2019 Game Preview: Ohio State vs Cincinnati
Ohio State started off fast and took the lead 28-0 halfway through the first quarter, and then slowed down to beat FAU 45-21. One of the great things about this game is that fans got to see what Ohio State is capable of, and needs to maintain it for 4 quarters. There are also areas to improve upon, and they will need to do it quick in order to fix them as they fave a very good Cincinnati team. The Bearcats are one of the favorites to win the AAC, and they have already knocked off a power 5 team with their week 1 win against UCLA.
There are a lot of ties between the two schools, and will most likely be high talking points from the media covering the game, and other sites who do their previews, so there is not a need to go into that too much. However, Fickell might be the only coach this season who will not be booed by the fans as he takes the field.
The best thing about being 1-0 is the chance to go 2-0, and Cincinnati is in the way of that goal.
Head Coach: Luke Fickell
2019 Record: 1-0
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Ohio State Preview: Ohio State did what it needed to do to win. Even after being outscored 21-17 after scoring on its first four drives, the college football world doesn’t feel Ohio State showed it wasn’t one of the best teams in the country. Ryan Day mentioned on his post game conference that he would look into when he will pull and play players, but he also understands that in order to be successful, guys will need to rotate in and play to get experience. It wasn’t until the starters on defense came out that FAU was actually able to get the ball moving, and were held to under negative yardage up until midway through the 3rd quarter. But Cincinnati is not FAU, and they need to play the full 4 quarters.
Justin Fields looked good in his debut, passing for 18-25 for 234 passing yards and 4 touchdowns, and added 61 yards on the ground with a 51 yard touchdown. It was clear he did enough to make sure he could extend plays, but to also make sure he did not put himself in a position to get hurt. He will need to be as accurate as his was this week to help move the ball down the field. Fans were probably hoping he would have been pulled earlier than he was, but with the game getting closer than it should, and being a new quarterback to the program, he needs all of the live reps he can get. Expect him to have a similar workload for this game, and he will asked to call different coverages and Cincinnati will try to disguise some blitz packages.
JK Dobbins did not have the start he probably would have liked to have, rushing for 91 yards on 21 carries. He did get a touchdown in the second quarter, but the offensive line play probably held him back from breaking out. Ryan Day discussed in the offseason that he would rely on Dobbins, due to his experience and being a leader for the team, but this seemed like an average game for the star running back. It was interesting to see that three other running backs carried the ball, including Master Teague, and added 49 yards on 8 carries. McCall had 11 yards on 2 carries and freshman Marcus Crowley added 27 yards on 4 carries with the second team offense. Dobbins should hopefully bounce back and make a difference this game.
KJ Hill is now 45 receptions from breaking the school record. It was possible that FAU keyed on the senior receiver as he was only held to 3 receptions and 21 yards. Chris Olave picked up where he left off last season, leading the team with 5 receptions, 68 yards, and a touchdown where he was able to get seperation after a double move into the endzone. Ben Victor looked to be the deep threat with 61 yards on 2 catches, including the touchdown in the first quarter What was surprising was to see how much the tight ends were targeted with the new offense. There were even plays under center with 3 tight end sets. Fields connected with Jeremey Ruckert for 2 touchdowns, and he showed every bit of the hype he had as a top tight end recruit. The offense seems to like to spread the ball around to different receivers, and should continue that trend.
The offensive line will have a lot of work to do for this game, and need to have more of a push on run plays to help create holes for Dobbins. One of the changes with Ryan Days offense is that they are making more lateral strides for blocking and less pulling guards. With the experience and scheme for the Bearcats, they will need to play their best.
