Cincinnati Bearcats Preview 2022: Season Prediction, Breakdown, Key Games, Players

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Cincinnati Bearcats Preview 2022: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the Cincinnati season with what you need to know and keys to the season.

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Cincinnati Bearcats Preview
Head Coach: Luke Fickell, 6th year at Cincinnati, 48-15
7th overall: 54-22, 2021 Cincinnati Preview
2021 Record: Overall: 13-1, Conference: 8-0
Keys To The Season | Season Prediction, What Will Happen
Cincinnati Top 10 Players | Cincinnati Schedule

Cincinnati Bearcats Preview 2022

Well that went just fine.

Completely and totally memory dump what happened – or didn’t happen – in the College Football Playoff loss to Alabama. That doesn’t really matter, because …

Cincinnati was in the freaking College Football Playoff.

Cincinnati got the benefit of the doubt from the panel of CFP judges over the Big 12 Champion, Notre Dame, and Ohio State. It was among the four best teams in the country at the end of the season – Wisconsin, Texas A&M, USC, Florida, Texas, Auburn, Penn State are all big programs that have yet to get into the CFP – and it managed to get through the scrutiny, the doubters, and the college football infrastructure to get a shot.

And now Cincinnati has to prove it can keep it all going as it prepares for life in the Big 12 next year.

Of course there will be a wee bit of a step back, and of course it’s asking for way too much to get the same breaks and the same big performances in key moments, but head coach Luke Fickell has created a powerhouse with staying power.

There’s still a ton of talent, the schedule isn’t that bad, and even if this isn’t another College Football Playoff run, it should still be another big year.

Cincinnati Bearcats Preview 2022: Offense

The 2021 Cincinnati offense wasn’t quite as dominant as you might think. It averaged over 36 points per game, but it only finished 58th in the nation in total offense, the running game wasn’t totally dominant, and the passing game wasn’t always explosive.

However, the Bearcats were wildly efficient, they came through time and again when they had to, and they often found a gear to turn games from close battles to routes in a hiccup. Now they have to find the skill guys.

Start with the big positive – the line will be a rock. The skill parts will need a little bit, but the front five should get everyone back including three All-AAC stars. The Bearcats were among the best in the nation in tackles for loss allowed and were fine in pass protection, and that’s not changing. This group will give everyone time to work.

Desmond Ridder, Jerome Ford, Alec Pierce. The main men for the attack last year are now off to the NFL, but the receiving corps should be fine with most of the other pass catchers back along with TE Josh Whyle. The veteran line will make the ground attack work with LSU transfer Corey Kiner a good back to rotate with Ryan Montgomery. That will all be fine, but …

Is Evan Prater ready to replace Ridder? Cincinnati-turned-Eastern-Michigan-turned-Cincinnati veteran Ben Bryant is in the mix, too, but this should be Prater’s gig to lose.

Cincinnati Bearcats Preview 2022: Defense

The offense might have lost a ton of star power, but most of the starters are back. The defense loses both the top guys and the bulk talent.

There are still plenty of great players back from the nation’s 10th-best defense that forced takeaways in bunches, but Cincinnati isn’t Alabama or Ohio State. You don’t just replace the NFL talent last year’s defense had without blinking. However …

This was a relatively deep team that got plenty of parts in the mix last year. The linebacking corps loses the team’s top two tacklers, but Deshawn Pace is back after earning all-star honors – this group isn’t starting from scratch.

The line also has decent parts back. Malik Vann has to be a bigger factor on one end, and 315-pound former Virginia transfer Jowon Briggs has to become an anchor in the interior.

But the line will be fine, the linebackers will be fine, and …

The secondary is a problem. This is where it’s asking for the world to come up with NFL-level corners like Sauce Gardner and Coby Bryant. Even tougher to replace might be new Kansas City Chief Bryan Cook – second round draft pick safeties are premium players.

All is not lost, though, with Ja’von Hicks a good hold over at safety and three-interception corner Arquon Bush ready to do more.

Keys To The Season | Season Prediction, What Will Happen
Cincinnati Top 10 Players | Cincinnati Schedule

Cincinnati Bearcats: Keys To The Season, Top Game, Top Transfer, Fun Stats NEXT

Cincinnati Bearcats: Keys To The Season, Top Game, Top Transfer, Fun Stats

Cincinnati Bearcats: Key To The 2022 Offense

Convert third downs.

The 2021 offense was able to make up for the lack of ball control and the occasional problems moving the ball with tremendous explosion and runs of domination to take over when needed. This one has to find that same pop, but in the meantime it needs to keep things moving.

