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Column: What if Ohio State and Cincinnati squared off right now

Bearcats fans certainly think highly of their team, but what would happen if they squared off with the Buckeyes this weekend?

Ohio State’s 42-0 win against UC in 2019
Thomas Maiorana, USA TODAY Sports

So, Bearcat Nation is really feeling itself, huh? I mean, is anyone else witnessing the banter between going on between UC and Ohio State fans on Twitter? Don’t get me wrong, fans should absolutely be cheering for and defending their team at every turn, especially when they’ve had as good of a two-season run as Luke Fickell’s team has. But it got me thinking, what would happen if the two teams played each other right now? Ohio State is on a bye, so what’s the harm in delving into a hypothetical matchup.

So, to evaluate what would happen in this theoretical contest, we have to look at what’s happened on IRL fields so far this season.


Strength of Schedule

First off, we’re going to compare strength of schedule. I think we have all heard by now that UC beat Notre Dame. Yeah, that was a decent win for their resume. Now who else do they play? UCF, Navy, Tulane, Tulsa, USF, SMU, and East Carolina. And they have beaten four unranked teams already. Is anyone impressed?

Ohio State, on the other hand, played a competitive game with Oregon, who is ranked No. 9 at the moment. The Bucks blew out a pretty good Rutgers team, and has yet to face Penn St., Michigan St., and Michigan — all who are currently in the top ten. On top of that, if OSU wins out, their most likely opponent for the Big Ten Championship game would be No. 2 ranked Iowa. I would have to say that this is a little bit of a tougher path than Cincy has.

But, not all of that would factor into the equation if the game was played this weekend, so let’s move on to something a little more concrete


Quarterback Matchup

Desmond Ridder vs. C.J. Stroud. Don’t get me wrong; both are very solid quarterbacks. However, Stroud is thus far this season is just putting up numbers that very few QBs in the country can come close to.

Stroud has roughly 400 more passing yards, six more TDs, and a QBR that is 16 points higher than Ridder, and keep in mind that he missed a game, too. So, the award for best right arm has to go to Stroud.

NCAA Football: Temple at Cincinnati Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Running Back Showdown

TreVeyon Henderson vs. Jerome Ford. I must admit, Ford’s numbers did impress me — they really aren’t too far off from Henderson’s. Ford has 520 yards and 8 TDs on 82 carries. Henderson has 612 yards with 9 TDs on 70 carries. Obviously, Henderson still gets the leg up in this matchup, since his numbers are better with fewer attempts. Plus, there is legitimate talk (and Vegas odds) about him being a Heisman candidate — especially if OSU ever stops blowing teams out and he can actually play a full second half sometime this season.


Wide Receiver Time

There is truly no debate on this one. The entire United States of America knows that OSU boasts the best receiving duo in the nation. UC’s leading WR, Alec Pierce, has 387 yards and 2 touchdowns on 21 receptions. Meanwhile, Ohio State has Chris Olave (494 yards and 7 TDs on 30 rec.) AND Garrett Wilson (546 yards and 6 TDs on 31 rec). Cincy’s next leading receiver has 210 yards. Check please!

NCAA Football: Maryland at Ohio State Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

So, from all of this it definitely looks like Ohio State has the edge on offense. I mean, it’s pretty hard to find an offense at any school that can rival the Buckeyes. Therefore, this game would most likely come down to a battle of the defenses.

It is quite clear that Ohio State has had its troubles trying to establish a solid defense this season. Between switching playcallers from Kerry Coombs and Matt Barnes, the 487 yards surrendered to Tulsa, and the overall ineffectiveness early in the season — it has certainly been a bumpy ride.

However, the past few games have definitely been an improvement — pick-sixes in each of the last four games, the defensive line is becoming a solid unit, and Ronnie Hickman and Denzel Burke continue to tear it up in the secondary.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Joshua A. Bickel/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

This is where Cincinnati’s strength comes in: Defense. The Bearcats have been the top team in the American Athletic Conference in rushing defense, scoring defense and total defense in recent years. Fickell has certainly built up an impressive defense, ranked nationally in most categories. However, I will continue to repeat this: strength of schedule! I mean, they’re not playing any Alabama or Ohio State-type offenses, so it’s hard to really tell just how good they truly are; but in fairness, since the Buckeye defense has appeared to turn things around, they haven’t faced any world-beaters either.

One can only hope that these two teams get to square off in the College Football Playoff, so that we can determine who is actually the best team in Ohio.


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