The defending champions of the American Athletic Conference, the University of Cincinnati soccer team, will open their 2021 season against rivals Miami University on Labor Day weekend.
The AAC announced on Thursday that the Bearcats will host the RedHawks on September 4th at Nippert Stadium.
Cincinnati, who won 9-0 last season before losing to Georgia in the Peach Bowl, has won a school record of 20 straight games at Nippert.
UC has won 14 straight wins against Miami in the battle for the Victory Bell. The two teams didn’t play last season as the Mid-American Conference, the RedHawks’ home conference, decided to play a conference schedule for only six games due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
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Cincinnati will host FCS opponents Murray State on September 11, followed by two consecutive street games in Indiana and Notre Dame.
The Bearcats face a Hoosiers squad that ended 6-2 (6-1 Big Ten) last season. Indiana started 4-0 before falling 42:35 in the state of Ohio. The Hoosiers finished 11th in the final rankings of the College Football Playoffs.
After a week of bye bye, Cincinnati will travel to South Bend on October 2nd to face former defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman and the Fighting Irish.
Freeman, who served as the defensive coordinator of head coach Luke Fickell for his first four seasons at Cincinnati, left the program last month to take the same position under former UC coach Brian Kelly at Notre Dame.
The Irish took a 10-0 lead last season before losing to Clemson in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game. Notre Dame, usually independent, joined the ACC for the 2020 season.
The Irish finished fourth in the rankings of the College Football Playoffs and lost in the playoff semifinals to eventual national champions Alabama.
Under Freeman, Cincinnati’s defense was the top of the AAC and one of the most suffocating in the country. The Bearcats led the American in rapid defense, goal defense and overall defense last season. UC was fourth in the country in the fewest allowed yards per game, third in passing efficiency and had the highest touchdown-to-interception ratio (7-16) in the nation.
Fickell replaced Freeman with longtime Michigan State assistant coach and former Bearcats assistant Mike Tressel.
More:New UC Defensive Coordinator Mike Tressel “fired” to be “home” with Bearcats
In the conference game, Cincinnati has home games against Temple (October 8), UCF (October 16), Tulsa (November 6) and SMU (November 20). The Bearcats will be out for meetings at Navy (October 23), Tulane (October 30), South Florida (November 12), and East Carolina (November 27).
The AAC championship game is scheduled for December 4th. Cincinnati won their first AAC title last season, beating Tulsa at Nippert 27-24.
UC, who finished eighth in the final college football playoff rankings, are returning 16 starters from last season, including AAC Offensive Player of the Year Desmond Ridder and Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, 2020 All America cornerback AP.
Ridder, who announced last month that he would be returning to Cincinnati for “one last ride,” is 30-5 as a starter. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound quarterback passed 2,296 yards and 19 touchdowns against six interceptions last season while hitting 592 yards and 12 more points, the fastest touchdowns of an FBS quarterback in 2020.
Ridders 22 touchdowns in his career are the most from a Cincinnati quarterback and the eighth in program history.
Fickell, who is between 35 and 14 years old for four seasons at UC, was the AAC coach of the year last season. The 47-year-old was also the top American coach in 2018.