John Adams: Cincinnati still C-USA at heart

Tennessee's streak of playing at least one nonconference game with a BCS opponent will reach 11 years Saturday.

Extend the streak. But put an asterisk by it.

Cincinnati just doesn't seem like a BCS team.

In fact, you could say as much about the entire Big East. The conference's approval ratings in football have dropped faster than Obama's the past two years, which would explain why it's no longer a stickler for geography.

Last November, the Big East invited TCU to join, and the Horned Frogs accepted with dizzying speed. They will begin Big East play in 2012.

I now interrupt this column for my first 2012 preseason football prediction: TCU to win Big East.

Big East basketball is a big deal. Big East football is a refuge for teams that can't get in any other BCS conference, which is another reason you might question Cincinnati's BCS credentials. It's one of those Conference USA escapees that joined the Big East in 2005 after Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College moved to the ACC.

Zapping a program with a BCS wand doesn't make all of its problems disappear. Like so many C-USA programs, Cincinnati still can't keep a good coach (See Mark Dantonio and Brian Kelly for details).

Cincinnati also resembles a C-USA team on the field. For example, remember all those game-saving, goal-line stands the Bearcats made when they went 12-1 in 2009? Of course, you don't.

What you do remember is Cincinnati winning the way most C-USA teams win — with a relentless offense. In the Bearcats' greatest season, they gave up 131 points in their last three games.

Cincinnati continued to score last season under new coach Butch Jones. It scored 69 on Rutgers and had 29 or more points in five other games. It also gave up at least 28 points in its eight losses.

You can't judge how much the Bearcats' defense has improved based on a victory over Austin Peay. But they scored enough points (72) and gained enough yards (561) to make C-USA proud.

And they scored enough to alarm UT coach Derek Dooley. He had a look of disbelief when someone asked at Monday's news conference if he was concerned about the Vols looking past Cincinnati to the Sept. 17 game against Florida.

He ranks the Bearcats' offense with the best on UT's schedule. And Cincinnati won't be lacking in motivation, either.

"They had a tough season last year (4-8)," Dooley said. "So this is probably an early monumental game to keep their program at the level it has been. We're going to get their best."

Even when the Bearcats won 33 games and played in two BCS bowls under Kelly (2007-09), their only nonconference BCS victories came against Oregon State (twice) and a 3-9 Illinois team. So beating the Vols in Neyland Stadium would be huge for the program.

Just like it would be for a C-USA team.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

© 2011 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 41

movol77 writes:

"Just as it would be for a" Big East team.

It is what it is.

movol77 writes:

in response to TIGERDAN:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

"Montana (who was hurt by having 2 pass INTs called back for penalty)"

Not just any "penalty"...they were clearly holding/interfering with the intended receiver. In both instances they took down the receiver.

So, what you meant to say was "Montana can't cover or intercept UT without committing a penalty."

go_vols_go writes:

We need a better effort from the ground attack. Bray's talent will be undermined if we can't get the run game going. I think Cincy will be a tough early test and will give us a really good idea of what we'll have going into the Swamp. GBO!

Huttdawg100 writes:

It sounds like Adams is trying to give them bulletin board material. This game won't be easy by any means. Cincy is well coached, and I think they'll put up points against us (Although I think Wilcox has historically done a good job against the spread offense). From everything I read, they're DB's are a weakness, which plays to our strength on offense. If the offensive line and running backs can play better, we can force them to pick their poison: play nickel defense and try to take away our air attack and force us to run, or load the box like Montana, and get burned over top. I think we'll see them dial-up the blitz to try to get to Bray. It'll be imperative for Bullard, Stone and the rest of the OLine & RB's to play well and protect Bray, and for Bray to read the defense early and make them pay. I think we get an early season shootout with the winning team hitting a field goal for the victory. Tennessee 41 Cincinnati 40.

snakeplissken writes:

Even if our running game shows no improvement over last week, we'll still beat the bearcats by 17.

kevin1987 writes:

UT 38 Cinn 31

UTKin1992 writes:

This game won't be close. Tennessee from wire to wire with a big lead at the finish.

takespix writes:

The Vols can put an asterisk, an exclamation mark and most of all a question mark on the season after Cincinnati rings up 40 on that pitiful excuse of a defense!

