UC vs. Navy - Nov. 3, 2018

University of Cincinnati football coach Luke Fickell during a blowout win over the Navy Midshipmen Nov. 3, 2018 at Nippert Stadium.

The University of Cincinnati football program will play one of its biggest games of the season Saturday, as they make the 110-mile trip to Columbus to face the No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes.

The Bearcats have never won at Ohio Stadium (0-13) and have not seen the Buckeyes since 2014, when they lost 50-28.

This year’s matchup will be much different, as UC head coach Luke Fickell will make his first return to “The Horseshoe” after spending time as a player (1993-96) and coach (1999, 2002-16). Despite a lengthy history with the school, Fickell said he wouldn’t categorize it as a rivalry game.

“We have a rivalry game, but its next week [against Miami (OH)],” Fickell said Tuesday in his weekly news conference. “We talked about rivalry weeks in camp and we’re going to study the history of those things. … It’s an opportunity, not just that we’re playing Ohio State, but it’s an opportunity for us to play a top five team to measure our program. We’ll measure us as individuals and measure us as an offense [and] defense as units against some of the best. I think that’s the way we’ve looked at it.”

Fickell’s personal life also began at Ohio State, as he met his wife Amy while she was a cheerleader for the Buckeyes during his days as a player. Still, Fickell said he’ll keep his emotions out of the matchup.

“When you’re a competitor, it doesn’t really matter,” Fickell said. “They’ll be no feelings. I've said it before, all of a sudden you have the opportunity to play your brother — yeah you love them to death and you want nothing but the best for him — but at that moment you’ve got no love lost for him … We've been there, known a lot of things and know what the atmosphere is going to be like. There’s lot of history, whether it's me, Coach [Jon] Tenuta or Coach [Marcus] Freeman. But all in all, it's about a game.”

While Ohio State is known as a “dream destination” for many high school football players in the Midwest, Fickell said he and his staff are trying to develop a similar reputation at UC.

“That’s what we’re trying to do and that’s what we want to continue to do,” Fickell said. “It takes a while to do that. It takes consistency over time and I think that’s where the ups and the downs, meaning from the very highest of [former head coaches] [Mark] Dantonio, [Rick] Mintor, Brian Kelly or Butch Jones. It’s very high and then you lose a coach. I think that’s what makes it difficult to make it a destination and that’s my objective to create that over time.”

The Buckeyes open as 16.5-point favorites over the Bearcats.

Kickoff is set for noon Saturday. 

Sports Editor

Schultz has been with The News Record since September 2017. A Cincinnati native, Schultz is interested in a career in broadcasting.