Cincinnati Football: Why Bearcats Should Be on Upset Alert vs. Toledo

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistOctober 16, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 28: Members of the Toledo Rockets celebrate their 42-41 win over the Air Force Falcons in the Military Bowl at RFK Stadium on December 28, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Prepare battle stations Cincinnati, because the upset-alert sirens are sounding.

The Bearcats come into the game with a perfect 5-0 record, which is good enough for a No. 21 ranking in the BCS standings.

Cincinnati themselves haven't done that much to earn this praise. While they have earned their ranking by virtue of maintaining an unbeaten record, the Bearcats have yet to pick up a signature win.

Defeating both Pitt and Virginia Tech might be a great accomplishment in past years, but those wins have a much less impact when you consider that the Panthers and Hokies have a combined 6-7 record.

Cincinnati's biggest test of the season will come in a week, when they travel to Louisville to take on the Cardinals.

As much as coaches can try and preach the importance of every game to their players, it's only natural that some players may lose their focus by looking ahead to a bigger opponent.

As Arkansas can attest, you can't look past anybody. The No. 8 Razorbacks faced top-ranked Alabama in their third game of the year. Unfortunately, they forgot about Louisiana-Monroe in Week 2, and the Warhawks dropped Arkansas in overtime.

Toledo enters the game this week with a very respectable 5-1 record. Their sole loss came in overtime, against Arizona in Tuscon.

It is very easy to dismiss Toledo as just another cupcake feasting on weak opponents. Wins over Coastal Carolina and the directional Michigans (Eastern, Central and Western) certainly don't do much to convince most fans of the Rockets' quality.

On the other hand, Toledo could be a part of something much larger that's brewing in the Midwest.

The Mid-American Conference was hardly ever compared to the WAC or Mountain West when ranking the best non-BCS conferences, but that could very well be changing. Sports Illustrated published an article in last week's issue about how Ohio could become the next Boise State.

Big things are happening in the MAC.

Much of Cincinnati's success this season is down to their very good defense, which ranks 39th in the nation in total defense, and more impressively, 10th in scoring.

The Bearcats are vulnerable through the air, though, and that's where Toledo can take advantage. Cincinnati have struggled against the pass, ranking only 82nd in the nation.

Toledo have two weapons in receivers Bernard Reedy and Alonzo Russell, who can burn the opposition's secondary. They rank 12th and 19th, respectively, in receiving yards. Russell is the downfield threat, averaging 18.1 yards per catch.

Rockets quarterback Terrance Owens has been very good as well. He has thrown 12 touchdowns to only three interceptions. In his previous two seasons, Owens completed 31 touchdowns, getting picked on eight occasions—certainly signs for improvement.

It's been over a decade since Toledo stamped themselves into the national consciousness. In 2001, led by running back Chester Taylor, they finished with a 10-2 record.

Coincidentally, their final win of the season came against the Bearcats in the Motor City Bowl. That was the last time these two schools met.

This week, a win over Cincinnati will propel the Rockets right back into the minds of college football fans.