CINCINNATI (AP) – No. 8 Cincinnati is hoping to make the college football playoffs and has big games on the schedule with no conferences at No. 9 Notre Dame and No. 17 Indiana. But none of that will matter if the Bearcats don’t take care of business at the season opener against domestic rivals Miami on Saturday.
“It’s like Christmas morning,” said Luke Fickell, Bearcats coach. “I really want to see what we have. To see some of these guys who have to take the next step. How we work together as a team. For the first time to see what this team is made of. It’s unique every year. “
Fickell said he prefers to start the season with a rivalry game. And while they had a 14-game winning streak against the RedHawks, several of the games were close, including 2019 when Miami took a 10-0 lead before the Bearcats rallied for a 35-13 win.
Of the 124 meetings, 54 were decided with seven points or less.
“It has created a lot of awareness in the past 10 days,” said Fickell. “We don’t just prepare for any other game. We are preparing for a rivalry game. There was some fighting against them. We want you to understand that. “
Miami, which finished second in the Mid-American Conference East Division, hasn’t beaten the Bearcats since 2005.
The “Battle for the Victory Bell” is the longest college football rivalry west of the Allegheny Mountains and dates back to 1888. It is also the fifth most played rivalry in Division I (FBS only) with 124 encounters of all time.
The Cincinnati Bearcats hold the Victory Bell after defeating Miami in Ohio in 2019. (AP Photo / John Minchillo)
Saturday’s game is a great opportunity for Miami.
“It couldn’t be better,” said RedHawks trainer Chuck Martin. “It’s our big rival. It’s the No. 8 team in the country. I don’t know if there is a better chance for us. There are easier preludes, but we cannot retreat into one season. “
The Bearcats are returning 16 starters from last year’s roster that lost 9-1 and 24-21 to Georgia in the Peach Bowl, including senior quarterback Desmond Ridder. Ridder passed for 2,296 yards and 19 touchdowns while completing more than 66% of his passes. He also had 12 roaring TDs.
“He’s really grown as a passerby since we saw him as a newbie,” said Martin. “Keeping Ridder in your pocket is easier said than done. But you have to limit the time he gets out. It’s scary every time he falls behind. He can hit you quickly. “
Miami quarterback Brett Gabbert is the brother of NFL quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Brett Gabbert passed two games for 384 yards and four touchdowns last season. In 2019, he was named MAC Freshman of the Year after passing for 2,411 yards and 11 TDs. He set a Miami Bowl record with 22 finals in the LendingTree Bowl against Louisiana, including a series of 12 straights.
Due to the pandemic, the two teams did not play last season. It was the first time since 1945 that they no longer faced each other. Except for 1943 and 1944, the Bearcats and RedHawks played from 1909 to 1942 each year. The schools recently announced that the series would be extended to 2029.
Cincinnati set a school record for season ticket sales of more than 22,000. That puts the 18,836 season tickets sold for the 2010 season in the shade.
It’s been a while
Miami leads the all-time series 59-58-7, but the Bearcats have won the last 14 games. Miami’s last win came on September 28, 2005, a 44-16 triumph at Oxford.