If there were an odder UC football schedule than this year, I'm yet to see it. This week brings the oddity into the spotlight. The FCS Fordham Rams (4-2) come to town for the Bearcats second game this season against a playoff-division opponent.
Is this ideal? Nope. Nobody inside the UC building wants to see multiple FCS foes. But in a year when West Virgina and TCU were yanked off the schedule and UC forced to adjust on the fly when most teams already had their schedules set, well, this is what was left.
So, UC enjoys another "confidence game" against a Fordham team that will be physically overmatched by the bigger, faster Bearcats. So be it. For one week, the Bearcats deal with it. Though, the schedule quirks go beyond just the second FCS week, rather with the Pitt opener already in the books and two early bye weeks, the rest of the Big East is immersed in league play while UC stares down two more weeks of non-conference games.
Very odd. But at this point in the game, Jones sees the advantages rather than any disadvantages.
"I think there's benefit to that," he said. "I think the conference race is sorting itself out. There's some teams that are gaining great momentum and other teams that are still trying to figure things out, which they will. I also think it's great to know that right now we are 1-0 in the Big East conference. To have that one game under our belt I think is big."
Take this into consideration, by the time UC finally takes the field against Louisville to reopen Big East play, Rutgers will only have three conference games REMAINING on their schedule.
Every other team will have played at least two conference games, with most three under their belt. Now, the conference layout looks pretty clear already, but by the time UC hits the Pizza Palace the lay of the land will be clear.
Jones, of course, can't worry about such setups.
"For us, especially with a young football team, we have to continue to focus on the bulls-eye," Jones said. "We have to continue to focus on the process and not the end result."
--- Sidenote about the wide divide within the conference between the Haves (UC, Louisville, Rutgers) and Have-Nots (everyone else) is the respect the conference is earning nationally. They've moved up to fourth in the national conference power rankings ahead of the B1G and ACC, according to CBSSports.com.
BTW, the ACC is poor.
--- This week against Fordham allows an opportunity to build depth -- at least, the Bearcats hope it does.
Jones called out a number of positions in needed to show growth in the second and third strings. The most notable name he called out was DL Brandon Mills, stating he was "being challenged this week."
While the defensive line has done a nice job chasing around the quarterback, Mills only owns one sack against lowly Delaware State to his name this season. That's not egregious outside of the fact he racked up 11.5 sacks over his last 20 games entering the season.
"He needs to step up a little bit more and give us a little bit more that a senior needs to," Jones said.
--- Jones also pointed to the reserves at linebacker. While Maalik Bomar (1st), Greg Blair (3rd) and Nick Temple (5th) all rank among UC's top tacklers, but the coach knows little of what's happening behind them.
"I think we are still working to create some depth," Jones sad. "I'm not pleased where we are at right now."
--- Bill brought up the fact Jones has won seven games in a row dating back to last year. Jones last won seven games in a row during his final season at Central Michigan (2009).
He doesn't think much about it.
"You're the first person whose brought it up to me," Jones said. "Our players understand what it takes to win. But our big thing is deserving to win. Do you deserve to win by the work you put in on a day-to-day basis."