Cincinnati football 2022 season prediction, preview, awards, 2022 bowl game

Luke Fickell, Cincinnati Bearcats. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Luke Fickell, Cincinnati Bearcats. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

Luke Fickell and the Cincinnati football program look to win the Group of Five once again.

The Cincinnati football team has not lost a regular-season in two years under Luke Fickell.

Hashtag blessed to be joining a Power Five conference next July, the Bearcats are hoping to make it a three-peat in the Group of Five. While they did the impossible last fall by reaching the College Football Playoff, Cincinnati was no match for national runner-up Alabama in the Cotton Bowl Classic. Regardless, Cincinnati will be an absolute wagon for as long as Coach Fickell is at the helm.

Powering its way in at No. 15 on FanSided’s Preseason Top 50 Rankings, the Cincinnati Bearcats!

Cincinnati football 2021 season in review

After navigating its regular-season slate to perfection the year prior, 2020 Group of Five champion Cincinnati fell to a two-loss Georgia team in the final seconds of the Peach Bowl. Like JT Daniels’ USC-themed calf tat, it was kind of awkward but the Dawgs got it done. As for the Bearcats, the heart-breaking loss only served as fuel to the fire for Desmond Ridder and the boys the next year.

Cincinnati took care of business with its first two home games on the season with wins over Miami (Ohio) and Murray State. Ben Roethlisberger and Ja Morant weren’t walking through that door. After that, Cincy made the most of its non-conference slate. They beat Indiana before the Hoosiers knew they were bad in Bloomington and stole one in South Bend over the Fighting Irish.

This loss may have led to Brian Kelly eventually abandoning his family like a bad dad would for a pack of Camels, but that’s neither here nor there. At 4-0 in the non-conference with two Power Five wins, the Bearcats actually ran the gauntlet successfully once again in AAC play. While Navy and Tulsa played them close, a playoff berth was on the line in very early December vs. Houston.

Cincinnati proved victorious over Dana Holgorsen’s Cougars and with the help of Baylor in the Big 12 Championship game vs. the Oklahoma State Cowboys, the Bearcats freaking did it! They became the first Group of Five team to make the College Football Playoff in its eight-year history. The Bearcats may have lost to Alabama 27-6 in Arlington, but no one will ever forget this season.

Previewing Cincinnati offense for 2022 season

  • Returning starters (8): Tyler Scott (WR), Tre Tucker (WR), Josh Whyle (TE), James Tunstall (LT), Jeremy Cooper (LG), Jake Renfro (C), Lorenz Metz (RG), Dylan O’Quinn (RT)
  • Newcomers (3): Ben Bryant (QB), Nick Mardner (WR), Dartanyan Tinsley (LG)
  • Impact player: Nick Mardner (WR)

Despite losing key pieces off last year’s offense, including quarterback Desmond Ridder, running back Jerome Ford and wide receiver Alec Pierce, Cincinnati is in a good spot with right around eight returning starters on that particular side of the ball. Among those returning include wide receiver Tre Tucker, tight end Josh Whyle and the entire starting offensive line for the Bearcats.

Cincinnati did pick up a handful of transfers this offseason. Newcomers to the offensive side of the ball who will either start or will contribute in some capacity include quarterback Ben Bryant (Eastern Michigan), wide receiver Nick Mardner (Hawaii) and left guard Dartanyan Tinsley (Kentucky Christian). Bryant has the toughest job of them all by replacing Ridder at quarterback.

There are a few candidates to keep an eye on when it comes to the Bearcats offense, but Mardner has a great chance to be a major impact player. He comes over from Hawaii, possibly as an organ donor, a sexy hamburger or an Irish R&B singer, to a league that is not the least bit aware of who he is. With Tucker, Whyle and Tyler Scott returning to the receiving corps, Mardner will fit right in.

Previewing Cincinnati defense for 2022 season

  • Returning starters (6): Jabari Taylor (DE), Jowon Briggs (NT), Malik Vann (DE), Deshawn Pace (LB), Arquon Bush (CB), Ja’von Hicks (FS)
  • Newcomers (2): Noah Potter (DE), Ivan Pace Jr. (LB)
  • Impact player: Deshawn Pace (LB)

Although the Bearcats defense may have lost more than the offense did a season ago, Cincinnati does return around six starters on that side of the ball. While replacing Coby Bryant and Sauce Gardner in the back-end will not be easy, Cincinnati should be might feisty in the front-seven. Key returning players include Jabari Taylor at defensive end and Deshawn Pace thriving at linebacker.