VOLliven2it writes:

Just looking forward to a good game and a Vol win. Wish I could be there but have church commitments. If we improve on the level many believe we can and usually do(last year was different)from 1st to 2nd game, we should be ready on both sides of the ball. I am not so convinced as such on the kicking game and special teams. But we are at home and in much better shape than this time a year ago. So let's strap in and look for a fun game and hopefully some passing which sets up the run a bit. If they stack the box we will be off to the races passing again.

NGage writes:

Nice of the Knoxville newspaper to give Cincy bulletin board material. It's almost like someone's trying to undermine the program from the pages of the paper (or internet).

TommyJack writes:

in response to BodeaneVol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Straight from the cubicle

jack_dash writes:

Hi John,

Cincinnati has trouble keeping coaches? Geez, that's pathetic.

Sincerely,
Lane Kiffin

volfaninbuckeyeland writes:

Just watched the late news edition on one of the Cincy channels and the sports editor indicated that the Bearcats' coach was blaring "Rocky Top" from the PA system as both motivation and preparation for this week's game during today's practice. The coach said that he loved the song and felt that it was one of "the best songs ever." Believe me, these fellas will be totally pumped for this game and will not be intimidated by the Neyland atmosphere. I really feel this game will be very close and we will be very fortunate to put this one in the "W" column.

ssmag13 writes:

This article is like me making a TN-Incest joke. It adds nothing, informs no one, and isn't true/fair. Nice work, John.

Coming up from Cinci for the game on Saturday and I'm hoping the fan base is a lot more mature/welcoming than the newspaper.

Looking forward to a great game at a university with tons of tradition and a rich past. Neyland Stadium will be a first for me. I think my Bearcats take it by 5. See you all there.

johnlg00 writes:

Most people would say you were coming "down from Cinci" if you were coming to K'ville. Anyway, I hope you find your way, have a good time, meet some friendly UT fans, and go home with a loss(;-D)! Also hope the Neyland Stadium experience lives up to your expectations and I also expect that it will be a great game to watch. Enjoy, but not TOO much!

Volunatic writes:

in response to movol77:

"Montana (who was hurt by having 2 pass INTs called back for penalty)"

Not just any "penalty"...they were clearly holding/interfering with the intended receiver. In both instances they took down the receiver.

So, what you meant to say was "Montana can't cover or intercept UT without committing a penalty."

That is correct. I don't think either pass would have been caught by a defender without the pass interference.

Volunatic writes:

I hope that the predictions of an easy UT win are right. I have some friends coming in town this weekend who went to UC. I'd hate for them to enjoy the game.

rockytopjc22#1360044 writes:

At least JA spared us from an article about his beloved Tigers! I'm sure he is dying to write one!

ssmag13 writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Most people would say you were coming "down from Cinci" if you were coming to K'ville. Anyway, I hope you find your way, have a good time, meet some friendly UT fans, and go home with a loss(;-D)! Also hope the Neyland Stadium experience lives up to your expectations and I also expect that it will be a great game to watch. Enjoy, but not TOO much!

Good catch, @johnlg. Shouldn't post stuff until at least my third cup of coffee.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to ssmag13:

Good catch, @johnlg. Shouldn't post stuff until at least my third cup of coffee.

Probably be good advice for most of us on here! Be safe in your travels. Enjoy K'ville, but, as I said....

BearcatOne writes:

Really, John? Well, we're (UC) not ready to play a season in the SEC, but then again, not many teams are. The BCS is not a monolith, it is composed of programs at vastly different levels. We are new to the BCS and thrilled to be a part of an AQ conference. The SEC doesn't have many weak sisters (have you seen Vandy and UK lately), but every other BCS conference does. No, UC can't compete with the top half of the SEC, the top of the Big 12, er 10, er, whatever, maybe 2 teams in the Big 10 and the PAC 10, er 12, er, whatever, but trust me, barring injuries and depth issues during a game, UC is every bit as good as most of the BCS schools out there. One of the big issues is WHERE you play, home or away, is it not? Home field advantage at Neyland or Ohio Stadium is huge. Cowardly Ohio State paid us $1 mil to move our game next year from Cincinnati to Columbus. Last time they played here (their NC season), they were very lucky to escape with a win. Guess they learned their lesson. Same story for Oklahoma last year. Anyway, don't know if we will win the game, but we definitely CAN. History shows that.

