2N8A8534.jpg

The University of Cincinnati Bearcats defeated the Miami University RedHawks, 49-14, in the first game of the 2021 season on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021.

The University of Cincinnati (UC) Bearcats’ football team will host the Murray State University Racers on Saturday for the second week of college football. The Bearcats are coming off of a strong 49-14 victory against Miami University, and the Racers a blowout 35-0 win over Mississippi Valley State University.

Murray State is part of the NCAA Division I football subdivision, otherwise known as the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). The Bearcats, on the other hand, are a part of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). The most prominent difference between the two subdivisions is their relation to bowl games; FBS bowl games typically involve college powerhouses and larger football programs.

Both teams will meet in Nippert Stadium and are coming off 35-point victory margins. They will be looking for a 2-0 start to their respective seasons.

Oftentimes, larger FBS schools schedule one or two FCS opponents in early-season matchups to act as “tune-up” games, or games to get their players prepared for the season ahead. Cincinnati, the Associated Press’ No. 7 best team in the country, hosts the Racers directly before heading to Indiana University and the University of Notre Dame in back-to-back games.

Both Indiana and Notre Dame were ranked in the AP NCAA poll heading into week one and are the two biggest competitors of the season that UC will face. Securing a victory against Murray State would be ideal for the Bearcats, who will face them both in the two games following.  

As for the matchup against Murray State, the Racers made it apparent that the game plan was to keep the ball on the ground in their first outing, which included four rushing touchdowns from quarterback Preston Rice. Their other score came from running back Cortezz Jones, who had 107 rushing yards on 10 attempts.

In the air, Rice completed nine of his 15 passing attempts for 116 yards and threw one interception. Rice also tacked on 81 rushing yards of his own in route to his four touchdowns.

If the Racers struggled to throw the ball in their previous game, it doesn’t seem that it will get any easier for them when they visit Nippert Stadium. Cincinnati’s secondary coverage on defense is rated as one of the best in the country, including Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, who is projected as a first-round NFL draft pick. 

Running the ball won’t be a simple solution for the Racers’ offense either, as the front seven of the Bearcat defense led the American Athletic Conference in rush defense in the 2020 season. This front seven includes senior Myjai Sanders, who saw his name appear on many preseason All-American lists and is a projected NFL Draft pick.

Cincinnati’s defense gave up 14 points to Miami, but both scores came once the game was already all but decided in the fourth quarter.

On the offensive side of the ball, quarterback Desmond Ridder and the Bearcats put on a show in their first game, posting 49 points, 35 of which were made in the first half. With 295 passing yards, Ridder found four different receivers for his four passing touchdowns.

“That [stat] is a tribute to Desmond ridder,” Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell said. “That he has that ability to move things around. What you don’t want is to kind of get locked into that one go-to spot.”

Murray State held their opposing offense to 63 passing yards in their first game, forcing the quarterback to go 10 for 16 on completions. The Racers also kept their opponents to under 100 rushing yards in the contest. 

Cincinnati running back Jerome Ford had 121 rushing yards of his own on 12 attempts against Miami. Other Bearcats combined for 126 rushing yards, totaling 247 rushing yards against Miami.

No game can be looked over for the Bearcats, who will have a target painted on their back for most of the season because of their high ranking. The matchup between the Bearcats and the Racers is slated for Sept. 11 with a start time of 3:30 p.m., aired on ESPN+.