David Simone of the 247Sports site Bearcats Journal has been a friend of The UConn Blog for some time now, appearing on podcasts and exchanging Q's and A's with us on multiple occasions. He was kind enough, again, to share his thoughts on this weekend's match-up, touching on topics from how to stop the Bearcats offense, their renovated stadium, and memories of Bob Diaco from his time there.
Thanks to David for being so kind and forthright with his thoughts and opinions.
1. So who's starting at quarterback for you guys?
Your guess is as good as mine, nice answer right out of the gate huh? He wasn't cleared to play until the Sunday or Monday before the BYU game so I thought it was pretty unrealistic to think he would play. I think Hayden Moore will start again but thats not based on any inside info. Even before Gunner was injured he just didn't look the same as last year and through the first month of the season he and the offense in general were turning the ball over at an alarming rate. I think Moore has been better than we could have expected even with the 4th quarter disaster last week and unless Gunner really outplays him this week in practice I don't see them making a change.
2. How does one stop your offense?
Force turnovers and blitz. UC had five turnovers against Temple and still had a chance to win and had three turnovers against Memphis including an interception return for a touchdown. In the BYU game they really struggled against the blitz in the first half even though they lead in the fourth quarter. They gave up eight sacks while only giving up six sacks the entire season before that game which is pretty remarkable considering the number of pass attempts so maybe it was just a blip but I don't think UConn has a shot if they rush four and play coverage. I haven't looked at the numbers lately but to give you an idea of how the season has gone at one point they were number one in the country in first downs gained, top five in plays run, total yards, and passing yards, and dead last in turnover margin. If UConn doesn't do those two things I'm not sure they'll be able to stop them.
3. I know the defense hasn't really stopped anyone, but are there any strengths?
I would say defensive line but its been very inconsistent. Against Miami FL they were great and against BYU they were nonexistent. Safety Zach Edwards has been playing very well this season while also having to get a lot of young guys lined up in the secondary. They don't blitz enough for my liking and they don't generate turnovers so they can definitely be had but they have more speed and depth than last year and have been playing a lot of freshman who have shown some nice promise.
4. How is the newly renovated Nippert Stadium treating you?
It's been awesome, they haven't had an official sellout yet but the crowds have been great even with the disappointing start. I believe they've set an attendance record each game and a sellout looks likely for Saturday. The fan experience is so much better and there are still more upgrades coming after the season so almost everyone is very happy with changes.
5. Assuming you think Cincinnati wins this one, how do you feel about the point spread, which is currently at 13?
If I were to bet I would probably take the points. Until UC's defense shows me they can get consistent stops I'm not sure they're going to beat anyone by two touchdowns. If they take care of the ball I think they cover but they weather is looking real bad with lots of rain so it could be an ugly lower scoring game.
6. Do you have any memories (pleasant or otherwise) about the short-lived Bob Diaco era in Cincinnati?
I really only have one memory of Diaco and it was after they were smoked in the 2009 Sugar Bowl. We were all back at the team hotel with some of the players and coaches and he had a look on his face like "I wish I was out of here 5 minutes ago" he wanted no part of talking to anyone and I wouldn't be surprised if he flew home before the sun came up. He also had a really bad plaid sport coat on.
7. Does the early success of AAC Football this year give Cincinnati fans any optimism about the conference or do they still want to leave as badly as ever?
Not in the least. On our site we have a monthly thread that discusses realignment/business/etc...and as far as views it blows away any other topic. I don't read the thread because its pretty much the same stuff from the last year or so. I think a lot of our fans are looking at Memphis, Temple, and Houston and saying come talk to us when you do this for a decade. UC is 91-45 since joining the Big East in 2005 and is on their fourth coach in that time. If those schools can keep the coaches they have now which seems unlikely or continue to make strong hires then the league has a chance but I don't think half a season of success is making anyone in Cincinnati excited about the AAC.
Weekend CFB TV Schedule
Getting the schedule to you on a Thursday so you can make sure to watch Temple at East Carolina tonight!