Zach Collaros has been sacked 15 times in Cincinnati’s first three games.
The Big East Conference football season hasn’t even begun, but already Cincinnati is in a crisis state.
The Bearcats had won 18 straight regular-season games and the last two Big East titles under Brian Kelly. But under first-year head coach Butch Jones the 1-2 Bearcats have been unimpressive in losing road games to Fresno State and North Carolina State this past Thursday night.
Jones knows his Bearcats will need to run the ball better and protect quarterback Zach Collaros, who has been sacked 15 times, if his team is going to stay in the game against eighth-ranked Oklahoma Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. Kickoff for this matchup is 3 p.m. (PT) on ESPN2. It’s the Sooners’ first road contest.
Oklahoma opened as a 17-point road favorite. Cincinnati has failed to cover in seven of its last eight games.
Fresno State defeated the Bearcats, 28-14, in Week 1 as 2 ½-point home favorites. The combined 42 points went ‘under’ the 57-point college football betting total. Cincinnati then rolled past overmatched Indiana State at home, 40-7, but failed to cover a 44-point spread before being dominated by North Carolina State in a 30-19 defeat as two-point underdogs.
The Bearcats committed eight penalties for 71 yards, fumbled five times (losing the ball only once, though) and didn’t score their last touchdown until there were 44 seconds left making the final score look more respectable than it really was. The combined 49 points went ‘under’ the 54 ½-point total.
“Obviously, we weren’t expecting these results,” Collaros was quoted as saying following the defeat. “Nobody hopes for this. We’re going to see what our team is made out of these next couple of weeks with this adversity. It’s going to test our character and test our togetherness, and we’ve just got to stick together. We’ll right the ship.”
Cincinnati lost its top receiver, Vidal Hazelton, for the season against Fresno when he suffered a knee injury. D.J. Woods, though, was a lone bright spot for the Bearcats against North Carolina State catching six passes for 146 yards and scoring two touchdowns.
Running back Darrin Williams, however, was held to only 24 yards on six carries. Williams has filled in the last two weeks for Isaiah Pead, who has been limited by a knee injury.
Oklahoma has won all three of its games, but is 1-2 ATS. The Sooners withstood 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to get past Air Force, 27-24, this past Saturday as 16 ½-point favorites. The combined 51 points dipped ‘under’ the 53-point total.
The Sooners gave up 351 yards on the ground to Air Force, which leads the nation in rushing. DeMarco Murray had another big game for the Sooners, rushing for 148 yards and scoring three touchdowns. Murray has already scored seven touchdowns this season.
After facing the option-oriented Falcons, the Sooners must focus their defense on dealing with Cincinnati’s spread offense. The Sooners did a great job two weeks ago slowing down Christian Ponder and Florida State’s passing attack winning 47-17. That was the Sooners’ lone cover as they were seven-point favorites. The combined 64 points went ‘over’ the 58 ½-point total.
Oklahoma had a tough time opening week before downing Utah State, 31-24, as 34-point favorites. The combined 55 points just fell ‘under’ the 56 ½-point total.
The Sooners are 12-4-1 ATS in their last 17 September games, but 2-6 ATS during their past eight non-conference matchups. The ‘under’ has cashed in 13 of Oklahoma’s last 17 games.
Cincinnati may be without tight end Ben Guidugli (ankle) and strong safety Drew Frey (head). Both were injured in the loss to North Carolina State.