Next, the Cincinnati Bearcats are on their way too early for the 2021 Notre Dame football season.
opponent: Cincinnati Bearcats
Date: October 2, 2021
Place: Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame, Indiana
Kicking off: TBD
History of the matchup
Although the schools are relatively close together geographically, they have only played once so far. That game was played on October 26, 1900 at Cartier Field in South Bend, Indiana. In this game, the Irish dominated the Bearcats and secured a 58-0 victory. This Irish squad would end the year on a 6-3-1 record.
The Bearcats had a dream season in 2020 as they put together a perfect 8-0 regular season. They then won their ninth game of the year in the American Athletic Conference Championship against Tulsa 27-24. Many believed the Bearcats deserved consideration for the college football playoffs for their efforts, but they ended up playing in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, where they fell 24:21 against Georgia.
Last year the Bearcats outperformed their opponents by a huge 375-168. Their greatest strength on the offensive was arguably their running game, as they had an average of 212.4 rush yards per game. The way for the bearcats on the ground was Gerrid Doaks, who had 673 rushing yards with 144 porters in the year. Quarterback Desmond Ridder was also a force in the rushing game as he completed 592 yards and 12 touchdowns in the season. Jerome Ford also received a few transfers for the Bearcats, winning a total of 483 yards on 73 attempts.
In passing, Ridder was the Bearcats quarterback all season. In addition to his contributions in the floor game, Ridder passed nearly 2,300 yards and threw 19 touchdowns.
In the reception game, the Bearcats team was very even with four receivers who recorded over 300 meters during the season. At the forefront of catches for the Bearcats was Michael Young Jr., who previously played for the Irish before moving to Cincinnati. The main recipient at touchdowns and yards for the Bearcats was Josh Whyle, who recorded 353 yards and six touchdowns.
The Bearcats defense has also been very solid throughout the 2020 season under former defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, who was recently hired as defensive coordinator at Notre Dame. Her defense kept her opponents at 24 points or less in every game, with the exception of her 36-33 win over UCF. Getting points from sales was also a big part of their defense as they scored 56 points from sales during the season.
Cincinnati drove to easy wins in the first seven games of the season, but the last three games were all decided by three points, with the Bearcats beating UCF and Tulsa 36-33 and 27-24 and losing to Georgia in the Peach Bowl by one point from 24-21.
In the Peach Bowl game, the Bearcats went head to toe with the Georgia Bulldogs, but they ultimately fell short. In fact, the Bearcats had a 21-10 lead in the fourth quarter, but the Bulldogs rallied late and frozen the game in three seconds with a 53-yard field goal.
The Bearcats are likely to be a force again at the American Athletic Conference this season, and they will look to build on their magical 2020 season in 2021. In some early preseason predictions, the Bearcats are actually over the Irish.
While the Bearcats in Gerrid Doaks will lose their leading rusher from 2020, Jerome Ford is expected to take over the role as leadback. Ford looked impressive in its red shirt season last year and is expected to play a key role for the Bearcats in 2021. Charles McClelland could also play a role for the Bearcats in the backfield in 2021.
Quarterback Desmond Ridder will return for the Bearcats in 2021. Ridder is the heart and soul of this Cincinnati crime, and the offense is expected to revolve around his gambling skills again in 2021. If Ridder can get more efficient at passing in the coming year, he could put himself on some Heisman watchlists. The Bearcats will also be returning most of their balanced reception corps from the 2020 season.
As for the defensive side of the ball, the Bearcats will try to regroup after Marcus Freeman leaves for Notre Dame. While the loss of Freeman will undoubtedly be a huge loss to the Bearcats in 2021, the team still has enough playmakers and talent from last year to have a successful campaign in 2021.
Before the game against the Irish, the Bearcats play against Murray State University, Miami University of Ohio and Indiana University. The Bearcats are expected to win their first two games easily, but their game against the Hoosiers in Bloomington will undoubtedly be one of the better non-conference games of the season. The Bearcats then have a goodbye week before their trip to South Bend.
The game against Cincinnati is the fifth of the year for the Irish. While the Irish are likely to beat Florida State, Toledo and Purdue to start the year, they will have a challenging game against Wisconsin at Soldier Field the week before their showdown with the Bearcats.
If both teams find a way to stay undefeated in this game, it is almost certain that this will be a top 10 showdown in South Bend and will have a huge impact on the college football playoffs for both teams.
(Much too early) predictions
Nate Moller – sports journalist
This will undoubtedly be one of the biggest games for the Irish next year as Cincy is prepared to be a top 10 team again. As they demonstrated in their narrow loss to Georgia at the Peach Bowl last year, they’re real and can measure up to the best of the best. I also assume that the Bearcats will have additional motivation in this case, as Brian Kelly and Marcus Freeman previously trained at Cincy.
I’m assuming this is a high score matter with Desmond Ridder leading the way to the Bearcats and Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree to the Irish. Both teams will have a lot to play in this game and I’m not assuming either team will be out without a fight. Although the Irish will take the lead early, the Bearcats can get back into the game and even take the lead five minutes from time. A late ride for the Irish will seal the deal and keep the hopes of the Notre Dame College Football Playoffs alive.
Final: Notre Dame 38, Cincinnati 34