Cincinnati Bearcats Football: BCS Hangover in The Nati?
Believe it or not, the Cincinnati Bearcats have made it to two consecutive BCS bowl games.
Yes, the Cincinnati Bearcats who are unranked in the USA Today preseason rankings. Those Bearcats.
Sure, with a new head coach and quarterback, there ought to be some jet lag as the program moves into a different era. But this era is not necessarily a worse one than the one before it.
New head coach Butch Jones has already instilled an emphasis on discipline and education during his time in Cincinnati. The football team achieved a GPA of 2.7 after Jones arrived, the best ever.
If Jones and Company are going to avoid serious jet lag and a BCS hangover, they will have to rely on these five players.
When quarterback Tony Pike went down with an injury against South Florida, a small, unknown backup stepped in. Well, Zach Collaros is not very unknown anymore.
He threw for 1,434 yards and ten touchdowns, while also scampering for 344 yards and another four scores.
The Bearcats would not have been undefeated in the regular season without Collaros's services. His stats in two Big East shootouts were filthy.
In a three point victory against Connecticut, he threw for 480 yards and ran for 75 yards, totaling three touchdowns.
The next week against West Virginia, Collaros came back down to earth and threw for 205 yards. However, he was meticulous with the football and was a very smart field general in the three-point win.
If the Bearcats are going to contend for the Big East crown this season, Collaros must come up big like he did last season. He has the talent to hang with the best quarterbacks in the country.
The USC transfer was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and was the #2 ranked wide receiver in the country, next to NFL star Percy Harvin.
He was also the seventh-highest rated player in the country, ahead of NFL players such as C.J. Spiller, Myron Rolle, and Tim Tebow.
In his sophomore year for the Trojans, Hazelton was the second leading pass catcher. He caught 50 passes for 540 yards and four touchdowns.
This kid has all of the talent in the world, and will be imperative for the success of the Bearcats.
He can be an elite, All-American receiver in the NCAA. If he becomes that elite player, expect the Bearcats to win some football games. They already have the running game in place, now all they are waiting for is some consistency in this year's wide receiving corps.
The Bearcats defense lost a lot of key players from last season's team, including the leading tackler and leading interceptor.
Schaffer was second in both of those categories in 2009, with 100 tackles and three interceptions. He was a special teams ace as a true freshman and an outstanding weak-side linebacker as a sophomore.
Now, as a junior, he might move to the middle of the defense and take the part as the field general.
The Bearcats are only returning five starters on the defensive side of the ball, and Schaffer will have to step up and be the leader of those five. He is a determined, hard-working linebacker who leads on and off the field.
If Schaffer can lead his team again this year and a few other defensive player step up in secondary roles, the defense will be good enough to get the Bearcats to another BCS bowl.
The hard-hitting junior defensive back has had a great career so far in Cincinnati.
In his freshman season in 2008, he was named UC's Newcomer of the Year. That year he started every game, and finished the season with numerous tackles.
Last year, he showed up even bigger.
He recorded 60 tackles as one of the backfield's best corners. He also picked off two passes and forced one fumble.
With the departure of Aaron Webster and Brad Jones from the defensive backfield, returning starters Battle and Drew Frey will have to show this year's newcomers how to play Big East football.
Those are two good guys to look up to, though. They have both started since their freshman seasons and can be great mentors to the younger players.
Oh, the kicking game.
Returning kicker and punter Jake Rogers was outstanding as a two-way starter last season. In his first season as the starter in 2008, he was named a Lou Groza semifinalist and tied the school record for consecutive field goals made.
Last season, he went 13-19 in field goals with a long of 47 yards.
However, he was even more impressive as the team's punter.
He pinned the ball inside the 20 yard line 15 of the 43 times he booted the ball and kicked for an average of 41.6 yards per kick. Rogers will likely be a Groza finalist in his senior season, and will be an underrated key to the Bearcats success.
He does not even have to step up his game to be considered a success. Rogers has had a fantastic career in The Nati, and will leave the school as one of the best kickers ever.
If he can boot his way onto the Groza list, the Bearcats will win those games by a field goal with less than a minute left and get to a BCS bowl.