Sports

American Athletic Conference opponent preview: Cincinnati

In the third part of a series, we take a look at new football opponents.

Temple is a founding member of The American Athletic Conference. Since the Owls are playing in a new conference with new opponents, The Temple News will be taking a look at the new rivals of the football team and providing some important facts that Temple fans should know about the new conference opponents. Next up: the University of Cincinnati Bearcats.

As indicated by the name of the university, the Bearcats are located in Cincinnati, Ohio, 572 miles from Temple’s main campus. Despite being over a nine-hour drive from Philadelphia, Cincinnati is the third-closest American school to Temple. Only Rutgers and Connecticut are closer.

Cincinnati plays in Nippert Stadium, the on-campus stadium that has hosted football games in some form since 1901. It was officially completed in 1924, and is the fourth oldest playing site in college football.

The Bearcats have had a football team since 1885. They participated in Ohio’s first intercollegiate game in 1888 against Miami (OH).  Cincinnati has an all-time record of 560-554-51, giving them a winning percentage of .503. The university was most recently in the old Big East Conference before joining The American.

Temple has an all-time record of 9-5-1 against Cincinnati. All but the three most recent games were played between 1973 and 1985, when both teams were independent and not affiliated with any conference. Cincinnati has won the past three games, the most recent being last season, when Temple lost 34-10.

Over the past five years, Cincinnati has a record of 47-18, a winning percentage of .723. Take out the Bearcats’ 4-8 record in 2010 and they have a stellar .815 winning percentage. In fact, Cincinnati did not have any double-digit win seasons between 1954 and 2006, and they’ve had five in the six seasons since then. This program is currently in one of its most successful stretches ever.

In 2012, Cincinnati finished 10-3 under the leadership of now-Tennessee head coach Butch Jones. They went 5-2 in conference play and went to the Belk Bowl, where they defeated Duke 48-34. Cincinnati was led by then-redshirt junior quarterback Brendon Kay, who threw for 332 yards and four touchdowns.

The Bearcats are now coached by Tommy Tuberville. This is Tuberville’s fourth head coaching job in college, after Mississippi, Auburn and Texas Tech.  Tuberville sports a .628 (130-77) career winning percentage as a head coach, including a 7-3 mark in bowl games.

One positional battle to keep an eye on is at quarterback. Despite his success in last season’s bowl game, Kay will likely fight senior Munchie Legaux for the starting job. Legaux began the 2012 season as the starter, but was benched midway through the November 3 game against Syracuse. Kay then took over for the rest of the season.  Kay put up better numbers than Legaux considering Legaux had nearly 100 more passing attempts. Those stats may not matter with a new coach in town.

A key player on defense will be senior linebacker Greg Blair. Blair led the Big East in tackles last season with 138, which also ranked sixth in the nation. He added nine tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks and two interceptions. Blair barely played before 2012, and his breakout year has only increased expectations for his final collegiate season.

A number of former Bearcats have made waves in the NFL. Four current Philadelphia Eagles attended Cincinnati: tight end Brent Celek, center Jason Kelce, defensive end Trent Cole, and outside linebacker Connor Barwin. The school’s most well-known football alumnus is probably Urban Meyer, who coached Florida to two national championships and is now the head coach of state rival Ohio State.

The Owls will take on the Bearcats on Friday, October 11 at Nippert Stadium. The game time is to be determined, but it will air on an ESPN station.

Evan Cross can be reached at evan.cross@temple.edu or on Twitter @EvanCross.

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