Ask yourself this, what did you want out of this season? If I went all DeLeorean this morning and went back to the moments before the Pitt game and asked your goals for the year, what would you have said? (I promise if I did steal Doc Brown's time machine, I would then proceed to many much cooler times and places).
Would any of you said you see an undefeated season and top five ranking? I'm guessing no. Considering the youth of this team and inserting one of the more inexperienced QBs in the conference, that's not realistic.
The goal has been and should be to capture a Big East title. Guess what, despite issues exposed in the 29-23 loss to Toledo on Saturday night, those goals are still right there in front of this team. In fact, they will be in front of the nation in one of the biggest games of the year on Friday at Louisville.
The Bearcats are 5-1 and could move to 6-1 while taking early charge of the race to the conference championship with a win against the Cards.
As much as the Bearcats wanted a win and as nice as that crisp, undefeated record would have looked on ESPN, the result changed little in the big picture of the season. Beat Louisville, win the Big East, go to the Orange Bowl, refurbish your pale on South Beach in the middle of the winter. Would you call that a successful season?
All of those are right in front of UC and start Friday night. All is not lost. In fact, almost nothing is.
Let's eat ...
--- If you would have told me before the game that the UC defense would hold the Toledo offense without a touchdown, I would have predicted a blowout win for UC. While many like to start pointing fingers at the offense, I'd prefer to start by talking about a defense that will be counted on to show more of the resolve it did Saturday night.
Playing without its heart and soul, Walter Stewart, whose status is unknown (Bill Koch posted this blog), they bent but never broke against the Rockets team that was averaging nearly 40 points a game.
With the offense still in search of consistency, this defense will be the group that needs to carry UC against Louisville, Rutgers and the rest of the Big East.
--- Finding a fix for the slow starts will be the first place to start on Friday. Falling behind 13-0 in the Glass Bowl marked the third consecutive game UC came out of the gates sluggish. While struggling against the likes of Fordham and Miami are survivable, doing so against a quality Toledo team didn't cut it.
Louisville has made a habit of quick starts at home this year. They jumped out to a 36-7 halftime lead against North Carolina before narrowly surviving a wild comeback attempt. In all four of their home games, the opponent needed to fight from behind from the jump.
Kentucky: 22-7 // 32-14
Missouri St.: 18-7 // 35-7
North Carolina: 36-7 // 39-34
USF: 14-3 // 27-25
--- While the Cards are undefeated and receiving much of the Big East's national love, they are far from world beaters. Each of their last five games were decided by 10 points or less, including games against lowly Southern Miss and FIU.
They beat a UNC team that lost to Wake Forest and Duke. They beat one of the worst Kentucky teams in recent memory (and that's saying something). Little else glimmers on their schedule. A similar analysis could be made of the Bearcats schedule, but to think Louisville owns some major advantage here would be disregarding the facts.
--- I find high comedic value that after Syracuse beat that powerhouse that is UConn and UC's loss to Toledo, CBS moved the 3-4 Orange over the 5-1 Bearcats in their power rankings.
--- Andrea Adelson at ESPN kept proper perspective in her power rankings.
--- Meanwhile, this running game continues to mash. UC now ranks T-6th nationally in yards per rush. They are 16th in total rushing yards per game.
Against the Rockets they ran 25 times for 184 yards. George Winn, RDAIV and Munchie Legaux are all averaging six yards or better per rush.
Might we see more of that as the team's offensive identity must come into shape for Big East play? Might be in the cards this week where Louisville enters sixth in the conference in allowing yards per rush (3.88) and fifth in total rushing yards allowed per game.
They allowed 200 yards on the ground to USF last week. Certainly Lou's glaring weakness.
--- Quick basketball thought, I was paralyzed by uncontrollable laughter so that's why I haven't touched yet on the fact UC was left out of the Coaches Top 25 poll. Preseason polls are jokes. Complete jokes. Have been for years. All polls should be like the BCS and not show up until about midseason. Of course, then that would leave poor scribes like me with nothing to talk about for months, so I'll let it slide.
One of the best backcourts in the country, coming off a Sweet 16 berth, Big East tourney final, returning about 75 percent of its points, doesn't crack the Top 25? Somebody will have to explain that to me over dinner sometime, because we'll need the course of a full meal to figure that one out.
At this point the Bearcats should just paint a chip on the shoulder of their jerseys permanently.
--- Some randomness...
--- Few things in life are more uninspiring than NBA Preseason Basketball, but Thomas Robinson did dunk over Dwight Howard, which I found entertaining.
--- Those parodies of Ryan Lochte on SNL and 30 Rock sure don't reflect reality. Oh wait ...
--- Sad that when I see posts entitled "Don't Bother Earning These Degrees" I just assume journalism is one of them. Shockingly, it wasn't on this list.
--- Saw a great show this weekend, highly recommend the Trey Anastasio Band to anybody who has a chance to see them. Yes, he's the lead singer of Phish and yes there is plenty of jam banding, but bringing the horn players along with him and his own unique songs make for a great change of pace. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Here's a taste from a show they did last year.
Have a great day everybody.