Preview 2017: Will Cincinnati Be Good Enough To Get Big 12 Interested?
Can long will it take for the new coaching staff to make Cincinnati a power player again? Will the Big 12 notice?
The Big 12 is eventually going to figure it out.
The ten-team Power Five conference has flirted with expansion ideas over the last few seasons, with Houston and Memphis a part of the mix, a few Mountain West teams being thrown out there as ideas, and even the BYU trial balloon being considered.
But when it comes time to step up and make a call, the league keeps kicking the can down the road until it can figure out the direction it wants to go. No matter where the conference decides to go, though, the basics aren’t changing.
Expansion is about TV markets, expanding the reach, and getting more national exposure.
Which is why Cincinnati makes sense, and why it’s imperative that the football program become strong enough to be an obvious pick for expansion when the time comes.
The Big 12 completely and totally blew it on Louisville. It would’ve been a natural fit for the conference as a rivalry playmate for a West Virginia program that’s on a bit of a geographic island, but instead, the ACC swooped in got the win.
Cincinnati – just a few miles up the road from Louisville – has the big city market, the recruiting base, and the potential to be the make-good on the Big 12’s whiff on the Cardinals.
But first, Cincinnati needs to be a whole lot better now under new head coach Luke Fickell – and it might be. If you’re looking for one of those schools that’ll be on everyone’s list of Teams That Will Rise, here you go.
It’s not like it’s going to take that big a push. Cincinnati went 4-8 in 2010, and bounced back with 45 wins in five years before last season’s 4-8 clunker. And while it seems like light years ago, remember, had there been a College Football Playoff in 2009, the 12-0 Bearcats would’ve been in.
The potential is there for this to be a power program. Now Fickell and his staff have to make it one again.
The offense is a no-brainer. After a disastrous season with little production and almost no scoring late in the season, the sped-up tempo and quicker offense should help. Once the quarterback situation gets settled, the receiving weapons are there, the running backs are fine, and the pieces are in place to score at a normal level. And that’s all it’ll take.
Cincinnati doesn’t have to blow the doors off anyone – it just has be able to score points like a regular college football team. The defense will do the rest.
Fickell knows how to handle a D, and he’s got a good-looking line anchored by a great set of tackles to build around. There’s athleticism and hitting ability in the versatile linebacking corps, and the secondary should be stronger with an improved pass rush – and there will be an improved pass rush.
Fickell will succeed at Cincinnati. He knows the area, he knows Ohio, and he knows how to coach at the highest of levels – even if Ohio State dipped during his year at the helm.
He’s ready, and the Bearcats appear ready to be an American Athletic Conference power player. Now it comes down to how quickly they can look ready for the Big 12.