No. 8 Oklahoma represents the most talented opponent UC will see all season. They arrive in Cincinnati at a time where UC is struggling to make much traction toward a breakthrough win.
Still, despite how much everyone in the country is alredy counting the Bearcats out, they are going to go ahead and play the game anyway.
The Bearcats hopes of pulling the upset lie in five key matchups. Here's my breakdown:
1) UC O-line vs. Oklahoma D-line
No secret here. The Cincinnati offensive line has been under fire, and rightfully so, as Zach Collaros has been sacked 15 times in three games -- the worst mark in FBS.
Oklahoma boasts one of the most disruptive lines in the Big XII and in particular, Jeremy Beal is a candidate to become OU's first Ted Hendricks Award winner. He had 11 sacks last season.
2) DB Dominique Battle vs. WR Ryan Broyles
No defensive coordinator in the country likes his mathcup with Broyles. He's turned into an almost uncoverable WR. He has five consecutive games with over 100 yards and a touchdown. In the Sun Bowl he head 13 receptions for 156 yards and three touchdowns.
He's averaging 10 receptions and 127 yards a game this year.
Battle has seen quality receivers, but never gone against one with the overall skills Broyles owns. He got beat on a double move against NC State, but is the most experienced corner the Bearcats field. There will be a lot of pressure on him to keep Broyles from having a monster game.
3) UC special teams vs. OU coverage
On the surface, UC's defense and offense won't be able to win this game on their own. If you look at almost any major upset and some type of special teams score played a role in it.
UC has yet to duplicate the explosiveness of Mardy Gilyard in the return game, but D.J. Woods has the capability returning punts. Oklahoma P Tress Way 22 punts of 50+ yards last season and is a major weapon. But if he booms some kicks it will leave some room for a Woods return.
4) Armon Binns vs. Jamell Fleming
If there is a weakness on the Sooners defense it is at corner. Both of their starters from last year moved on and Fleming along with Demontre Hurst started their first career games this season.
They have had some success, but Armon Binns has shown an ability to be one of the elite WRs in college football. UC needs explosive plays and if Binns can get one-on-one with Fleming or Hurst it will be advantage UC. Look for Zach Collaros to take a few opportunities to lob the ball up to Binns and let him be a playmaker.
5) Derek Wolfe vs. the world
Derek Wolfe played 80 snaps against N.C. State. I don't expect it to be quite so much on Saturday, but he is the engine that makes the Bearcats defense go. He must consistently win battles up front to force Demarco Murray to cut before he wants to and throw off Landry Jones' timing.
Wolfe is the one guy who can constantly pressure against the massive OU line. If he can't get into the backfield it will turn into a highlight reel for the Sooners.