University of Cincinnati Bearcat football moves up in AP and USA Today polls
The Bearcats moved up one spot in the AP poll and two spots in the coaches poll after opening their 2021 campaign Saturday with an emphatic 49-14 win over in-state rival Miami University at Nippert Stadium.
Senior quarterback Desmond Ridder accounted for five touchdowns (four passing and one rushing) and Cincinnati racked up 542 yards of offense en route to their 15th straight victory in the Battle for the Victory Bell.
The Bearcats improved to 11-0 under fifth-year head coach Luke Fickell when the offense surpasses the 500-yard mark.
"We did what we were supposed to do," Fickell said Tuesday. "I think that's where I'm happiest for our team. We started fast like we really said we needed to do. We played clean for the most part."
The lopsided win was the Bearcats' 21st straight at home and 11th straight season-opening victory.
The win also marked the first for Fickell with new defensive coordinator Mike Tressel. Tressel's defense allowed just 278 yards of offense, including 109 passing yards, to the RedHawks, who played without injured quarterback Brett Gabbert (2019 Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year).
It was the 17th time the Bearcats held their opponent to under 300 yards under Fickell, who took over the program prior to the 2017 season. Cincinnati improved to 6-0 since 2018 when holding opponents to less than 150 passing yards.
Sophomore linebacker and Colerain High School product Deshawn Pace led the Bearcats with eight tackles.
The new rankings also came as reports continue to surface that UC, which won its first American Athletic Conference championship in football last season, is expected to join the Big 12 Conference.
Fickell said Tuesday he knows nothing about that and isn't thinking much about it.
"I don’t think we can get too tied up in it as a team," the two-time AAC Coach of the Year said. "Now, as a program, as far as recruiting and different things like that, any buzz, we’re going to continue to use."
Fickell said he hasn't been involved with any discussions related to the university applying for admission to the Big 12.
"If this is legitimately true, it’ll be a bit of a shock," said Fickell, who is 36-14 at Cincinnati. "Has it been five or six months of work? Maybe. But whoever's done it has kept a really good secret. How much does it affect us? I don't know. How much have I been involved in it? Absolutely none. Those are the things where you just say hey, we've got a lot to do with 125 guys, trying to find a way to mesh everything together. You trust and believe that the higher-ups, the president and AD and them, if they feel this is what's best and there's an opportunity, I'm sure they'll be aggressive to do it."
Neither UC President Neville G. Pinto nor Director of Athletics John Cunningham has responded to The Enquirer's requests for comment on the school's seemingly imminent move to the Big 12.
Cincinnati will look to stay unbeaten on the season when they host FCS foe Murray State on Saturday (3:30 p.m. on ESPN+). The Racers are members of the Ohio Valley Conference.
The Bearcats are 3-0 under Fickell against teams from the OVC.