Caleb Taylor | Staff Reporter
This Friday night, Nippert Stadium will see what is most likely going to be its most important game all year. Two of the American Athletic Conference’s biggest powerhouses are squaring off in a game where the winner could easily become the conference champions. Both the Bearcats and Knights have only lost one game this year, each being on the road.
Cincinnati is coming off an impressive 38-point win against Marshall on the road in a game where they were only favored by -3.5 points. The Bearcats relied heavily on the ground game, again, posting a team total of 230 rushing yards. However, UC finally found some success through the air. Desmond Ridder threw for 221 yards and 4 touchdowns. What is even better is he did not throw a single ball to the opposing team. Coach Fickell is a very establish-the-run-game-first kind of coach, but if UC plans on upsetting 18th-ranked UCF, then they need to throw the ball. If the Bearcats are able to keep their effective run game and continue with the passing success of last week, combine that with a loud and nearly sold out Nippert they may be able to knock off their conference foe.
UCF is also entering Friday’s matchup off a blowout win. The Knights put up 28 in the first quarter and did not look back defeating UConn 56-21. Central Florida, like Cincinnati, as of late is quite the bag of tricks. They have found success on the ground or the air depending on the week. Freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel has led the Knights this year following the injury of Mckenzie Milton last season. Gabriel, much like Ridder, found success in the air last week throwing for 281 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Cincinnati defense has been a huge strength this year and finding ways to make the freshman QB make bad decisions will be critical.
Although UCF is favored by -3.5 points UC has everything they need to force an upset in their defense. The game will start at 8 PM and if you are attending, wear black. If you are watching from home the game is on ESPN, and for listening purposes catch Alex Frank and Zach Fries on the call for Bearcast Media with the pregame show beginning at 7:30 p.m. A link to listen to the broadcast will be posted on bearcastmedia.com at 6:30 p.m.
(Statistics courtesy of ESPN)