For all of the good things the Bearcats did, they weren’t good on third downs converting fewer than 40% of their tries. It was more about consistency than anything else – they dominated third downs against UCF, Tulsa, and were fine half of the time. But …

They went 0-for-8 against Houston in the AAC Championship, barely got anything going against Bama, and there were times when the O just didn’t move the chains.

Cincinnati Bearcats: Key To The 2022 Defense

Keep taking the ball away.

There might not be the talent of last year’s defense, but it’s still going to be among the best in the American Athletic Conference and the overall drop-off shouldn’t be that much as long as the D can keep forcing mistakes.

Last year’s team had a great knack for coming up with lots of takeaways to offset any other problems. Four takeaways against Indiana meant the world, the three against Notre Dame helped, and the three against UCF helped turn that into a blowout.

Coming up with 34 again might be a bit much, but generate two per game and the defense will be helping the cause.

Cincinnati Bearcats: Key Player To The 2022 Season

QB Evan Prater, Soph.
The Bearcats could use steady kicking – Delaware transfer Ryan Coe might help – and an extra corner, pass rusher, and No. 1 receiver are in the mix, but the season should be about Prater – or Ben Bryant; he could absolutely win this job – and how good the quarterback play is in the biggest games.

Desmond Ridder wasn’t just good and efficient, he was a veteran producer who wasn’t fazed by the tough moments. Prater doesn’t have the time to ease into the gig with Arkansas to kick things off.

He can run and he’s got the 6-4, 200-pound size and live arm. If he’s great, all of the other pieces will come together.

Cincinnati Bearcats: Key Transfer

RB Corey Kiner, Soph.
Maryland transfer Ivan Pace should be a factor at linebacker, and there’s a shot Delaware transfer PK Ryan Coe makes or breaks the season at some point. But it’s Kiner who’ll have the spotlight as he tries to take over for Jerome Ford to carry the ground game.

The 5-10, 213-pound former LSU Tiger ran for 324 yards and two scores last season. He’s got the talent and the size, and he’s got the fresh legs to be the one who takes over the offense while all the other parts get settled.

Cincinnati Key Game To The 2022 Season

at Arkansas, Sept. 3
The road game at UCF will be the big one for American Athletic Conference play, but Cincinnati’s about bigger things now. The Indiana game is at home, and there should be other fights other than that date at UCF, but realistically, it’s all about the Hogs.

Beat Arkansas on the road to start the season, and it’s Game On for the expectations – the Bearcats will likely be favored against everyone else. Lose, and the program has to deal with being out of the College Football Playoff hunt on September 3rd.

Cincinnati Bearcats: 2021 Fun Stats

– 1st Half Scoring: Cincinnati 251 – Opponents 105
– Punt Return Average: Cincinnati 10.7 – Opponents 1.5
– Passing TDs: Cincinnati 33 – Opponents 13

O, D Breakdown | Season Prediction, What Will Happen
Cincinnati Top 10 Players | Cincinnati Schedule

Cincinnati Bearcats Season Prediction, What Will Happen NEXT

Cincinnati Bearcats Season Prediction, What Will Happen

It’s going to be an interesting season attitude-wise for a program that now knows what it’s like to be among the powerhouses.

It’s a year of transition as the school gets ready to be in the Power Five world of the Big 12, and it’s a year to try keeping all the momentum going after a historic run with so much fun and so many big moments.

There might be a massive loss of NFL talent, and everyone will be gunning for them now, but the Bearcats have a relatively breezy schedule overall with just a few big games to get by.

Of course, last year they had to sidestep a few landmines in games that should’ve been easy, and that might not happen this year.

Road games at UCF and SMU are dangerous. Home dates against East Carolina, Tulane, and Navy – all three will be better – aren’t going to be layups. Indiana was awful last year and it still almost won, and going to Arkansas against a very, very strong team is going to be rough right out of the gate.

Set The Cincinnati Bearcats Regular Season Win Total At … 9.5

Even with all of the concerns, Cincinnati is a mortal lock to win at least eight games. At Arkansas, Indiana, at UCF, at SMU, and throw in random Tulsa-like game of last year into the mix, and there will be two losses in there somewhere … maybe.

There’s no Houston or Memphis to deal with, and throw out all of this if Cincinnati beats Arkansas to kick things off.

If that happens, set the win total at 11 and go from there. The safer call, though, is a tough loss to the Hogs, one loss in AAC play on the road, and then it’s all about whether or not there’s a hiccup somewhere else.

Offense, Defense Breakdown | Keys To The Season
Cincinnati Top 10 Players | Cincinnati Schedule

2022 College Football Schedules: All 131 Teams

Story originally appeared on College Football News