In the history of Division I college football, few rivalries have the longevity of the one between Miami and Cincinnati. The teams first met back in 1888, and no other series west of the Allegheny mountains has been around longer. In all the nation, only four other series have been played more times. Of all of those, the one between Miami and Cincinnati is the longest of any non-conference rivals (though the RedHawks and Bearcats did spend a few years together in the MAC once upon a time).
Saturday will mark the 116th meeting between these two teams, as the Battle for the Bell resumes. Miami holds the lead all-time in the series, 59-49-7. However the Bearcats have dominated the series in recent years, winning the last five meetings. None of them were close games either, including last year’s 45-3 massacre at Nippert Stadium. Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones is 2-0 in his career against Miami, including that game last season and the 2007 MAC Championship game, when he was head coach at Central Michigan.
The RedHawks are hoping to buck that trend, and finally kick their season into gear. The ‘Hawks (0-3) remain winless on the year, their first season under new head coach Don Treadwell. Meanwhile the Bearcats (3-1) are just looking for another chance to bring that all-time record closer to .500. They certainly have the firepower to do just that.
Through four games this season the Bearcats are averaging 49.5 points per game. They have a very balanced attack (averaging 211.3 passing yards and 239.3 rushing yards per game), led by star RB Isaiah Pead (424 rushing yards on just 54 carries; a 7.9 yards per carry average) and QB Zac Collaros (784 yards, 9 TDs). But the Bearcats’ defense might not be as formidable. Yes, they are allowing just 20.8 points per game, and holding opposing teams to just 89.2 rushing yards per game. But with the exception of Tennessee (who racked up more than 500 total yards of offense in a 45-23 win over UC two weeks ago), the Bearcats have not really played any truly noteworthy opponents. Cincinnati’s secondary is where the ‘Cats are weakest. Opponents are exploiting that, throwing for 280.5 yards per game, and that is just the sort of thing Miami can get in on.
The RedHawks are very capable of capitalizing on that. QB Zac Dysert (784 yards, 2 TDs) will have his healthy corps of receivers to help him air out the ball led by WR Nick Harwell, who will be going for his third 100-yard receiving game in as many tries after he missed the season opener. He already has 301 yards, despite only playing in two games. However this probably won’t be a breakout day for the Miami running game (66.3 yards per game). Despite a low yards per carry average this year (3.5), RB Erik Finklea has managed to score a rushing TD in each of Miami’s first three games.
Miami needs to win the turnover battle in this one. The ‘Hawks are -3 so far this year after being +11 last season. Meanwhile the Bearcats are a staggering +14 through just four games. Miami will feel pressure on every play, but needs to learn how to hang on to the football. Miami’s best chance to win this game will come by way of special teams, as the ‘Hawks have become one of the best teams in the nation in both kickoff returns (27.6 yards per) and coverage (14.3 yards per).
Saturday’s game is scheduled for a 1:00 p.m. kickoff and will be broadcast on ESPN3. That same telecast will be shown on Channel 315 for Time Warner Cable subscribers as well.