Cincinnati did pick up a few guys who are expected to be major contributors on this defense in the transfer portal. Noah Potter makes his way to Cincinnati after playing at Ohio State previously, while Ivan Pace Jr. reunites with his brother Deshawn in the linebacking corps after initially playing his college football for the Miami RedHawks. The Pace brothers are expected to flourish together.

Deshawn Pace is poised to have a tremendous season for the Bearcats. His older brother did not return to the MAC. With a little bit of added pressure, Pace is poised to keep the Bearcats in the national conversation after not losing a single game the two previous regular seasons. Cincinnati has our attention and it is up to Pace to kickstart our hearts when awards season finally arrives.

Cincinnati football players awards watch for 2022 season

11 Cincinnati football players find themselves on major preseason awards watch lists for 2022.

Ryan Montgomery, Paul Hornung

Running back Ryan Montgomery is up for the Paul Hornung this season. He was with the team already, having backed up Ford in the Bearcats’ backfield. Let’s see if he has a real shot at this.

Nick Mardner, Biletnikoff

Mardner willingly left Hawaii for Cincinnati because he knows what is cooking in Nippert. That’s right. Mardner is on the preseason awards watch list for the Biletnikoff. Chicka-chicka-yeah…

Josh Whyle, Mackey

Whyle is not one, but two Bearcats thinking about getting into the mix for the Mackey, umkay? This is not-so-quietly becoming a very prestigious and very difficult award for any tight end to win.

Leonard Taylor, Mackey

Look out! Leonard Taylor is joining the Mackey Award watch list party, umkay? While Whyle may be the more proven tight end in the receiving corps, keep in mind they have a new quarterback.

Dylan O’Quinn, Outland

Dylan O’Quinn is the first of two Bearcats offensive linemen on the preseason awards watch list for the Outland Trophy. It is such a difficult award to win, but to be on the watch list is fantastic.

Jake Renfro, Outland

Jake Renfro joins O’Quinn on the Outland Trophy preseason awards watch list. Interestingly enough, the Bearcats center is up for this honor, but not for the Rimington, which is very odd.

Lorenz Metz, Lombardi

Lorenz Metz is the third Bearcats offensive lineman on a preseason awards watch list. While he is not in serious consideration for the Outland, he has found his way onto the Lombardi Award list.

Deshawn Pace, Butkus, Nagurski, Bednarik

As expected, Pace appears on a handful of preseason awards watch lists. The Bearcats star linebacker is in the mix for the Butkus, Nagurski and Bednarik. Maybe he wins one of them?

Ivan Pace Jr., Butkus, Nagurski

Pace is not that far off pace of his younger brother, as he too is on the watch list for the Butkus and the Nagurski. Wouldn’t it be crazy if they split votes because voters picked the wrong Doug?

Wilson Huber, Wuerffel

Longtime special teams ace Wilson Huber is in the starting lineup this year at linebacker. Though he will likely be overshadowed by the Pace Brothers in awards season, he is up for the Wuerffel.

Ryan Coe, Groza

Ryan Coe and his toe will be up for the Groza. The noted toe-basher Groza was a transcendent placekicker during his illustrious playing career. No toe-bashing here, but Coe may use his leg.

Cincinnati football biggest game on 2022 schedule

Looking at Cincinnati’s regular-season schedule for 2022, it is going to be difficult for the Bearcats to navigate it to perfection for the third year in a row. The Bearcats may not draw Notre Dame in the non-conference, but opening at Arkansas in Fayetteville is not going to be the least bit easy. Even if they start the year out 0-1, the Bearcats’ biggest game comes in conference play.

While Cincinnati is fortunate to not draw Houston during the regular season, the Bearcats will have to beat both SMU and UCF on the road consecutively to be sure they are the ones meeting the Cougars in Houston. Because UCF has the more proven head coach in Gus Malzahn, this road date in Orlando is about to be hotter the sultriest of summer suns. Oct. 29, get ready to get ready!

