In yet another unplanned match-up for Army, the Black Knights will face the Cincinnati Bearcats on Saturday at Nippert Stadium. This is the sixth time the teams have met, the first time being in 1963. Army and Cincinnati last faced each other in 2004, when both were members of CUSA.
Yes, much has changed in the college football landscape in the past two decades: from both teams entering and leaving Conference USA, to now, where the Black Knights are ranked No. 22 and the Bearcats ranked No. 14 in the latest AP Top 25 Poll.
“Back-to-back 11-win seasons is really impressive. They’ve got some big wins over Power 5 teams,” Army head coach Jeff Monken said of Cincinnati earlier this week. “They’re just an impressive football team. I was talking to another coach in their league, he was mentioning the body types that they have on their team — just long.”
Monken added: “It allows them to have tight end-type guys, outside linebacker-types that are really long and run good. It helps them on special teams and those guys have position flexibility. It’s really just going to be a tremendous challenge for us to play a team of this caliber. With the respect that they have around the college football world, if we can find a way to win the game, it would be a huge victory for us.”
Cincinnati put up 55 points against Austin Peay last week, which, while impressive, isn’t quite the reference point for this weekend. Austin Peay is an FCS side that also got blown out 55-0 by Pitt and lost by a touchdown to Central Arkansas.
So let’s step back in time to last year.
The Bearcats started off the season with a win over UCLA, and then got blown out 42-0 by Ohio State. Cincy quickly got back on track though, winning nine straight games, including one over No. 18 UCF. After losing back-to-back games against Memphis, the Bearcats went to the Birmingham Bowl and dominated Boston College, ending their season with an 11-3 record and a No. 21 ranking in the final AP Poll.
Indeed, Cincinnati is bringing a ton of talent against Army this weekend.
Last season, the team was 6-0 at home and in 2020 are returning 15 of 17 tacklers, a more seasoned defensive line in comparison to a newly-formed unit on the Army side.
“They are very similar to the Power 5 teams we’ve played in their size, their speed and how well-prepared they are,” Monken said. “Our game plan thoughts don’t vary based on the conference that the team we are playing comes from. It is purely on our guys and what we think our players can execute against the team that we are facing.”
It’s Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder that will be a major weapon Army has to worry about. While battling injuries, he threw for 2,164 yards and 18 scores last season, and also ran for 650 yards and five touchdowns.
While it is obvious, it warrants repeating: this is a season unlike any other. But if Ridder’s performance against Austin Peay is any indication—196 passing yards, 57 rushing yards and two touchdowns in just three quarters of play — Army is up against a quarterback who could cause some headaches.
Currently, Army is ranked first in the nation for turnovers gained with three interceptions and three fumble recoveries. One of those was due to senior linebacker John Rhattigan, who ran back a 43-yard interception return for a touchdown. Junior safety Cedrick Cunningham closed out the season opener against MTSU with 7 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Against ULM, sophomore defensive back Marquel Broughton recovered a fumble and netted an interception.
Army’s defense has been stout and opportunistic so far this season. If Army wants to upset Cincinnati on the road, Nate Woody’s unit will have to continue to be strong, smart and pull out a few surprises.
How To Watch
- Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. EST on Saturday, Sept. 26
- Where: Nippert Stadium — Cincinnati, Ohio
- Watch: ESPN | Mark Jones and Dusty Dvoracek will have the call while Quint Kessenich reports from the sidelines.
- Spread: Most sports-books have Cincinnati favored by about 13.5 points. The over/under is typically listed at 45 points.