BearcatOne writes:

Things to watch in the game:

Cincy O-line in pass protection. This is huge. If Collaros is not running for his life (problem last year), he can be really tough.

Cincy pass rush. Defense was porous last year and it all started with no pass rush up front. Watch Stewart, pretty athletic, bulked up by 20#, switched from lb to de to improve pass rush. If he is able to apply pressure on passing plays, good, if not, we had better find a way to score 40 points, because we will need every one of them. BTW, what is wrong with a high-scoring game? I enjoy them a lot more than 13-10 snoozers.

ProfMark writes:

What a mean-spirited article. When Cincy played the likes of Florida, Oklahoma, and VT in recent years, the opposing teams and their fans didn't need to rely on trash-talk about conference affiliation and heritage as a substitute for current confidence. This reads like the upperclass characters in a Jane Austen novel bitterly complaining that although the commoners might beat them, "we all know who their mothers and fathers are." The article reeks of insecurity, and I hope all Tennessee fans haven't fallen to this level. Cincy fans are looking forward to playing such a well-known team in such a great stadium, with all its history. Luckily, one team will have a higher score on Saturday, and that is what matters most for the here and now. :)

snakeplissken writes:

in response to NGage:

Nice of the Knoxville newspaper to give Cincy bulletin board material. It's almost like someone's trying to undermine the program from the pages of the paper (or internet).

This bulletin board material stuff is soooooooo overrated. It may work effectively for some teams but in most cases it means little after the first play or two. Adams' articles have always drawn ire from some Vol fans and praise from others.....just depending on their perspective.

Volunatic writes:

in response to BearcatOne:

Things to watch in the game:

Cincy O-line in pass protection. This is huge. If Collaros is not running for his life (problem last year), he can be really tough.

Cincy pass rush. Defense was porous last year and it all started with no pass rush up front. Watch Stewart, pretty athletic, bulked up by 20#, switched from lb to de to improve pass rush. If he is able to apply pressure on passing plays, good, if not, we had better find a way to score 40 points, because we will need every one of them. BTW, what is wrong with a high-scoring game? I enjoy them a lot more than 13-10 snoozers.

Thanks for the analysis-- I did not watch the UC game on Saturday.
From what I've seen, I agree with you about Collaros. When he's good, he's REALLY good.
Do you think Stewart lost a lot of speed when he gained all that weight?
I disagree about low-scoring games, though. I like good defensive battles. (I think this one will be an offensive shootout, most likely.)

johnlg00 writes:

in response to ProfMark:

What a mean-spirited article. When Cincy played the likes of Florida, Oklahoma, and VT in recent years, the opposing teams and their fans didn't need to rely on trash-talk about conference affiliation and heritage as a substitute for current confidence. This reads like the upperclass characters in a Jane Austen novel bitterly complaining that although the commoners might beat them, "we all know who their mothers and fathers are." The article reeks of insecurity, and I hope all Tennessee fans haven't fallen to this level. Cincy fans are looking forward to playing such a well-known team in such a great stadium, with all its history. Luckily, one team will have a higher score on Saturday, and that is what matters most for the here and now. :)

No longer than this thread is, I'm sure you've seen that many Vol fans are generally unhappy with much that Adams writes. No one I know is overlooking the Bearcats. We think the game will be a good barometer for our young team before moving into SEC play. Most of us recognize the tremendous strides the UC program has taken in recent years. I hope you enjoy your visit to Big Orange Country and I hope you meet some decent UT fans as well; I just hope you don't go home with a win(;-D)!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to BearcatOne:

Things to watch in the game:

Cincy O-line in pass protection. This is huge. If Collaros is not running for his life (problem last year), he can be really tough.

Cincy pass rush. Defense was porous last year and it all started with no pass rush up front. Watch Stewart, pretty athletic, bulked up by 20#, switched from lb to de to improve pass rush. If he is able to apply pressure on passing plays, good, if not, we had better find a way to score 40 points, because we will need every one of them. BTW, what is wrong with a high-scoring game? I enjoy them a lot more than 13-10 snoozers.

In the spirit of fair exchange, here are a couple of things to look for regarding the Vols in the game: 1) Decent pass protection from the O-line, but no consistent ability to block for the run game; 2) The running game could be crucial Saturday for ball control as our defense, while perhaps a bit better than last year, is still thin and young by SEC standards; 3) Great speed and talent at WR in Rogers and Hunter, though not sure what we have behind them; 4) Some concerns in the kicking game, more in returns--as in whether or not we CAN return it instead of fumbling it--than in kicking, though our punters didn't distinguish themselves last Saturday; special teams have been a recurring problem for several years now.

