Arkansas Welcomes the Challenges of Cincinnati.

Arkansas welcomes Cincinnati for the first time ever. What challenges will the Bearcats pose in a week one top 25 battle? Who will win?

Soon after Hogs fans pack Donald W Reynolds Stadium on September 3rd, one question will be heard throughout. What is a Bearcat? Rest assured, fans around the country have asked this question as it is a unique name. When it comes to Sam Pittman and the Hogs, they are not concerned about the mascot. They are worried about the team on the field. A team that presents many challenges to Arkansas in a first time ever meeting.  Let us find out who this football program has been in recent years, what it might look like in Fayetteville, and what challenges Cincinnati presents in Week One for Arkansas.

Arkansas Welcomes Cincinnati

What Is the Bearcat’s History?

Cincinnati will begin its 135th season, and in its storied history, this will be the first game against Arkansas. In those 135 seasons, the Bearcats are 650-595-50 and rank as one of the ten oldest programs at the FBS level. From the mid-90s through the late 2000s, this team went through many coaches that moved on to other positions. In these years, this program still succeeded on the field.

Bearcats of Today

Rick Minter, Mark Dantonio, Brian Kelly, Butch Jones, and Tommy Tuberville roamed the sidelines for Cincinnatti. On Dec 10, 2016, Luke Fickell became the 42nd head coach in program history and immediately impacted the program. After a 4-8 debut season, Fickell has a 44- 7 record going into his sixth season as the head cat. Under Fickell, the Bearcats have won twenty-seven consecutive home games, would rank second behind Clemson, and has thirty-four straight. Cincinnati’s last loss was on Nov 12, 2017, to Tulane 35-24.

Last season, the Bearcats won their second consecutive American Athletic Championship 35-20 over Houston.  Further, Cincinnati made history by being the first G5 program to make the College Football Playoff.

Embed from Getty Images

“The best atmosphere this year (2021) for College GameDay was at Cincinnati. Man, they were so fired up. They were fired up for their team. They were fired up for the validation that having GameDay come to campus brings, and they were absolutely electric. I mean there were thousands of people for as far as you could see back on the main quad area on campus at UC not far from Nippert Stadium…Cincinnati was a great, great stop this year.” College GameDay Host Rece Davis (2021)

Let’s look at the Cincinnati team to start the 2022 season.

Cincy In 2022

Offense

Many people believe that this will be a rebuilding season for the Bearcats in 2022. There will be definite changes on the field. After last season’s unquestionable losses in talent, what will this team do to compete? There is sarcasm in that question, as Fickell and his staff have quite the talent on this roster to fill these holes. Cincinnati has 12 returning players, which include essentially its entire starting offensive line, which will be critical in the performance of who plays quarterback.

Without a doubt, the offense will look different in critical positions in 2022 for the Bearcats. At quarterback, it will be between two men who have seen playing time at Cincinnatti in the past. Sophomore Evan Prater has limited playing time and portal addition from Eastern Kentucky Ben Bryant. Both men will be entering a challenging road environment for their first game. There will be a new man under center, but the threat of this fast strike offense remains.

With additions such as running back Corey Kiner from LSU, and wide receiver Nic Mardner, from Hawaii, this team has filled the immediate needs on this side of the ball and should not see too much production lost. The entire offensive line returns from a stellar 2021 season in the trenches. In the tenure of Fickell, this may be the best offensive line this staff has had since getting to Cincinnati.

The offense will still be a threat in 2022, even with new pieces at almost every position. New offensive coordinator and Bearcat legend Gino Guidugli, promoted from passing game coordinator in 2020, will have plenty of talent in his first season in this position. This Cincinnati offense will present many challenges for any team they face.

Embed from Getty Images

Defense

The defensive side of the ball is the identity of this team. Starting in the trenches, they return defensive ends Malik Vann and Jowon Briggs, who combined for six-and-a-half of the team’s 38 in 2021. This, along with the addition of Noah Potter from Ohio State, makes this a team that can cause some havoc up front. This level will be critical against the multi-faceted offenses around the nation. The defense of the Bearcats has been a challenge for any opponent under the current regime.

Statistically, linebackers will be as solid as they were last season. The Bearcats return their number four tackler in Deshawn Pace who had 95 tackles. In addition, nickel back Arquon Bush is returning, and Cincinnatti adds Pace’s brother, Ivan Pace, from Miami-Ohio, who had 151 tackles last season. The number five tackler, Tyvan Fossen, returns to anchor what may be the most talented level of this defense.

The secondary will see the most change in 2022 as they start fresh players at both corner positions and safety. This season, freshman Jonquis “JQ” Hardaway will handle one corner, while sophomore Todd Bumphis will control the other. The youth in this position will be one that offensive coordinators will attack early and often. Senior free safety Ja’Von Hicks will look to lead the youth and mentor fellow safety and sophomore Bryon Threats against elite offenses.

 Special Teams

Despite using three kickers in 2021, Ryan Coe comes from Delaware to fix the kicking issue. Coming off a season where Coe was 12-15 with a long of 51, the Cincy should improve in this category. Emphatically, the Bearcats jumped in the special teams ranking from 2020, when they ranked 34th, to 2021, finished 13th, according to Phil Steele ST rankings.

Game Prediction

The instant Arkansas and Cincinnati lineup on Saturday for the first time in history will feature many challenges for the home Hogs. In the event of a win, it would be the first season-opening game over a ranked opponent since #5 USC in 1974. Since that victory, the Hogs are 0-5 in this matchup. Season opening games have been friendly to Arkansas as they are 24-6 over the past 30 seasons. Can Arkansas survive the challenges of Cincinnati?

In this game, two factors will affect the game the most. These two things are talent and who makes the least number of mistakes. In this case, Arkansas has a crucial advantage in the home crowd noise. This will affect the Bearcats’ signal caller’s ability in numerous ways and may increase the number of mistakes he makes. These extra possessions for an already highly talented Hog offense will allow the talent level to take over for a Hog win. The many challenges of Cincinnati for Arkansas will not be enough for a Bearcats to win.

Score Prediction

Arkansas 38  Cincinnati 28

Embed from Getty Images