2021-22 Season Record 13-1 (8-0 AAC) - 9-5-0 ATS - 6-8-0 O/U
Offense - 8
Defense - 5
2021 was a season of firsts for Cincinnati as it won a program best 13 games and became the first non-power conference team to make the College Football Playoff. The Bearcats have gone 44-7 over the last four years including a 29-3 record in the AAC and while a drop-off is expected, it should not be much of one. They have been in the top 45 in recruiting over the last three seasons so while a lot of non-power teams have to rebuild, they are simply reloading. Head coach Luke Fickell has done an outstanding job at Cincinnati and while he has been the talk of landing a bigger job over the last couple years, he has stuck it out and with the Bearcats heading to the Big 12 starting next season, he is not going anywhere at this point. There is experience at all levels but Cincinnati enters the season with a returning production ranking of No. 92 so nothing will come easy.
Quarterback Desmond Ridder is gone as is leading rusher Jerome Ford and leading receiver Alec Pierce so star power has to be replaced. Ridder was outstanding and his numbers will not be duplicated but Evan Prater is capable of leading an offense that still has plenty around him. Four of the other five top receivers are back and they combined for 1,485 yards with 17 touchdowns so there will be numerous options for Prater. The running game is a little murkier as Ford and Ridder were the two top rushers with a combined 1,603 yards and the Bearcats hope LSU transfer Corey Kiner can produce right away as he was the No. 9 ranked running back in the 2021 recruiting class. The strength is the offensive line as all five starters are back and the unit helped Cincinnati finish No. 42 in sacks allowed and No. 6 in tackles for loss allowed and will ease the transition along.
This is where it will be interesting. The Bearcats had one of the top defenses in the nation last year as they finished No. 8 in total defense and No. 5 in scoring defense but have to replace six starters. The strength of the defense a season ago was against the pass but three of the four starters are off to the NFL and there is expected to be a big drop-off in the secondary. If it was a stronger conference then things could be really dicey but the AAC is not a lethal passing league and the early schedule should help the changeover. Two of the top linebackers are also gone and this poses a problem stuffing the run which was the weakness last season if being ranked No. 44 is considered a weakness. The defensive line is in fine shape with three important pieces returning. The Bearcats were tied for third in the nation with 30 takeaways and coming even close to that will be a bonus.
2022 Season Outlook
Expectations are high but not to the level of what transpired last year and the Bearcats will have a target on their back every game. Cincinnati ran through the conference once again and should produce a repeat of that. The Bearcats open the season at a vastly improved Arkansas team and if they can pull off the upset as a touchdown underdog, another undefeated season is more than attainable if it can catch some breaks like last season. The other three nonconference games are against Kennesaw St., Miami and Indiana and while the AAC is not a strong conference, they face five teams with wins totals of six or more, three of those on the road, so there are roadblocks along the way. The Cincinnati O/U win total is 9 and while only three of its games last year were decided by a possession, expect that to be higher so if it can handle the close ones, double-digit wins are likely.