As you may know, we tend to savor great defense in the SEC, so game scores tend to be lower than in some conferences. The thing about low-scoring games is that you never know when one team might break out for the decisive score, so it keeps the tension high throughout. I don't mind shootouts, though. I just hope for a competitive game that shows both teams playing their best, whatever style that may be.

kyucat writes:

John Adams has insulted UC for what reason? He is a jerk
lets see Tennessee record the past three years
2008- 5 & 7
2009- 7 & 6
2010- 6 & 7
18 wins and 20 lost
UC record
2008- 11 & 3
2009- 12 & 1
2010- 4 & 8
27 wins & 12 lost
John should worry about Tennessee

underthehill writes:

Toss up to be decided by turnovers...

derekj513 writes:

UC can't keep a coach. UT got burned by Lane Kiffin of all people. Bruce Pearl, anyone?

kyucat writes:

No one is doubting UT tradition and grid iron success. But that being said please allow other schools a chance to build there programs. Since Cincy has joined a BCS conference they have made great strides and will continue to do so. There is no reason to rag on there success or future success. the SEC has teams that would struggle to win in the Big East. Like Kentucky,Vandy,Old Miss.
Big East schools have beaten SEC teams WVU beat Georgia,Miss St, Should have beaten LSU; Uconn beat Vandy; Louisville has beat Kentucky several times. plus this year WVU plays LSU, Cincy plays UT, UCONN plays Vandy, Louisville plays Kentucky. So we shall see what happens.

axeman921 writes:

Is John Adams secretly a Bearcat Fan or just despises UT Football in order to write some garbage that will just anger a team that already has a lot to prove and chips on their shoulders?

Dumb tactic which might help UC and blow up in the Vols face...

Might be a very painful loss for those overly confident Vol Fans?

iyervn writes:

You have to excuse Vol fans. They're the doormats of the SEC and used to spend the whole season wishing they were the Gators. Now they just want to be Vanderbilt. UC might not be in the SEC but they are good, one thing I know is UT sucks and are wannabes

sunglaspro#374094 writes:

Good work Adams, you know have 2 fan bases hating you: http://cincinnati.com/blogs/sports/20...

Volunatic writes:

in response to Navalorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Hey, don't lump all of us (computer nerds that can't face reality) in with that guy.

Bigger_Al writes:

Cincinnati fans need to understand that Adams hates Tennessee football and will do whatever he can from inside his snarky cubical to undermine the Vols. Opposing fan bases think its funny when a Knoxville Sports Editor bashes the Vols on their radio shows,

Packer_Park_Orange (Inactive) writes:

in response to Navalorange:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Adams is one of the few sane and mature writers on here...Not surprised that adolescent Dooleyphiles dislike him...They're only used to reading Marvel and D.C.

SuxstobeUT writes:

In all fairness UT hasn't exactly set the bowl season on fire in recent memory. UT has been the SEC's doormat for the last few years. That said UC's defense has been suspect - but they have won their conference two of the last three seasons. With an attitude like this article UT is setting itself up for a loss. Not that UT is known for really bad coaching calls in recent years? Besides that UC DOESN'T have those horrible orange (think road worker or prison jumpsuit)uniforms, a hound dog and rifle toting hillbilly on the sideline. Our fight song has never been rendered by Dolly.
YEHAAAAAH youall!
GO BEARCATS

ssmag13 writes:

Big UC fan here. It's really nice to see the responses to this article by UT fans. Seems like a real classy fan base. Can't wait to check out your college this weekend. Good luck to you all.

NewmCatz writes:

I just want to say that it is painfully obvious that this author has never been to Cincinnati, nor does he understand the challenges of building a program in an NFL city. Rather, he merely knew that UC was formerly of Conference USA and saw the record last year, ignoring the fact that the defense 2008 team won their games with defense while playing five quarterbacks.

snakeplissken writes:

Cincinnati's corners are Cameron Cheatham (5-9, 195) Jr., and Deven Drane (5-11, 179) Soph. They'll be playing against Rogers and Hunter, both at 6'-3". Can you say toast? LOL

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