Yeah, there wasn’t much excitement in Cincinnati’s 27-10 win over South Florida Friday night. The Bearcats took care of business against a bad Bulls team that may be looking for a new coach at the end of the season, but the win did keep UC alive for at least a share of a Big East title.
Though the Bearcats cannot win the conference outright, this might be Butch Jones‘ best coaching job in his three years at UC. Jones can still guide his team to back-t0-back 10-win seasons if Cincy wins next week at UConn and its bowl game. That would be a 10-win season without quarterback Zach Collaros and former conference Offensive Player of the Year Isaiah Pead.
Say what you will about Cincy’s schedule, but that would be an impressive accomplishment.
Surprisingly, Jones isn’t getting more attention when it comes to this year’s coaching carousel — at least as not as much as the likes of Willie Taggart and Charlie Strong. Sure, it’s early and things will be picking up in the next few weeks, but Jones has really only been connected via rumor mill to the open job at Kentucky.
But unless Jones is truly unhappy with the administration at UC, it would be surprising to see him make the move to Lexington. Coaches want playmakers and resources to win. Jones isn’t going to be upgrading in those departments going to UK — at least not significantly. That’s not to say the Wildcats aren’t committed to winning or athletic director Mitch Barnhart can’t make a good hire, it just doesn’t feel like Jones is that person.
It’s a bit surprising not to hear Jones being connected to the open job at Tennessee. Jon Gruden is still atop the Vols’ wish list, but if that doesn’t work out (like expected), Jones should be on the university’s short list.
Or, perhaps Jones will stay at UC as the head coach of the Bearcats for another year. It will depend on what jobs are available and who picks up the phone. Cincinnati has made great coaching hires the last several years, from Mark Dantonio to Brian Kelly to Jones, but its football infrastructure is only so big. It’s hard to imagine Jones’ stock won’t eventually outgrow it.
Derwin James is still at least a couple of weeks or so away from returning from his injury, but Florida State will likely get a talented defensive player back on the field this weekend anyway.
When asked Thursday if defensive end Josh Sweat will be available for the North Carolina game this weekend, Jimbo Fisher responded, “oh yeah.” Sweat sustained a meniscus injury in practice leading up to the Louisville game in Week 3 and, after it limited him in that contest, underwent surgery to repair the damage shortly thereafter.
At the time, the prognosis for a return was 1-2 weeks. Sweat missed the win over USF last weekend, but could see the field this weekend as he’s practiced the past couple of days.
“Healing really well, looks great” Fisher said in quotes distributed by the team. “We’ll see [Friday] morning, but [the knee] looks great.”
Sweat started nine of 13 games as a true freshman last season, and started the first two games in 2016 before the knee issue surfaced.
Deservedly so, most of the Heisman focus these first four-plus weeks of the 2016 season has been squarely on Lamar Jackson and the stunningly phenomenal season the Louisville quarterback is putting together. There are others, though, who merit mention.
Case in point? Greg Ward Jr.
In No. 6 Houston’s Thursday night 42-14 romp over UConn, the quarterback completed just over 84 percent of his passes for 389 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for 65 yards and two scores for good measure. The win was the Cougars’ eighth in a row, with the last loss coming Nov. 21 of last year to… these very same Huskies.
On at least one occasion in avenging the loss, though, Ward Jr.’s sterling completion percentage got a little help from one of his receiving friends.
The latest virtuoso performance, which included his third 300-yard passing game of the season, pushed Ward Jr. to 1,503 yards of offense (1,325 passing, 178 rushing) and 13 total touchdowns (eight passing, five rushing) in four games while also battling a lingering shoulder issue. For comparison’s sake, and you know we’re not alone in doing so, Jackson will enter Week 5 with a statistical ledger that’s straight from a teenager’s video game: 1,856 yards of total offense and a ridiculous 25 total touchdowns in his four games.
While it’s still quite a ways down the road, Ward’s Cougars and Jackson’s Cardinals will square off in what’s shaping up to be a monumental mid-November Thursday night game that could go a long way in determining not only the Heisman race, but helping to shape the playoff picture as well. In between, voters, don’t forget about the kid from Houston.
Just in time for their toughest stretch of the season, No. 8 Wisconsin may be without one of the team’s most important defensive players.
Badgers linebacker Vince Biegel is set to miss the next several weeks after undergoing surgery to insert a screw in his cracked foot.
“He’s been playing on it for the last couple weeks, and it was bothering him a little bit,” Biegel’s father Rocky told ESPN. “He had X-rays last night and confirmed it was cracked. He either plays on it, and then if he breaks it, then he’s going to be out for eight weeks. Either way, he’s got to have surgery on it. So he can keep playing until it breaks or try to go through the season with it and try to fix it. At any time, he could break it all the way through. It was just a crack and they’re just putting a screw in it. It’s a very, very minor crack.”
No matter how minor it is, losing Biegel for as long as a month is a huge blow to a defense that has been among the best in the country this season. Wisconsin does have a bye week after traveling to No. 4 Michigan on Saturday but also have to play No. 2 Ohio State and division rivals Iowa and Nebraska to close out October.
Biegel has nine tackles on the year and a sack but is among the most experienced players on the team having played in 46 games at Wisconsin, including 32 starts. Redshirt freshman Zack Baun is expected to take his place.
If there is one bright spot for head coach Paul Chryst and defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox however, it’s that the Badgers’ linebacking corp is one of the best in the country. Still, as good as Jack Cichy, T.J. Edwards and T.J. Watt have been this year, they’ll have to step up their games with an imposing schedule coming up.
Houston is looking to avenge their only loss of the 2015 season on Thursday night against Connecticut but the Cougars will have to do so a little short-handed.
According to the Houston Chronicle, the team is down a whopping four starters and a key backup against the Huskies: starting linebackers Tyus Bowser (head injury) and Matthew Adams (coaches’ decision), running back Duke Catalon (head injury), cornerback Brandon Wilson (lower leg) plus backup tight end Alex Leslie (ankle injury).
Catalon has already missed a game this season and is arguably the biggest loss for the team as that will force them to rely on quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (who missed last year’s game) even more against UConn. The transfer from Texas is averaging 4.7 yards a carry on the year and had a big game against Oklahoma in the opener.
Coach Tom Herman and the sixth-ranked Cougars still should be able handle their business at home against a conference foe but the mounting injuries this early in the season are starting to get a little concerning if you’re a Houston fan.