The University of Cincinnati Bearcats football team was picked to finish fourth in the East Division of the American Athletic Conference at this week’s conference media days in Newport, R.I..
Cincinnati is coming off a 4-8 season, the first under current head coach Luke Fickell.
Despite some inevitable growing pains throughout the season, there were some bright spots on the team that will be returning in 2018.
The Bearcats are the only team of the 12 total in the conference for football who return their leading rusher (Gerrin Doaks), passer (Hayden Moore) and receiver (Khalil Lewis).
Also returning in 2018 is UC’s streak of 12 straight victories in the Victory Bell series with Miami (Ohio) University, courtesy of last year’s thrilling come-from-behind victory highlighted by linebacker Malik Clements’ 14-yard interception return for a touchdown with just over a minute remaining.
Cincinnati will also look to improve upon a 2-6 conference record from last year.
Cincinnati’s standings projection identically matches the one made by Athlon Sports Magazine just over a month ago and it also matches the prediction made by the magazine in 2017.
Cincinnati Enquirer sports reporter Tom Groeschen reported earlier this week that the ESPN Football Power Index has the Bearcats finishing between 5.9 and 6.2 wins. That rounds off to six wins which would subsequently make them bowl-eligible.
UCF was picked to win the East Division at the media days with 25 first-place votes while the University of Memphis was tabbed as the preseason West Division champions with 23 first-place votes.
The two division winners will meet in the conference championship game on Saturday, Dec. 1 at the home venue of the division winner with the best record.
Back to the Bearcats where the Football Writers Association of America have placed senior defensive tackle Marquise Copeland on the watch list for two College Football awards; the Outland and Nagurski.
According to an article published by gobearcats.com, the former award, which includes 82 interior linemen and is presented by the National Foundation for Infectious Deceases, is given to the best player at the position. The latter award, which includes 97 defensive standouts and is presented by the Charlotte Touchdown Club, is given to the defensive player of the year in the Football Bowl Subdivision of the NCAA.
A native of Cleveland, Ohio and product of Bedford High School, Copeland is coming off a year where he was named honorable mention in the AAC as a culmination of setting career-highs with 63 tackles, eight tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. He was also named a preseason First-Team All-American Athletic Conference selection by Athlon Sports in May of 2018.
Also of note from the AAC media days was the release of the conference’s Fifth Anniversary Team where the lone Bearcats’ representative was former three-time first-team all-conference offensive tackle Eric Lefeld.
The Bearcats now return home and will commence practice leading up to the season on Friday Aug. 3 and kick off their 2018 season in the Rose Bowl against the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) on Saturday, Sept. 1.