 American Athletic Conference) defense largely looked overmatched by the blistering trademark pace of the Golden Knights’ offense, and their own offense didn’t do much better against an inconsistent UCF defense that had been down four starting players heading into the matchup.

After playing the best offense in the conference, the Cougars will face off against the best defense in the conference in the Bearcats. Houston leads the all-time series against Cincinnati 15-11 but lost last season’s contest 38-23.

Here’s a preview of what to expect this Saturday:

The Bearcats’ season so far

The Bearcats (5-0, 3-0 AAC) are fresh off a blowout 49-10 victory over Memphis.

The first five games of the season for Cincinnati haven’t exactly been tightly contested.

The Bearcats’ smallest margin of victory came in their second game when they defeated Army by 14 points. They’ve also put up big numbers on offense, throwing up standout figures like 55, 42 and last week’s 49.

Cincinnati bolsters its strong offense with an even stronger defense. It ranks No. 1 in several categories in the AAC, including points allowed, total defense, rushing defense, interceptions and red-zone defense.

Leading the way for Cincinnati’s stout defense is junior defensive end Myjai Sanders. Sanders has been a disruptive force all season long for the Bearcats, notching at least 0.5 sacks in each game this season and is tied for ninth in all of FBS for sacks with five.

On offense, the Bearcats control the pacing of the game through an array of running options, which is then complemented by the passing of junior quarterback Desmond Ridder.

Ridder himself is second on the team in rushing yards as well as rushing touchdowns and yards per rush.

Although the Bearcats rank towards the bottom of the conference in pass offense, they rank fourth in pass efficiency and third in time of possession, in large part because of their success running the ball.

What to watch for

One thing to keep an eye on will be what adjustments, if any, the Cougars make on offense in preparation for the best defense they’ve played against thus far.

There were several drives during the UCF game where the Cougars got into the Golden Knights’ territory only to stall out, and two of those drives ended in interceptions.

Junior quarterback Clayton Tune and company will look to finish those drives against a stingy Bearcats defense.

Speaking of defense, how well both teams execute their defensive game plans will determine the winner between these two teams.

The Cougars will look to make the Bearcats offense one-dimensional by containing the running game of Cincinnati after surrendering 353 yards on the ground to UCF.

Unlike Cincinnati, Houston ranks second-to-last in the conference in rushing yards per game with a majority of its offense coming from Tune in the passing game. Look for the Bearcats to look to neutralize Tune and dispel any worry of a running attack from the Cougars.

Where to watch

The game will kick off at 2:30 p.m. CT at Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium with a maximum attendance of 25 percent stadium capacity and can be watched on ESPN or listened to on KRPC 950 AM radio.

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