Cincinnati (2-0) hasn't been tested yet but the Bearcats have outscored their first two opponents by a 91-21 margin. Indiana (1-1) was expected to take a jump forward this season, but a humiliating 34-6 loss to Iowa in the opener and a somewhat sloppy win over Idaho have tamped down expectations.
Will Cincinnati continue to roll in advance of its October 2 matchup against Notre Dame, or can the Hoosiers get back on track and give the Big Ten a huge non-conference win? We'll find out soon enough, but in the meantime the Irish Breakdown crew has some thoughts and predictions on the matchup.
BRYAN DRISKELL, PUBLISHER
Prediction: Cincinnati 27, Indiana 17
I wasn't on the Indiana hype train before the season, so I'm not overly surprised by their disappointing start. Indiana has been solid on defense but the offense isn't as good as it was hyped up to be, and Michael Penix Jr. clearly is still shaking off the rust after a season-ending injury in 2020. Cincinnati is too talented, too fast and too well coached to get ripped by the Indiana offense.
On the other side of the ball the Cincinnati offense is good but it's not an elite group. The one part of the Indiana squad that I've liked so far is the defense. Iowa scored 34 points in the opener but it held Iowa to just 303 yards and 4.7 yards per play. Indiana is gritty and well coached on defense, and I think they'll be able to keep the score down a bit and make this a somewhat competitive game, but unless Indiana can find its way on offense I don't see the Hoosiers having enough firepower to win this game.
It's a battle between two well-coached teams, but Cincinnati has more speed, more impact players and at the end I see the Bearcats getting the Power 5 road victory it needs to boost what it hopes is a College Football Playoff resume.
VINCE DEDARIO, FOOTBALL ANALYST
Prediction: Cincinnati 35, Indiana 14
This is the first big test for Cincinnati. They have back to back weeks that will make or break their season. If they go 2-0 then they can legitimately talk about the playoffs. IU is not the team a lot of experts, including myself, thought they would be this season. At least not yet. Michael Penix, Jr is a dynamic QB but has not shown it yet this year. Could this be the game? Probably not. This Bearcat defense that Marcus Freeman left behind is the real deal. They will shut down this Hoosier passing game and allow their offense to put points on the board off turnovers. This one may be close early but that is not how it will end.
GRANT DELVECCHIO, STAFF WRITER
Prediction: Cincinnati 35, Indiana 21
Cincinnati's College Football Playoff run gets real in Bloomington. The Bearcats have crushed back-to-back inferior opponents and get their first true test of the season against the Hoosiers. Indiana has played well defensively, but the Indiana offense and quarterback Michael Penix Jr. have struggled to move the ball in the passing game. Desmond Ridder and the Bearcats offense will continue to roll. I expect Cincinnati to win handily.
SHAUN DAVIS, ESPN CHICAGO
Prediction: Cincinnati 27, Indiana 20
Michael Penix Jr. won’t be enough to overcome an aggressive Bearcats defense, and some late heroics from Desmond Ridder and Jerome Ford. The Bearcats have the better team and they know how important this game means to their necessary state sweep and College Football Playoff hopes.
RYAN ROBERTS, RISENDRAFT
Prediction: Cincinnati 27, Indiana 14
The Hoosiers are a mess right now after a notable 2020 season. Michael Penix Jr. with a couple more turnovers in this affair. The Bearcats offense takes awhile to get going, with some puzzling moments from Desmond Ridder. Cincinnati pulls away late, making for a sloppy affair with less scoring than anticipated.
JP SCOTT, IB CONTRIBUTOR
Prediction: Cincinnati 33, Indiana 16
So far the Bearcats are as advertised. Indiana got right last week after being punched in the mouth in the opener. That said, I see the Cincinnati defense giving the Hoosiers similar problems to what Iowa’s defense did. Look for Luke Fickell’s club to make a statement and put Notre Dame on notice. Cincy wins.
ANDREW MCDONOUGH, IB CONTRIBUTOR
Prediction: Cincinnati 31, Indiana 24
Cincinnati travels to Bloomington for the first of its two statement games against Power 5 opponents (the Bearcats play Notre Dame on October 2nd). Cincinnati has been up-and-down so far this season, beating Miami (OH) convincingly in the opener before struggling with Murray State. The Bearcats were tied 7-7 at halftime against Murray State before pulling away in the second half to a 42-7 victory, a performance likely influenced by looking ahead to the matchup against Indiana.
Indiana entered the season ranked in the Top 25 and with lofty preseason expectations for the first time in years, but ran into a buzzsaw in Iowa City, losing to the Hawkeyes 34-6 in the opener. QB Michael Penix Jr., who is still shaking off the rust after returning from an ACL injury, has a talented receiving corps, but has only averaged 112 passing YPG and thrown 3 interceptions. A matchup against what is always a tough Cincinnati defense is not the best time to be trying to get on track, and the balance of the Cincinnati offense, led by QB Desmond Ritter and RB Jerome Ford, will lead Cincinnati to a road victory in a game that they control the entire way and will not be as close as the final score indicates.
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