Nippert Stadium Cincinnati

Central Florida Knights vs. Cincinnati Bearcats Pick & Prediction OCT 16TH 2021

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Logo Cincinnati Bearcats

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The national recognition for Cincinnati's football program is at an all-time high.

Coach Luke Fickell just hopes his Bearcats don't get too big-headed.

Cincinnati holds its highest ranking in program history at No. 3 heading into its Saturday afternoon home game against American Athletic Conference opponent UCF.

"For us as a team and as a program, it's really about how are we going to handle this attention and things that are going on," Fickell said. "We can't bury our head in the sand.

"They can't be like me because they're not. Meaning, they still have to go to class and be in the community and live on their phones at times. ... It will be a big deal for us to continue to handle some of the attention, some of the buzz."

Following impressive road triumphs over Indiana and Notre Dame, the Bearcats (5-0, 1-0 AAC) opened conference play last week by crushing Temple 52-3.

Quarterback Desmond Ridder threw for 259 yards and three touchdowns, while top back Jerome Ford rushed for 149 yards on just 15 carries with two for scores.

Cincinnati's defense held the opposition to 14 or fewer points for the fourth time this season.

Ridder has completed 65.5 percent of his passes, including 12 touchdowns, with just two interceptions. Ford is averaging 6.3 yards and has reached the end zone eight times.

Cincinnati will be shooting for its 24th consecutive home victory, the second longest streak in the country, behind only Clemson's 31-game streak.

"The recognition they deserve and that they're getting is awesome," Fickell said of his players. "It's something we've had in the past couple of years but nothing quite like this. So it's a time for us to continue to grow maturity-wise and be able to handle it."

UCF (3-2, 1-1) will try to pull the upset with a true freshman at quarterback. Mikey Keene recorded his first win in the Knights' 20-16 victory over East Carolina on Saturday. Keene completed 23-of-35 passes for 194 yards.

"For young quarterbacks, a lot of times there's more pressure at home than there is on the road," coach Gus Malzahn said. "So, I was real excited the way he handled himself. He'd like to have that one throw back (an interception) but he made some really good throws. I thought he managed the game well."

Keene threw two touchdown passes in his first start on Oct. 2, a 34-30 loss to Navy. He was thrust into the lineup when Dillon Gabriel suffered a fractured clavicle against Louisville on Sept. 17. The team's top running back, Northwestern transfer Isaiah Bowser, sustained a knee injury in the same game and has yet to return to action.

Malzahn, the former Auburn coach, is no stranger to coaching against highly rated teams. He rates the current Bearcats on par with some of the Southeastern Conference powers he faced over his years with the Tigers.

"I've been fortunate to play against some really, really good defenses and I think you can put their guys in the same category. And some really good offenses, and you can put those guys in that same category, too," he said. "It's a big challenge but we're looking forward to it."

The teams have split their six meetings since joining the conference, though the Bearcats have won the last two by three points apiece.

Ridder still hasn't forgotten UCF's 25-point victory over his team in 2018, 38-13 back when it was the Knights who were riding high en route to a 12-0 regular season.

"UCF, I feel like, has always been a big rivalry for us," he said. "There's still a lot of bad blood and a lot of bad taste in our mouths."

--Field Level Media

Central Florida Knights
Cincinnati Bearcats

Central Florida Knights vs. Cincinnati Bearcats Recap OCT 16TH 2021

Jerome Ford rushed for 189 yards and scored four first-half touchdowns as No. 3 Cincinnati rolled past visiting UCF 56-21 in American Athletic Conference action on Saturday afternoon.

Ford, who rushed 20 times, had a 79-yard touchdown during his big half. Desmond Ritter completed 13 of 23 passes for 140 yards and one touchdown. Coby Bryant scored on an interception return for the Bearcats (6-0, 2-0 AAC) and Ryan Montgomery added 95 rushing yards on just eight carries.

Mikey Keene completed 16 of 27 passes for 139 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions for the Knights (3-3, 1-2).

After UCF went three-and-out on its first possession and a partially blocked punt that traveled 8 yards, Cincinnati scored on its first drive. Ford finished it off from a yard out.

The Knights only gained one first down on their next possession and the Bearcats scored again the next time they had the ball. A 20-yard pass from Ridder to Tyler Scott gave Cincinnati a first-and-goal and Ford punched it in from the 1 to complete the 10-play, 66-yard drive.

Cincinnati scored its third touchdown midway through the second quarter. Ford had a 20-yard run and a 23-yard reception to set up Ridder's 19-yard scoring pass to Alec Pierce.

Ford scored his third touchdown of the day with 5:33 left in the half, cutting through the middle toward the left sideline and scampering 79 yards.

The Bearcats were back in business after Keene had a pass picked off by Deshawn Pace. A 4-yard rush by Ford completed that scoring drive.

Late in the third quarter, Bryant picked off a Keene pass and returned it 74 yards to make it 42-7.

The Knights scored in the final seconds of the quarter on Isaiah Bowser's 4-yard run.

The Bearcats turned a UCF fumble into Ethan Wright's 2-yard touchdown run with 10:44 remaining.

Cincinnati's Evan Prater contributed a 6-yard scoring run later in the quarter, while UCF's final touchdown came on Mark-Antony Richards' 2-yard run.

--Field Level Media

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