Five Question Friday: Bearcats take on Rutgers

BY foxsports • November 19, 2010

By Tom Gelehrter
FOX Sports Ohio
Friday, November 19th, 2010

CINCINNATI - Immediately following the Cincinnati Bearcats loss at West Virginia last Saturday, head coach Butch Jones told his team they were in "uncharted territory" both for the players and the coaching staff following their third consecutive loss in BIG EAST Conference play.  Jones acknowledged that almost his entire roster had never experiences losing like his team has done in 2010 and that he and his staff had not lost like this in their careers.  He vowed to continue working and prepare his team to return to their winning ways against Rutgers when they return to Nippert Stadium Saturday night.  With that, we are prepared for another edition of Five Question Friday:

Question 1: Will the Bearcats play relaxed football?
Often when a team is losing they press.  That is true when trailing by 14 or when on a three-game losing streak.  Sometimes, the key is to not think about the scoreboard (or in this case the streak) and just hit the field, relax, play football and have fun.  This single idea might be the biggest key to a Bearcats victory on Saturday night.  When Cincinnati got behind at North Carolina State in September they began to press, then panic and the game unraveled from there.  However, when they fell behind by two scores at Louisville in mid-October, they maintained composure, remained confident and came from behind to win.  If the Bearcats can take the field Saturday night as though their record is 0-0, play relaxed and confident football and execute at the ability they have proven they are capable of (see: Oklahoma, Miami, Louisville games), then Jones and his team should be in a good position for a victory and the opportunity to remain bowl eligible.  

Question 2: Who starts at quarterback for the Scarlet Knights? (And does it matter?)
Rutgers has started two true quarterbacks this year and could put as many as four different players behind center on Saturday night.  Sophomore Tom Savage started the season as Greg Schiano's guy but was replaced by true freshman Chas Dodd.  After a tough first half against Syracuse, Dodd was replaced by Savage.  Neither were impressive in the game as they combined for just 111 yards passing.  Schiano has not announced his starter and is unlikely to do so until right before kickoff Saturday night. There also exists the possibility that both Dodd and Savage play in a situation where they split time against the Bearcats.  Regardless of who the starter is, the Bearcats expect to see both Mohamed Sanu and Jeremy Deering line-up in what Rutgers calls the Wild Knight formation, their version of the wildcat.  While Sanu and Deering generally run out of the formation, the two have combined for seven pass attempts this season, completing five for a combined 100 yards and two touchdowns (Sanu threw both.)  

Question 3: Can the Cincinnati defense keep up the pressure on the opposing quarterback?
Regardless of who lines up at quarterback for Rutgers, the Bearcats must find a way to provide pressure in the passing game and record sacks.  UC got off to a very slow start in recording sacks, but has shown progress the past two games, tallying four sacks against Syracuse and two at West Virginia.  The Scarlet Knights allow more sacks than anyone else in the BIG EAST, which should provide guys like Derek Wolfe, Dan Giordano, Brandon Mills, John Hughes and the rest of the Cincinnati defensive line the opportunities to bring down the Scarlet Knights play caller.  Jones has harped on his teams need to create "momentum changing plays" all week and a handful of sacks for the Bearcats defense could go a long way in changing to momentum of the game.  

Question 4: Can Isaiah Pead return to form against the Scarlet Knights?
Bearcats starting running back Isaiah Pead had a slow start to the 2010 season, before finding his rhythm in a big way starting with the Oklahoma game.  Pead rushed for 169 yards against the Sooners, followed by 197 versus Miami (OH) and 145 yards at Louisville.  Since then, Pead has struggled.  He collected only 48 yards on the ground against USF, 23 yards (on 11 attempts) versus the Orange and 78 yards at West Virginia (including a 53-yard TD scamper.)  There is no coincidence that when Pead is in rhythm the Bearcats offense is also clicking at their highest ability.  With the goal of a fifth consecutive bowl game still alive, Pead putting together three straight 100-yard games would go a long way towards a successful finish to the Bearcats regular season.

Question 5: Will Cincinnati keep their win streak versus Rutgers alive?
The Bearcats have won four consecutive games against the Scarlet Knights.  Two have come in convincing fashion (2006 & 2009) and two were very close games (2007 & 2008).  The first win in the streak came on a cold November night when the Bearcats shocked the BIG EAST, upsetting then-ranked Rutgers 30-11, catapulting the red and black to the International Bowl and Mark Dantonio to Michigan State.  Now, on another chilly November night, Jones and his team have an opportunity to snap a three game slide and win their fifth straight game against Rutgers.