If Cincinnati beats UCF in the Bounce House, the Bearcats can theoretically afford a loss to SMU in conference play and still get to the conference title bout. Although a two-loss team with defeats to the Razorbacks and Mustangs will not be anything close to New Year’s Six-caliber, Cincinnati can go out on top as a three-time defending AAC champion before peacing out to join the Big 12.

Unless SMU is a wagon under Rhett Lashlee, the winner of UC at UCF will play U of H in Houston.

Cincinnati football best-case scenario

As Kevin Garnett once said, “anything is possible!” Cincinnati did the impossible a year ago, as impossible is nothing, silly KG. Could the Bearcats get back to the College Football Playoff for the second straight year? Not even Professor Chaos could concoct such a bonkers scenario, but oh, hamburgers! What if the Bearcats go undefeated? Could they get in as a 13-0 team this season?

It all starts with roasting Sam Pittman’s Hogs in Fayetteville. Yessir! That road win will carry similar weight to the Notre Dame game a year ago. After beating Indiana because Hoosier daddy to complete the set, Cincinnati could totally be 4-0 heading into conference play. While most of their hardest conference games are on the road, it only adds to the legend of Fickell’s program.

For Cincinnati to be in a position to return to the playoff, the Bearcats need to be 12-0 with wins over two-to-three ranked teams (Arkansas, SMU and UCF, probably). They also need to beat an undefeated Houston team, probably in Houston. Factor in the Big 12 cannibalizing itself again, Clemson being putrid again with D.J. U at QB and USC being a year away, the AAC champ gets in?

The best case scenario is for a 13-0 (8-0) Bearcats team to be back in the playoff before Alabama or Fickell’s alma mater runs through them like s**t through a tin horn.

Cincinnati football worst-case scenario

What if it hits the fan? It seems unfathomable for how good Cincy has been, but there was a time when Senator Tommy Tuberville got booed off the field at Nippert. He told UC fans to “go to hell” and to “get a job” while going 4-8 at his own job. Was he ever good as a coach or was he Auburn lucky? Either way, what happens if Kevin Malone drops his big vat of Skyline Chili on the carpet?

Barbecue beats chili in Week 1, so that’s a loss to the Hogs, Dawg. A prideful Cincinnati team bounces back to get within one win of bowl eligibility before the bye week. Feeling too good about themselves, Cincinnati gets mounted by SMU and then loses to the Knights in a sword fight to stumble to 5-3 on the year. Triple-options aside, UC drops one of its final four games to be 8-4.

After trying to convince themselves they are amazing, Navy runs train on a Cincinnati defense that doesn’t want to be there like s**t through a tin horn. Fickell and his underperforming team will watch the AAC Championship in absolute disgust, knowing they are so much better than Houston, SMU, UCF or whoever. The arrogance mounts with each passing breath as the Big 12 is imminent.

With Texas leaving the Big 12 eventually, guess who replaces them as its next entitled program?

Cincinnati football 2022 season prediction

Even if they would beat them later in the season, Cincinnati lost too much offensively and in the back-end of its defense to realistically think the Bearcats will beat Arkansas in Fayetteville. Defeated but not out of it, Cincinnati responds by winning its next five games before the crucial bye week. Cincinnati may be up for the challenge, but its only ends up splitting on the road at SMU and UCF.

At 6-2 heading into their final four regular-season games, the Bearcats complete the sweep of Navy, East Carolina, Temple and Tulane. Needing the road team they lost to in conference play to fall, the Bearcats get just that during the final week of the regular season. Cincinnati gets the distinct pleasure of playing Houston in Houston for the conference title, that goes to the Cougars.

Cincinnati goes 10-2 in the regular season but ends up at a strong 10-3 before the bowl game.

Cincinnati football 2022 bowl game prediction

Needing to cleanse the palate before moving onto bigger and better Big 12 things, Fickell and the boys snort some wasabi like Steve-O on Jackass to get ready for their bowl vs. BC. That’s right. The Wasabi Fenway Bowl is gonna hit their dome so hard, bro (yeah, dude). With Phil Jurkovec possibly sitting this one out, Cincinnati does celebratory lines of wasabi after clipping BC’s wings.

Up next: No. 14 Miami Hurricanes

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