The football Bearcats did it again. Picked to finish in the middle of the pack, they leave with at least a share of the Big East championship. Amazing how many times this keeps happening. To pull it off this time for some reason feels more remarkable. Each season establishes its own personality and each of these four lived on for their own reason.
2008: The emergence of a program long forgotten.
2009: The season to end all seasons, 12-0.
2011: The rise of Butch Jones, the family model and remarkable flip from 4-8 to a championship.
2012: Resilient, hard-working, all-business and recovering from the loss of as much veteran talent and leadership in the recent history of the program.
This won't be the first time I've pointed this out nor the last, but it always bears repeating --- these guys lost two defensive tackles drafted in the top three rounds, a second-round running back, a fourth-round tight end, Mr. Cincinnati and a Bearcat all-timer in JK Schaffer at MLB and a quarterback, leader at the center of the team for nearly three years in Zach Collaros.
Oh, and then lose your undeniable team leader and best defensive player in Walter Stewart before conference play hits.
Teams aren't supposed to just recover from that. Unless they are Alabama, Florida or Oklahoma where the top five recruits land on their doorstep like a newspaper every morning. Yet, here they were, Travis Kelce, George Winn, Austen Bujnoch and Brendon Kay hoisting a trophy in East Hartford.
Fans may not look back at the 2012 regular season as memorable as others in recent UC history, but perhaps they should. Don't we all love the underdog? Don't we all love the story of a scrappy bunch of overachievers. Isn't that our deal in this country? Well, maybe not in the country, but it is inside the I-275 beltway and the 2012 Bearcats provided a story worth telling.
And they gave us this latest celebration including the Butch Jones crouching cabbage patch/drink stir dance. Epic video from CoachButchJonesBlog.
Let's eat ...
--- So in the middle of this video, Nick Temple screams out "four titles in five years," who else can say that? Well, Nick, glad you asked. How many teams across the nation can claim at least a share of four titles in the last five years?
Two -- with a few asterisks.
Boise State can claim the same, though their four championships in five years came across two different conferences (WAC/MWC).
And then Cincinnati. Four minimum shares of the Big East conference championship in five years.
Now, it should be noted Oregon also can make an argument for it. They won the Pac-12 outright from 2009-11. This year they finished the regular season in a tie with Stanford at 8-1, so the Cardinal advanced to the championship game and beat UCLA. Technically, if there weren't a title game, the Ducks could count that as a similar share to UC. Of course, the conference doesn't, but Oregon's case is the only one even when looking at those with conference championship games to have similar success to UC.
--- Some highlights and a discussion of what it means for UC to be linked at the top again.
--- The bowl destination became official yesterday. UC (9-3) will face Duke (6-6) in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C. It will be Dec. 27 at 6:30 p.m.
As I've been saying on this blog, Charlotte is a great destination city. The weather is typically bearable with highs in the 50s this time of year and the city comes packed with entertainment and unique cuisine options. If you don't go to the Cajun Queen while you're there you've missed the steamboat.
As for a breakdown of the game, ESPNs Andrew Adelson and Heather Dinich break down both sides of the tilt here.
--- Travis Kelce placed the ultimate topper on a regular season for the record books at UC and he may have played himself into a job next season with his mustachioed brother Jason in the NFL.
As a tight end he ended up leading the team in all major receiving categories with 40 receptions for 599 yards and seven touchdowns.
He's built 6-foot-6, 260 pounds proved to be the most productive TE at a school that currently boasts two in the NFL (Brent Celek (Eagles/Adrien Robinson, Giants). Celek comes in at 6-4, 255 pounds and Robinson 6-4, 264. Kelce's more in the newer mold of NFL tight end with the athletic, taller, basketball types ala Jimmy Graham (6-7, 265).
He's being viewed as a rapid riser in the NFL Draft scouting world. We'll have plenty of time to analyze his case, but rest assured it's looking more and more like he'll be selected in April, just a matter of when.
--- Granted, the tight end has become a lost position in the world of college football spread offenses despite its renaissance in the NFL. But looking around the college game, Kelce's numbers stack up with the best nationally.
Top 10 receiving tight ends in college football
Player, school: Receptions/yards/TDs
Zach Ertz, Stanford: 66/837/6
Austin Seferian-Jenksin, Wash: 63/791/6
Ryan Otten, SJSU: 44/706/4
Chris Coyle, ASU: 53/659/5
Eric Ebron, UNC: 40/625/4
Tyler Eiffert, ND: 44/624/4
Travis Kelce, UC: 40/599/7
Blake Jackson, OK St.: 28/565/2
Mychal Rivera, UT: 36/562/5
Joseph Fauria, UCLA: 40/561/11
--- Kelce ranks fifth nationally in TDs by a TE. So, he ranks in the top seven in the country in both yards and touchdowns for a tight end. Pretty impressive.
So, let's say you rank him as the seventh-best tight end coming out of school -- in each of the last five NFL drafts the seventh tight end selected went in the fourth round. Last year? That was Adrien Robinson to the Giants.
In the last five years at least 12 tight ends have been selected in every draft. Yeah, with his size, athleticism and production, there should definitely be a place for Kelce.
--- Few quick basketball notes, needed to comment on the words of Alabama coach Anthony Grant following the Bearcats buzzer-beater win on Saturday.
"I think he's got his footprints and his staple on the program," Grant said. "I also think when you look at it they're the best defensive team in the country right now with what they've done and they're an explosive basketball team. He's got a deep basketball team and I think they're going to be really, really good."
That's quite a compliment. As Grant later delved deeper, he says the numbers bear that out. He'd be close to correct. If UC isn't the best defensive team in the country right now, they are in the conversation. According to KenPom, they rank 11th in the country in adjusted defense (ranked 12 right behind them? Alabama. Those were two very evenly matched teams).
Looking deeper, they rank third nationally in estimated field goal percentage defense (38.4 percent). That takes into account 3-pointers.
SK shook his head when he heard Grant said that about his team. But not because he didn't believe him.
"We have great coaches like [Anthony Grant] saying that we're the best defensive team in country and we haven't even scratched the (surface) yet," Kilpatrick said. "I wonder how it's going to be when we do get there."
If this offense can begin firing in the uptempo mold Cronin envisions -- look out.
--- Of course, if you haven't seen Cash Wright buzzer beater yet you must be really lost landing on this blog. Saturday, I took a deeper look at the anatomy of the buzzer-beater. I'm calling it Rainbow Wright. That name has been met with skepticism and apathy. That's fine, people. I respect your opinions. But I like it and, well, that's all that matters. So it stays.
--- College Basketball Talk took it one step further, finding seven different angles of the remarkable shot from all over Fifth Third Arena. Man, you have to love the Internets.
Hard to choose a favorite.
--- A message from President Ono.
--- Randomness ...
--- Hopefully the world doesn't really end on Dec. 21, because I really am looking forward to the Belk Bowl/UC-New Mexico double dip on the 27th.
--- The guy who "sings" Gangnam Style says even he's sick of it. Yeah, join the club, bro.
--- The Pope is joining Twitter? This feels like a major blow for the Smoke Signals community.
--- Really started to like HBO's Girls last year. Go ahead and judge. The show is fantastic. Here's the trailer for Season 2, which starts in early January.
--- The cast of Parks and Rec plays Hollywood Squares. Oh, and even better than that. There's a Parks and Rec movie extended trailer.
Love. Betrayal. Horse.