Oklahoma Sooners Football: Scouting the Cincinnati Bearcats

Luke McConnellCorrespondent ISeptember 23, 2010

RALEIGH, NC - SEPTEMBER 16:  Zack Collaros #12 of the Cincinnati Bearcats calls a play against the North Carolina State Wolfpack during their game at Carter-Finley Stadium on September 16, 2010 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Oklahoma Sooners will take to the road for the first time this season as they travel up to Cincinnati to face the Bearcats on Saturday evening at Paul Brown Stadium.

This game was once thought to be one of the bigger games of the season for OU, particularly because it is on the road.  However, the Bearcats are off to a rocky start in 2010 and will not pose as much of a challenge to Oklahoma as first expected.  

Last week, the Sooners needed some clutch first downs late in the fourth quarter to hold on against a very game Air Force squad who pushed the Sooners to the brink. While the Sooners didn't play poorly in the game, they didn't play up to the potential that they have and didn't come anywhere close to the performance they put up against the Florida State Seminoles.  

Cincinnati is coming of a 30-19 loss at North Carolina State, a game that was not as close as the score indicates.  Cincinnati scored two late touchdowns to make the final deficit look more respectable than it was originally.  NC State was up 30-7 with 7:27 left in the game.  

The Bearcats have struggled in their transition to new head coach Butch Jones after Brian Kelly left for Notre Dame at the end of last season.  Doubts are beginning to creep around the fanbase as to whether or not Jones will be able to attain the level of success that Kelly was able to during his time in Cincinnati.  

Offensively, the Bearcats are led by senior quarterback Zach Collaros, the unquestioned star of this team.  Collaros filled in for the Bearcats last year when Tony Pike went down in the middle of the season and played extremely well in the four games he started. Collaros is an accurate passer and also extremely mobile and quick on his feet.  

Unfortunately, Collaros hasn't had much time to utilize his talents because he has been too busy running for his life.  The Cincinnati offensive line, despite returning three starters, has allowed a nation-worst 15 sacks and hasn't produced much of a running game either.  

In the backfield with Collaros is running back Darrin Williams, the team's leading rusher. Technically Collaros has more rushing yards, but because sacks count as rushing yards in college, he only has 42 yards officially on the year.

Receiving wise, Collaros is losing them fast.  Wide receiver Vidal Hazelton is gone for the year with an ACL injury and tight end Ben Guidugli is out for the OU game with an ankle sprain.  Arman Binns and DJ Woods have been Collaros' favorite targets thus far this year and will need to step up for Cincinnati to have a fighting chance.

Last season, the Cincinnati defense started fair and only got worse as the season went along.  This year, not a lot has changed, but there has been a fair amount of improvement.  The Cincinnati defense contains no senior starters, so the continuity and chemistry will definitely be there for the future, but now is the time when they need it.  

The defense is led by junior linebacker J.K. Schaffer, who leads the team in tackles with 32.  Sophomore Maalik Bomar has also performed well at the linebacker position, racking up 17 tackles.  The secondary is led by sophomore Reuben Johnson, who has three pass breakups and 14 tackles on the year.

Oklahoma did not perform well on the road last year, so this will be a premium opportunity for the Sooners to prove that they can win away from Norman, where they have won 33 consecutive games.  OU will be able to prove it on Saturday, where winning against a Cincinnati team trying to find an identity should not be a problem.