What a run the Cincinnati Bearcats went on a season ago. A win over Notre Dame opened a few eyes and then the Bearcats had a perfect run through the American Athletic Conference to secure one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff.
The 2022 team will look much different from last season after nine players were selected in April’s NFL Draft. Trying to replace the top passer, rusher, receiver, and team leader in sacks as well as other key contributors will be no easy task.
With seven players coming in and nine players heading out, the Cincinnati wasn’t that active on the transfer portal. However, the Bearcats had the top-rated recruiting class in the American Athletic Conference in each of the last three years so that talent should put Cincinnati in a position for a run at another conference title.
Cincinnati (+165) is favored to win the American Athletic Conference title once again according to the college football lines. Houston (+225) and UCF (+350) aren’t far behind so it won’t be easy to repeat as champions.
Cincinnati (+15000) is tied for 24th in the NCAA football odds to win the national championship according to the sportsbook.
- 2021 record: 13-1
- 2021 conference record: 8-0
- Head coach: Luke Fickell
- Odds to win conference title: +165
Nobody is expecting Cincinnati to match last year’s numbers on offense now that four-year starting quarterback Desmond Ridder (3334 passing yards, 30 TD passes in 2021), leading rusher Jerome Ford (1320 yards, 19 touchdowns) and top receiver Alec Pierce (52 catches, 884 receiving yards) have moved onto the NFL.
Receivers Tyler Scott and Tre Tucker are back after combining for 64 catches and nearly 1,000 yards last season. Tight ends Josh Whyle and Leonard Taylor also return for the Bearcats. Hawaii’s top receiver, Nick Mardner, joins the Bearcats after averaging 19.9 yards on 46 catches last season.
Ryan Montgomery is back after averaging 6.8 yards on 46 carries a season ago. He figures to be CIncinnati’s top punt returner once again. Keep an eye on Cincinnati native Corey Kiner, who returns home after rushing for 323 yards as a freshman at Louisiana State. Things worked out pretty well when Ford transferred to Cincinnati out of the SEC. Time will tell if Kiner will have that sort of impact.
Evan Prafer had more of an impact with his legs (105 yards on 12 carries) than with his arm as Ridder’s backup.
Offensive linemen Jeremy Cooper, Dylan O’Quinn, Jake Renfro, and James Tunstall all return so that group should be the strength of the offense. Cincinnati also brought in Dartanyan Tinsley from Kentucky Christian. Renfro could be the best of the Cincinnati offensive linemen.
Take a Look at the NCAAF Predictions For Wake Forest & Iowa State
- College Football Predictions: No. 31 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
- College Football Predictions: No. 32 Iowa State Cyclones
Cincinnati also had 17 preseason All-AAC selections in the annual preview.
— Cincinnati Football (@GoBearcatsFB) June 17, 2022
The defense will look much different without leading tackler Joel Dublanko and so many other top playmakers. It doesn’t help that six defensive starters were selected in the NFL Draft. It will be pretty hard for the Bearcats to finish in the top 10 in total defense, as was the case during the 2021 season.
Cincinnati finished second in the country in turnover margin, with the offense capitalizing on the field position thanks to an opportunistic defense. Can the Bearcats come up with as many turnovers in 2022 with so many new players in key roles?
The list of departures begins with fourth overall draft pick Ahmad Gardner. Fellow cornerback Coby Bryant and safety Bryan Cook were also drafted. Linebacker Darrian Beavers (100 tackles), Curtis Brooks, who led the Bearcats with 7½ sacks a season ago, and Myjai Sanders (13½ sacks over the last three seasons) will be difficult to replace.
The top returnee on that side of the ball is linebacker Deshawn Pace (95 tackles, four interceptions, 9½ tackles for loss). Ty Van Fossen (70 tackles), Ja’von Hicks (56 tackles, two interceptions), Jowon Briggs (43 tackles, three sacks) and Arquon Bush (3 interceptions) are other top returnees on defense. The defensive line will be aided by the addition of former Ohio State recruit Noah Potter while linebacker Ivan Pace led Miami (Ohio) with 125 tackles in 2021.
2022 Cincinnati Outlook
Expectations are pretty high as Cincinnati embarks on its final season in the American Athletic Conference before joining the Big 12.
Playing at Arkansas in the season opener will be quite the test for a Cincinnati team that needs to replace so many of its star players from a season ago. Cincinnati could very well be favored in the rest of its games during the regular season. A trip to Orlando in late October to face UCF won’t be easy, but not having to play Houston during the regular season could aid in Cincinnati’s bid to return to the AAC title game.
The Bearcats have a regular-season expected win total of nine with the college football predictions at -140 for Cincinnati to top that mark. After going 9 for 19 on field goals, that is an area in need of some improvement, as Cincinnati’s offense probably won’t be reaching the end zone with the same frequency as it did during the magical 2021 campaign.
Something that those who bet online might want to consider: Cincinnati only covered in four of its last six regular-season games during the 2021 season. With so many players off to the NFL, don’t expect as many games when the Bearcats are favored by more than 20 points this time around so. Perhaps that will help Cincinnati cover with more frequency during the 2022 campaign. We’ve plenty of college football odds for you to consider.
2022 Cincinnati Schedule
- Sept. 3 at Arkansas
- Sept. 10 vs Kennesaw State
- Sept. 17 at Miami (Ohio)
- Sept. 24 vs Indiana
- Oct. 1 at Tulsa
- Oct. 8 vs South Florida
- Oct. 22 at Southern Methodist
- Oct. 29 at UCF
- Nov. 5 vs Navy
- Nov. 11 vs East Carolina
- Nov. 19 at Temple
- Nov. 26 vs Tulane (game could be shifted to Nov. 25)