Illinois got a big win to start the season against the Southern Illinois Salukis, but their Week Two opponent will be a hell of a lot tougher. Today, we talk with Matt Opper. Matt is a manager for Downthedrive.com and he give us a preview of the Cincinnati Bearcats.
Ricky Widmer: Illinois jumped out to a nice lead last week against SIU, but let the Salukis back into the game late. The Illini defense had a huge hole in the middle of the defense and they let SIU QB Kory Faulkner throw for 312 yards and three touchdowns. Cincy looks to have a QB battle heading into their showdown with the Fighting Illini between Munchie Legaux and Brendon Kay. Who should the Illini prepare for, and which QB gives Cincy the best chance to win?
Matt Opper: Both. Kay gives the Bearcats the best chance to make a run to a BCS bowl, but they can still win a ton of games if Munchie is the guy. My read is that once Kay is healthy he will get the job, but he is not now, and hasn’t been for a while. When will he be healthy? Either no one knows, or someone knows, and that person isn’t telling. UC can beat Illinois with either, the defense is strong enough to give the Bearcats some cushion, and the offensive line and running game are more than good enough to lean on offensively should this game turn into a grind.
Ricky: When it comes to the coaching staff, Tommy Tuberville is in his first season as head coach of the Bearcats after Butch Jones left for Tennessee in December. I know we’ve only seen one game of the Tuberville era in Cincinnati, but what is the confidence level of Bearcat nation in Tommy Tuberville?
Matt: At levels not seen since Brian Kelly. Part of that is the delirium of having football back in our lives. But from a basic competency standard the game that UC played Saturday is one of the best coached games at UC since Kelly prowled/waddled the sidelines at Nippert. Butch Jones was never a detail orientated guy, or rather the details he was orientated about didn’t often show up on the field. That worked here because he had more talent than most teams UC faced, and talented teams can be sloppy and win. Tubs has a talented team, and his staff will almost certainly get the best out of them. The best in this case being an undefeated season and a BCS birth, both of which are distinctly in play, neither of which I would even try to predict in the first week of September.
Ricky: On defense, what will the Bearcats do to stop Nathan Scheelhaase and the Bill Cubit offense?
Matt: Wait for him to implode. That is not a knock on Scheelhaase or Bill Cubit, it’s just the way UC plays defense. The Bearcats defense is not that complex in its structure; there will be next to no blitzing, a combination of man and zone schemes in the back seven. Essentially the Bearcats will set up to say to Scheelhaase “we will let you go 80 yards down field, but you are not throwing the ball more than 10 yards.” To beat the Bearcats, the Illini are going to have to put together several long, methodical 10+ play drives.
Ricky: Prediction time: Who do you got and why?
Matt: Cincinnati 45, Illinois 21. This game will be won along the fronts, the Bearcats are simply better in the trenches particularly on offense.
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