Why Cincinnati Will Win
– Cincinnati does what it does, and no one seems able to stop it. The offensive line has been a killer, the running game is the best in the American Athletic Conference, and the passing attack kicks in when it has to. The Bearcats had no problems running for 240 yards or more in five of the eight games, and the passing attack improved with over 700 yards combined in the last two games.
– Desmond Ridder has been here before. Yeah, Cincinnati has its style, but it’s all because its veteran Bearcat quarterback has managed to stay healthy. Last season, he only connected on 55% of his passes averaging 6.7 yards per throw – he took a major step forward as a passer. This year, he’s tearing off bigger runs and he’s hitting 67% of his throws with deeper plays.
– Yes, Cincinnati can hit home runs and will score in chunks, but it’s also able to dominate the clock. Tulsa doesn’t really care much about the time of possession battle, and that’s a potential killer. UC will have the ball for at least six minutes more than the Golden Hurricane.
Why Tulsa Will Win
– The defense is just that good. It’s a rock on third downs, it cleans up mistakes from the offensive side, and it’s got a freakish knock for coming up with massive plays when it absolutely has to.
Want to beat Cincinnati? Get its offense off the field – Tulsa leads the AAC in third down stops. It starts with a whole slew of tackles for loss and a whole lot of toughness against the run, starting with …
– Zaven Collins might be the best linebacker you haven’t seen. The 6-4, 260-pounder is a future NFL starter with size, range, pass rushing ability, and off-the-charts instincts. He’s second on the team with 51 tackles to go along with four sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss, and he has four picks including a 96-yarder for a score in the 30-24 win over Tulane. That came after sealing the win over SMU with an interception. He and Justin Wright should keep the Bearcat running game from going off.
– Here’s the Cincinnati problem – and it’s the type of thing the College Football Playoff committee should notice more than it has. What defense has it faced? Army is third in the national total D, and it held the Bearcats to 24 points and 331 yards. The second-best defense the Bearcats have faced? Houston’s, and it’s 71st in the nation.
Tulsa’s defense is the 20th best in the nation, and the offense has faced three defenses – Oklahoma State, Tulane, Navy – that’s ranked higher than anything UC has dealt with outside of Army.