No. 25 Cincinnati at Houston
When and Where: Saturday, Oct. 12, TDECU Stadium, Houston, Texas, 3:30 p.m. EDT.
Having established itself as the team to beat in the East Division of the American Athletic Conference and cracking The Associated Press Top 25, Cincinnati looks to avoid the dreaded letdown Saturday when it faces Houston in a cross-division matchup.
New-look Cougars seek second straight winHouston's season took a drastic turn when both starting quarterback D'Eriq King and wide receiver Keith Corbin opted to redshirt for the remainder of the season after a 1-3 start. First-year coach Dana Holgorsen has had to re-tool on the fly but was helped by the schedule as the Cougars (2-3, 0-1 AAC West) had both a non-conference game and a bye week ahead of this contest.
Clayton Tune, who started the final two games last season after King went down with a knee injury, completed 16 of 20 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown and added another 100 on the ground as Houston defeated North Texas 46-25 on the road Sept. 28.
Patrick Carr matched a career-high with 139 rushing yards and set a personal best with three touchdowns, and the Cougars got two scores from their special teams as Marquez Stevenson returned a kickoff 82 yards and Bryson Smith raced 60 yards on a punt return.
“I've been very happy with our running game. Whether it's whatD'Eriq Kingbrought to the table, from a quarterback run game,Clayton Tune brings the same stuff. That's one element to it," Holgorsen at his weekly press conference. "Our backs have been solid. It's the same conversation, Patrick Carr couldn't go a couple of games early and thenKyle Porterwas the main guy.Kyle Porterthen went out with his back and he's going to be fine, thenPatrick Carr stepped up and played really well."
Stevenson, who is chasing his second straight 1,000-yard receiving season, also had seven catches for 64 yards and leads Houston with 24 receptions, 298 yards, and three touchdowns.
Houston's pass defense continues to be a major work in progress as Holgorsen has watched it get torched for 1,566 yards and 13 TD passes -- giving up at least two scoring tosses in all five games. The 312.2 yards allowed per game ranks 122nd among the 130 FBS teams.
Bearcats gain upper hand in East after taking down UCFThe 25th-ranked Bearcats (4-1, 1-0 East) are coming off the biggest victory of third-year coach Luke Fickell's tenure, upending then-No. 18 UCF 27-24 on Oct. 4. Ahmad Gardner's 16-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter gave Cincinnati the lead for good, and the offense killed off the final 3:11 of the game for Fickell's first win over a ranked opponent in six tries.
Cincinnati/Detroit King true freshman, Ahmad Gardner with the Pick Six last night. https://t.co/VnaRrQ5b2b— The D Zone (@TheD_Zone) October 5, 2019
The challenge for Fickell and the Bearcats now comes in facing the raised expectations such a victory brings. The perception of Houston has changed following the decisions of King and Corbin to redshirt, and Fickell recognizes this game will still be a challenge.
"I think getting over the thrill of victory and the euphoria and those kinds of things is first," Fickell told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "... We've got to keep ourselves in line for what's really important. That's why, yes (UCF was) a great game and it's an exciting game. But put it with what it is. It's another one game. Yes, they're the best and have been the best in the league, but it's another one game. For our ability to put that behind us and continue to move on, pressure is what you make of it."
Desmond Ridder had a quietly effective game versus the Knights, throwing for 149 yards and two touchdowns while adding another 41 on the ground. The sophomore has thrown for 964 yards and 10 TDs while completing 62 percent of his passes.
Michael Warren is coming off his best game of the season, rushing for 133 yards on 23 carries for his second 100-yard game of 2019 and ninth of his career. Cincinnati is averaging 187.6 yards on the ground overall while holding teams to 129.4 yards on 3.4 yards per carry.
- 5-1 ATS in its last six games vs. sub-.500 teams.
- 6-2-1 ATS in its last nine games vs. Houston
- The road team is 3-0-1 ATS in the last four meetings.
- 1-8 ATS in its last nine games following a straight up win by 20 or more points.
- 1-4 ATS in its last five games vs. AAC teams.
- 1-4 ATS in its last five games coming off a bye week.