It’s been a crazy last couple weeks, and it seems like a footnote in the story of ‘Louisville Football In December of 2022’ is the actual bowl game being played against a longtime rival right up the road, the Cincinnati Bearcats. Lots of exciting memories for me in this rivalry but nothing was better than me sitting in Cardinal stadium watching the Bearcats stomping on the bird, and then dropping 70 points on their head over the next sixty minutes. Can this game surpass that? Will playing in a baseball stadium be weird? Will Satterfield be peeking out from behind the green monster and calling in plays? Only one way to find out.....
And what better way to find out about the Bearcats team specifically (or what remains of it) than talking with Charles Post from over at ‘Cincy On The Prowl’. He helps paint the picture of what we will likely see from that Bearcats sidelines and how this rivalry reigniting instantly on one random Monday in December.
The Cincinnati-Louisville rivalry both on the hardwood and the field had laid dormant for numerous years with no real signs of life in the near future until up pops the Fenway Bowl and got the juices flowing once again. If the Green Monster and Bostonian accents didn’t get you amped up, a few days later we hear the news of Satterfield making the move up the road and now we’re taking in the rivalry like drinking from a firehose. What’s the vibe around the Cincy program heading into this one?
It’s been quite a whirlwind for the Bearcats program the last few weeks but things have seemed to settle down as bowl preparation continues this week. Even though the roster is currently in flux and the coaching staff will look drastically different next week, the players that will take the field on Saturday have remained positive and seem ready to take advantage of the upcoming opportunity with a new era on the horizon.
The last few weeks the Cards, the Bearcats, and the Boilers are out here trading coaches like Pokemon cards. I’m no expert but I think most Louisville fans are looking at Satt like a ‘Wontmisschu’ and the new staff is an ‘Upgradeazard’ if you know what I’m saying (been a long year, Charles, work with me). How are most Cincy fans viewing this staff and what they have done in the last week or so?
Since Luke Fickell left for Wisconsin and Scott Satterfield was announced as the Bearcats newest head coach, I’ve seen plenty of fans confused, disappointed and excited. I think most fans were hoping for a bigger name but there weren’t many realistic candidates with more experience than Satterfield so it makes sense why athletics director John Cunningham landed on the former Louisville coach. As for the rest of the coaching staff, Bearcats supporters were thrilled when it was announced interim coach Kerry Coombs was going to be retained next season. Plus the addition of several former Cardinals assistants alongside Satterfield has helped avoid a total recruiting disaster.
Ok, back to the actual game, while I think you could fill up half the page with guys who are opting out of the bowl or have entered the transfer portal who are some of the more notable absences for the Bearcats that we will not see on Saturday?
Cincinnati is going to be without a handful of starters in Boston including the top six leading receivers this year. All-AAC receiver Tyler Scott, senior receiver Tre Tucker, and both senior tight ends Josh Whyle and Leonard Taylor decided to opt out and prepare for the draft, while Nick Mardner and Jadon Thompson entered the transfer portal and won’t play either. It will be important for other receivers to step up like Will Pauling and Chris Scott, and freshman tight end Chamon Metayer. The defense will be without two All-AAC First Team selections as defensive tackle Dontay Corleone recently underwent surgery and cornerback Ja’Quan Sheppard transferred to Maryland. Corleone is one of the best players on the defense but his absence shouldn’t have too much of an effect since veterans Jowon Briggs and Jabari Taylor are able to play and have led a dominant unit for years. The secondary has been inconsistent most of the season though so losing Sheppard could have an impact as Louisville looks to create big plays downfield.
Assuming they don’t throw the playbook out the window and just wing it with a partial staff, what type of offense should we expect to see this weekend? More of a ground and pound or air raid type attack? What about defensively?
The Bearcats had a balanced offense for most of the season but had to rely on the run more after starting quarterback Ben Bryant suffered a season-ending foot injury last month. Evan Prater started the season finale and will be under center for the Fenway Bowl so expect to see a lot of handoffs and options on Saturday. Prater will look to create an edge on the outside and has elite speed to pull away from defenders. Cincinnati will have all four running backs available so I’m expecting a run heavy offense with Prater running the show. In Prater’s only career start against Tulane last month, the Bearcats totaled 43 rushing attempts compared to just 26 passing attempts so I’m anticipating a similar game plan against Louisville. Cincinnati’s defensive scheme under Fickell and Mike Tressel was 3-3-5 so I would expect that to remain even though both coaches went to Wisconsin. The Bearcats have become known for having an extra defensive back and just three down linemen so I could see the interim staff trying something new but it seems more likely they will continue what it’s been for years.
If I give you a crisp $100 bill, what’s something you would feel very comfortable betting that we see happen this weekend on either side of the ball?
I would feel comfortable betting on the Bearcats to total more rushes than passes because of Prater’s strengths and a lack of experienced receivers available. I think it’s also very likely that Prater will score a touchdown on the ground since Cincinnati has a tendency to keep it in his hands and run to the outside when nearing the end zone.
“Bear” with me here, Charles (pun intended) but I’ve got a tin foil hat, mom’s basement, negative photo images, conspiracy theory for you. A few years ago the Cards traveled up I-71 into the depths of Cincinnati and brought in a coach from his alma mater by the name of Chris Mack to help resurrect a proud basketball program. It did not work out well. Fast forward a couple years and we are now sending a coach back up I-71 north to ‘The Queen City’ and are bringing in a new coach back to his alma mater in one Jeff Brohm. While it may sound like the circle is complete I think the Cards need to win the bowl game and retain the ‘Keg Of Nails’ to lift the Cincy curse. Sound completely plausible? Can they do it? Who has a keg party like no other on Saturday for the first time in nearly a decade?
It’s a difficult game to predict since both programs are dealing with coaching changes, opt outs, transfers and plenty of roster turnover but all of that should create a competitive matchup between the former rivals. I think Cincinnati has an advantage defensively and will be able to slow down Louisville just enough to secure a tight win. I’m picking the Bearcats to escape with a 23-21 win but I can definitely see this game going in either direction. I would be surprised if it was a blowout though because both teams should come out with an edge after enduring a difficult last couple weeks.
Big thanks to Charles for his time and answers. You can follow ‘Cincy On The Prowl’ (@CincyOnTheProwl) and Charles (@chas_post23) to keep up to date with all thing Bearcats now and in the future. I have a feeling many Louisville fans will be keeping an eye on Satterfield from afar over the next few years to see how his decision plays out and maybe we can get this rivalry once again renewed during a regular season matchup. I did a Q&A with Charles as well and will drop a link right here once it posts. Cardinal Stadium, Nippert Stadium, Fenway...don’t matter, it’s always ‘beat down the Bearcats’. Go Cards!