Boston College is currently in Birmingham Alabama preparing to face off with the Cincinnati Bearcats on January 2nd in the Birmingham Bowl. Luke Fickell's squad is had a strong 2019 season at 10-3, marching all the way to the AAC Championship where they dropped their second straight matchup to Memphis 29-24. But what kind of offense will they bring to them to the bowl game? Let's explore the Bearcats offense.
Mike Denbrock is the offensive coordinator for the Bearcats, now in his third season after coming over from Notre Dame where he was the wide receivers coach until 2017.
Desmond Ridder is an dual threat quarterback in every sense of the word. Not a horribly accurate passer (completing 58% of his passes this year), he threw for 2,069 yards in 2019, and never throwing for more than 300 yards in a game. But what makes Ridder dangerous is his ability to run the ball. Boston College has notoriously struggled against mobile QBs and Ridder could be a nightmare for the Eagles defense. Only a sophomore, he led all AAC QBs with 123 rushes for 545 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Before the AAC Championship game, Ridder injured his shoulder in practice and it was questionable if he was going to play. But he did get the start, throwing for 233 yards and one interception.
Boston College has David Bailey, Cincinnati has Michael Warren II. "Mike's a catalyst," head coach Luke Fickell said. "When he runs the football it gives energy to everybody." At 5'10, Warren is a bowling ball, a big physical back much in the style of AJ Dillon and Bailey. In just his second season as the starter he has rushed for over 2500 yards and 33 touchdowns and has become the offensive star for the Bearcats.
Behind him on the depth chart is Gerrid Doaks, another brute of a back at 230 pounds, who has six touchdowns this year (five on the ground, one receiving). In camp this year the Bearcats lost spark plug Charles McClelland to an ACL injury, and Tavion Thomas announced he will be transferring.
Between Ridder's running ability and the pure talent of Warren, stopping the run will clearly need to be a focus of BC's defensive gameplan.
Cincinnati's wide receiving corp is not necessarily weak, but shouldn't present issues for Boston College's secondary. Their leading receiver Alec Pierce only has 34 catches for 621 yards. “He’s a go-getter,” Desmond Ridder said “He’s a person we can look to go get the ball. He’s got a great vertical jump, great speed and we put the ball up and know he’s going to come down with it … I know I can count on him whether to top something off or go out and do what he does.” He's a bigger receiver at 6'3, which should mean Boston College cornerback Brandon Sebastian will be put on him in coverage.
After Pierce, it's a pair of complimentary receivers in Rashad Medaris and Malick Mbodj who have combined for 45 receptions and 584 yards. As mentioned before Cincinnati runs a balanced offense, not one that is heavy on the either the pass or run. If BC loads the box against the run to try and stop Ridder and Warren II the Bearcats may find some success in the air.
Just like Boston College, Cincinnati's biggest threat in the passing game is their tight ends. The Bearcats have a good one too in Josiah Deguara who leads the team in touchdown receptions with seven. “There’s certain guys who really understand route running and really understand defensive coverage,” offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock said. “Teams try to cover (Deguara) with different guys in different situations, and he has a knack for understanding how to beat any situation he’s put into.”
It has been a mixed bag for the offensive line this year for Cincinnati. They have some youth up front with Lorenz Metz a true freshman starting at right tackle, while Darius Harper a former Miami (OH) basketball player has switched sports to play center for the Bearcats. Morgan James, a senior at guard is arguably the most talented lineman they have, and was named an All-AAC first team member this postseason.
Supporting the pass, the Bearcats offensive line has struggled, allowing thirty two sacks, good for 104th in the nation. But on the other hand the line they have performed well in the rushing attack has allowed Cincy to rush for 2569 yards this season.