The defense definitely turned from last season to this season. They were aggressive and were able to run simple schemes. They had a talent advantage over FAU, so this game was not a great test to see some of the intricacies of the changes to their game plan, but it was great to see the Silver Bullets keep the Owls to negative yards up until the third quarter. Chase Young lived up to the billing and will have a challenge with containing Ridders for the Bearcats. He can make plays with his feet, and with his experience, make quick decisions when the pocket collapses. This will be a game where Ohio State will need more takeaways
Cincinnati Preview: There are going to be some familiar names on the opposing sideline when the Bearcats enter Ohio Stadium, the first time since 2014. Head coach Luke Fickell, who is an Ohio State alum, was on the defensive staff essentially from 1999 to 2016, when he took over as the head coach for the Bearcats. Ohio State fans also know that Fickell was the interim head coach for the 2011 season for Ohio State after Jim Tressel stepped down from Ohio State amid “Tattoo-Gate”. This sets up an interesting match up as well because both head coaches held the interim tag for Ohio State. Another name that will be familiar for Buckeye fans is Marcus Freeman, who is the defensive coordinator and linebacker coach. He was a linebacker for the Buckeyes from 2004 – 2008. The last name that some Buckeye fans should recognize is Blue Smith, a wide-receiver who left Ohio State via the transfer portal, and was granted immediate eligibility.
Cincinnati returns 14 starters from last years team, and is a favorite to win and challenge UCF for the AAC title (who they will host on October 4.) Fickell being a defensive mind emphasis quarterback pressure and tough man defense. They showcased that well in their opening game against UCLA, and won 24-14. They limited the Chip Kelly team to 218 total yards, and forced 4 turnovers.
The offense was led by sophomore quarterback Desmond Ridder, who passed 18/24 for 242 yards and 2 touchdowns. He was elusive with his feet and extending plays, adding 34 yards on the ground. Cincinnati used a lot of roll out and play action plays to get their offense in positions to get yardage in space, attacking the long side of the field.
Junior running back Michal Warren was as advertised in the opener, rushing for 92 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown, and 37 yards and a touchdown receiving. He started off slow in the first half, but really picked up steam in the second half. He did appear to have an ankle injury in the fourth quarter which could have been a potential fumble, but the play was called down. He might not be 100% when he comes into The Horseshoe on Saturday. He does have help and back up incase he is not full go, and that is with running back Gerrid Doaks, who added his own 53 yards on the ground on 10 carries.
With Ridders 242 yards through the air, he spread it around to 7 different receivers, those most receptions from tight-end Josiah Deguara with 4 receptions. He had 53 receiving yards, and the tight-end position is prominent for the Bearcat offense. The leading receiver was Alec Pierce who had 59 yards on 2 receptions. He seems to be the deep threat and Ohio State’s safeties will have to be on alert for play action plays.
The defense will be the main obstacle for the Ohio State offense. They have a lot of speed at the linebacker and defensive end positions, mimicking the play from the Ohio State defensive strategy. They are one of the more penalized teams in the country so in order for the Bearcats to compete against the talent difference between the programs, they will have to play a clean game, or try to draw off the hungry Buckeye defense.
Buckeye Spotlight: JK Dobbins. He had a good first game back, but there were some times he hit the wrong hole, or was stopped where there could have been a bigger gain. CIncinnati will key on Fields, and will bring more pressure than FAU probably did, and this is where Dobbins will need to take over, and take some of the pressure away. If he can get any momentum and break into the second level of the Bearcat defense, he can do some real damage, and open up the Ohio State playbook.
Bearcat Spotlight: Michael Warren. Ohio State’s weakness last year was giving up big yardage plays. Warren is the best player for the Bearcat offense, and the Silver Bullets will need to make sure they get him down on contact because he can be dangerous in open field.
Water Cooler Stat of the Game: 14-2. Ohio States overall record against its in-state opponents is 14-2, and the last loss to Oberlin. Ohio State is looking to make it 15-2, and defend the in-state opponent record in 2 weeks when they take on Miami of Ohio.
Prediction: When FAU applied pressure, that is what disrupted the momentum for the Ohio State offense for much of the second half of the game. The offensive line seems to be the biggest area of concern, and Fickell will not take it easy on his alma mater in this return back to the Shoe since the 2016 season. Fields will need to manage a little better, and try to lead his receivers open. This will be a tough defense to go against, especially for a second career start. I think Cincinnati will cause some wrinkles against the Buckeye defense, but I think because Ryan Day and staff didn’t show too much of the new offense for Cincinnati to study, I think the talent seperation will be a factor and Ohio State finds the endzone late.