2021 Bearcats Opponent Preview: ‘Ship in the Nipp

This weekend the Houston Cougars travel to Nippert Stadium seeking their second AAC Championship. Do the Cougars have what it takes to upset the Bearcats and knock them out of the College Football Invitational or do the Bearcats and their 12 First Team All-AAC Members have what it takes to upset the the college football ranks?

Loose Lips Sink Ships

Our kicking woes continue on as we missed our first Field Goal attempt of the game to miss out on taking the lead at ECU, but it was the Pirates who scored first on the next drive with a 35 yard FG. The Pirates would hold the Bearcats scoreless in the first quarter, but a 21 point barrage had the Pirates battening down the hatches as the ‘Cats never looked back enroute to a 35-13 spread covering victory.

Ridder had a solid day throwing the ball, but had a couple uncharacteristic mistakes as he threw for 301 yards, 2 TDs, and 2 interceptions. Jerome Ford and Ryan Montgomery picked up the rushing duties going 26 times for 126 yards and 2 TDs. The ECU defense didn’t have a lot of answers for Alec Pierce who had 8 catches for 136 yards and a TD.

Defensively, it was the Special Teams Units that shined, as the Bearcats blocked a punt and a fg, which led to a Sauce Gardner 60 yard house call. The Black Cats defense held ECU in check, only allowing 1 TD from QB Holton Ahlers and holding him to a 19/38 line. After a few shaky weeks defending the Run, the Bearcats held ECU, one of the better rush offenses in the American to 54 rushing yards. ECU is drifting out to sea and looking at a Military Bowl appearance against an unnamed opponent.

The ‘Ship at Nipp at Nite

For the second consecutive season, James Gamble Nippert Memorial Stadium will host the American Athletic Conference Championship at 4PM on ABC. The game sold out in less than 6 hours, which is extremely impressive. This year an opponent we didn’t see in 2021, the Houston Cougars will make the trek to Cincinnati. Houston Head Coach Dana Holgorsen this week was complaining about this game being at Nippert, which is even more hilarious considering he’s not played a game against a Sell Out Crowd. Houston is in for a rude awakening as night falls upon Nippert Stadium.

Houston made the trip to Nippert in 2020 against a limited crowd and took a 38-10 beating with them back to Texas. QB Clayton Tune had a rough day, passing for only 184 yards and an interception and they were only able to muster up 84 rushing yards against the Black Cats defense. First Team All AAC WR Nathaniel Dell led the Cougars with 60 receiving yards in the game. It was a game that was never in doubt, and I look for this year’s match-up to be the same. Desmond Ridder rushed for 3 TDs in the game.

The Cougars offense features the same cast of characters with QB Clayton Tune leading the Houston Offense and his #1 receiver Nathaniel Dell being the main factor to catch the ball. Tune has had a pretty admirable season, throwing for 3013 yards, 28 TDs and 6 interceptions. Dell has 1027 of those yards and 11 touchdowns, so he’s a significant part of this offense, if they try to match him up with Sauce Gardner, Houston is going to have a bad day. Tune and Ridder have very similar numbers passing the ball, but Tune doesn’t have the legs to make us pay on the ground like Ridder. Rushing the ball they feature AAC Rookie of the Year Alton McCaskill who has 844 yards rushing, 16 rushing TDs, along with 16 receptions for 97 yards for a TD.

Houston’s defense, on paper, is very good, ranking #6 overall in yards per game, only allowing 288.6. Their scoring defense is #19 overall, allowing 19.86 points per game. However, the Cougars have played the 2nd weakest schedule in the NCAA, ranking 129/130, so the competition hasn’t been very good. Their only loss was the first game of the season against a 6-6 Texas Tech squad that fired it’s Head Coach. They also played such powerhouses as Grambling State, Rice, and UConn.

As the Bearcats have done over the past few games, I look for them to shut down the run game and force Tune to beat them with his arm. He’s not had much success against the Bearcats, as they also met in 2019 and he was 9/27 with 2 TDs, but 3 ints in a game the Bearcats won 38-23. This isn’t a game that the Bearcats are going to struggle with. Houston’s defense features 4 First Team AAC defensive players, but Ridder and the Bearcats Offense should continue to put points on the board.

Bearcats – 35
Cougars – 14

Juncta Juvant

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