The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. We’ll take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 120 to our projected No. 1 team. We will not be including the four teams the
Today at No. 33:
Coach: Butch Jones (14-11, entering third season; 41-24 overall entering sixth season)
2011 record: 10-3 (5-2 in
Look back: Cincinnati continued its impressive hold on the top of the Big East standings during the 2011 season, winning a share of its third Big East title in four years. The Bearcats got off to a 7-1 start, suffering their sole loss 45-23 at Tennessee.
The Bearcats hit a huge road block when senior quarterback Zach Collaros suffered a major ankle injury during the second quarter of the team’s game against
Collaros returned to the lineup 47 days after ankle surgery, helping lead Cincinnati to a 31-24 win over Vanderbilt during the
Offensive starters lost/returning: 7/4
Defensive starters lost/returning: 5/6
Key losses: RB Isaiah Pead, QB Zach Collaros, OL Randy Martinez, DL Derek Wolfe, LB J.K. Schaffer, OL Alex Hoffman.
Top returnees: QB Munchie Legaux, WR Anthony McClung, P Pat O'Donnell, WR Kenbrell Thompkins, OL Austen Bujnoch, DL Dan Giordano, DL Walter Stewart, LB Maalik Bomar, S Drew Frey, KR Ralph David Abernathy.
Strengths: Cincinnati coach Butch Jones proved the Bearcats could thrive after
While Cincinnati loses some senior leaders from last year's team, the Bearcats boast some strong leaders including receivers Anthony McClung and Kenbrell Thompkins on offense and defensive end Dan Giordano and safety Drew Frey on defense.
Legaux, who took over when Collaros suffered his ankle injury, is expected to take over as Cincinnati's new starting quarterback. Legaux struggled, at times, while leading Cincinnati's offense last season, but his receivers dropped passes and he faced heavy blitz packages with opposing teams eager to rattle the young quarterback. Legaux bounced back during the regular season finale against Connecticut, completing 15-of-35 passes for a career-high 217 yards and three touchdowns. The experience Legaux earned under fire during the 2011 season should help him make a smoother transition to the starting quarterback job.
Weaknesses: Cincinnati lost seven offensive starters and five defensive starters. While Legaux is a promising athlete, the team was at its best last season with Collaros under center. Collaros won eight games as a starter, while Legaux won two. To offset the changes at quarterback, Cincinnati relied heavily on its rushing attack in 2011. Senior Isaiah Pead, who has since exhausted his eligibility, ranked No. 27 nationally in rushing yards per game (96.85). In addition to the loss of Pead, Cincinnati will have to adapt to the departure of offensive linemen Randy Martinez and Alex Hoffman.
Outlook: Cincinnati has thrived in the Big East and shows no signs of slowing down. The Bearcats return enough playmakers to compete for another conference title.
Sept. 15 Delaware State
Sept. 29 Virginia Tech at
Oct. 6 Miami (Ohio)
Oct. 13 Fordham
Oct. 20 At Toledo
Oct. 26 At
Nov. 3 Syracuse
Nov. 10 At Temple
Nov. 17 Rutgers
Dec. 1 At Connecticut