Group of 5 Spotlight: Cincinnati vs UCF

For the first time ever, ESPN’s College Gameday is coming to Orlando as the 9-0 UCF Knights host the 9-1 Cincinnati Bearcats. In addition to Gameday being in town, this game will be played at 8:00 on ABC, a spot usually reserved for the best game of the day. Well, with Notre Dame/Syracuse occupying a day time slot on NBC, this is no doubt the next biggest game of the day.

Here is what’s at stake

  • IF UCF wins, they clinch the AAC East and will appear in the AAC Championship game for the second straight year
    • UCF has won 22 straight games, dating back to last year
  • IF Cincinnati wins, they control their destiny to win the AAC East (would need to beat ECU on 11/23)
    • After back-to-back 4-8 seasons, Cincinnati has more than doubled that total 10 games in (9 wins)

In order to get you ready for this weekend’s big game, let’s take a look at some recent history of these two prominent group of 5 programs.

All-time series

These teams have only faced each other three times, all within the last three years. UCF joined the AAC in 2013 (and won the conference in their first year). It wasn’t until 2015 that these teams played their first ever game.

  • 2015 – Cincinnati won 52-7, taking advantage of a bad Knights team with an interim coach en route to an 0-12 season.
  • 2016 – UCF won the first ever meeting in Orlando 24-3, taking advantage of Tommy Tuberville’s worst year at Cincinnati (the Bearcats would finish 4-8 and Tuberville would be fired at year’s end). This was Scott Frost’s first year at UCF and they followed up their 0-12 campaign by going 6-6.
  • 2017 – UCF won 51-23 and it should have been worse. The game was delayed and later called off due to a lightning storm. There was about 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter at the time the game was called off. Cincinnati once again finished 4-8, while UCF famously finished 13-0.

After three games of uneven scores and struggles at each school, Saturday sets up as the fairest, most significant game between these two yet.

BCS/New Year’s Six Bowl History

Cincinnati and UCF are the only teams in the AAC that have appeared in multiple BCS/NY6 bowls.

Cincinnati: 0-2

  • Lost 2008 Orange Bowl to Virginia Tech
  • Lost 2009 Sugar Bowl to Florida (12-0 regular season)

UCF: 2-0

  • Won 2013 Fiesta Bowl over Baylor
  • Won 2017 Peach Bowl over Auburn

Active NFL Players

Give the immediate advantage to Cincinnati, who has the top TE in the league, Travis Kelce and Super Bowl winning center Jason Kelce while UCF is represented by the legendary Jaguars QB Blake Bortles.

In addition to the Kelce brothers, other Cincinnati active NFL players include Broncos DT Derek Wolfe, Cardinals OT Korey Cunningham, Giants LB Connor Barwin, Vikings LB Eric Wilson, Ravens WR Chris Moore and two special teamers – Bengals punter Kevin Huber and Chargers long snapper Mike Windt (those two players together at Cincinnati during the BCS bowl days)

UCF has actually produced some decent pros beyond Bortles, including the recently signed WR Brandon Marshall who is now on the Saints. Also on the Saints is rookie WR Tre’Quan Smith. He wasn’t mentioned above but former Cincinnati RB Mike Boone is the third string on the Vikings depth chart, right behind UCF alum Latavius Murray. Other NFL Knights include Jaguars CB AJ Bouye, Seahawks CB Shaquill Griffin and LB Shaqeem Griffin, Vikings CB Mike Hughes, Dolphins OG Josh Sitton, former first round WR Breshad Perriman, now with the Browns and they have a special teamer of their own, Lions kicker Matt Prater.

Coach Comparison

Luke Fickell – LB/DL at Ohio State

In high school, Fickell was a two-time first team All-Ohio DT. From 1993-1996, Fickell made a school record 50 consecutive starts on the D-Line for the Buckeyes. One of the highlights of his career was starting in the 1997 Rose Bowl (despite a torn pec) and making two tackles, helping OSU knock off Arizona State. Fickell went undrafted and signed with the Saints but he was released after suffering a knee injury and immediately went into coaching, where from 1999-2016 he spent all but two years at Ohio State (those two were spent at Akron)

Josh Heupel – QB at Oklahoma

Heupel started his career as a quarterback at a junior college and later turned down a scholarship from Utah State to join Oklahoma. In 2000, Heupel helped lead the Sooners to a perfect season and National Championship victory in the Orange Bowl. Heupel was the runner up for the Heisman Trophyto Chris Weinke, whose Florida State team was on the losing end of the Sooners title victory. Heupel’s consolation prize to the Heisman was being named consensus All-American and AP Player of the Year. Heupel was a 6th round pick in the 2001 draft to the Dolphins, but never played a down in the NFL due to injuries. He worked as an Offensive Coordinator/offensive assistant with Oklahoma, Utah State, and Missouri before getting the UCF job after the 2017 season.


Who do you think is going to win Saturday – Cincinnati or UCF?

For more college football talk, you can follow me on twitter @msschneid or instagram @mikedropsports 

Mike is an alum of the University of Cincinnati and the ultimate sports nerd.

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