College Football Game of the Week: Cincinnati vs. Notre Dame
A battle of unbeatens will answer a lot of questions this weekend as No. 7 Cincinnati travels to South Bend to take on No. 9 Notre Dame. Both teams have a lot of question marks hanging over them, but Saturday can tie some of those loose ends together.
Cincinnati came into the season with a lot of hype and has a Heisman hopeful under center in Desmond Ridder. Despite being undefeated, the hype has fallen off and many fans are overlooking the Bearcats due to the lack of their big games.
However, the Bearcats have still been dominant and still got a big win over Indiana in Bloomington that has been overlooked due to the underperformance of the Hoosiers this season. Desmond Ridder picked up where he left off last year and has been extremely effective for Cincinnati as the senior has 748 yards through the air and a total of nine touchdowns. Ridder is the heart of the offense and the team will go as far as he takes them.
Another X-factor for the Bearcats will be junior running back Jerome Ford. Ford is averaging six yards a carry and has totaled 300 yards and six touchdowns in just three games. The offense is the focal point for the Bearcats as they will look to counter the hot Notre Dame defense.
A major storyline for this contest will be on the sideline for Notre Dame. The defensive coordinator for the Irish, Marcus Freeman, left the same position at Cincinnati this offseason. Freeman played at Ohio State under current Bearcats coach Luke Fickell and after a short NFL stint, Freeman joined Fickell’s staff. However, last spring, Freeman decided to take his talents to a larger program.
Notre Dame is coming off a fourth quarter in which they intercepted Wisconsin’s quarterback Graham Mertz three times including two for touchdowns. Notre Dame trailed 13-10 early in the fourth quarter but ended up winning 41-13 last Saturday.
Notre Dame has been confusing a lot of fans as they barely beat a winless Florida State team, needed a miracle to beat Toledo and looked less than dominant against weaker than usual Purdue and Wisconsin. Brian Kelly’s team is looking to seize the momentum from the end of their victory against Wisconsin and carry it into Saturday.
The big storyline for the Irish is who will be taking the snaps under center. Wisconsin transfer, Jack Coan, had been the signal caller all season until he was benched for freshman Drew Pyne in the second half against the Badgers.
Pyne ended up being the winning quarterback completing 75% of his passes and throwing a touchdown as well. Coan is still expected to start this weekend, but he may end up being on an extremely short leash
No matter who is throwing the ball, it is a guarantee that sophomore tight end Michael Mayer will be catching the passes. The 6-foot-4 pass catcher has three touchdowns this season and a total of 267 yards on 24 catches. Mayer is vital to this offense and it will be crucial for the Bearcats to shut him down.
This game should be a back and forth affair that will come down to whether Cincinnati's offense can out duel Notre Dame’s defense. The Irish should have the slight edge due to the home field advantage, but don’t be surprised if the Bearcats pull this one out.
Charlie Knezevic is a third-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him you can email Charlieknez@gmail.com.