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Cincinnati Bearcats' Brian Kelly Not Going Anywhere

Jeff KalafaAnalyst IIINovember 29, 2009

CINCINNATI - NOVEMBER 13:  Head coach Brian Kelly of the the Cincinnati Bearcats walks on the field during warm ups before the game against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Nippert Stadium on November 13, 2009 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Don't get disappointed, Notre Dame, but Brian Kelly, the Cincinnati Bearcats' head football coach, won't be going anywhere come season's end.  The 48-year-old Kelly, whose Bearcats are 11-0 and ranked No. 5 in the BCS, knows that developing a top-flight football program will be a lot easier at Cincinnati than at Notre Dame.

In the three short years that Kelly has assumed the head coaching job, Cincinnati has enjoyed their greatest stretch of football prosperity.  This will be the third consecutive year its team will win 10 or more games.

This year, most experts are pointing to the SEC champion playing Texas for the national championship.  Cincinnati would be a long shot to play in the championship game, but if the stars line up in their favor over the next two weeks, they still have a shot to pull off the unthinkable.

If the Bearcats can beat Pittsburgh on Dec. 5, that will give them one more win against a ranked team.  With the loss Oklahoma State suffered at the hands of Oklahoma yesterday, Texas likely ends their regular season, and their conference championship game, without playing a team that ends up in the top 20, and maybe the top 25 of the BCS rankings.

What's more, Cincinnati's eight point win on the road at Oregon State could be just what the computers like, especially if the Beavers beat their arch rival Oregon Ducks and take the Pac-10 championship on Thursday Dec. 3.

If the Bearcats can't make it in to this year's championship game, the future looks bright and next year's team will be a legitimate top 10 ranked team.

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Losing quarterback Tony Pike and receiver Marty Gilard to graduation seems overwhelming.  It's strange to think that loosing a Heisman Trophy candidate and one of the best receivers in the country will not set the Bearcats back one bit, but that's just the case.

When Pike got hurt, he was replaced by Zach Collaros in the South Flolrida game and everyone was given a preview of Cincinnati's future.  After four games, and a resounding quarterback rating of 195, the country assumed the Bearcat's had a quarterback controversy on their hands.

Collaros threw 10 touchdowns in that span and only threw two interceptions.  He completed 75 percent of his passes and he did what Pike was unable to do—he ran.  In the South Florida game, Collaros ran for 132 yards and amassed over 300 rushing yards in the four games he subbed for Pike.

Loosing Gilard's 1000 yards of pass receptions, 10 touchdowns, and the great kick and punt returning will be tough but the Bearcats are returning their No 2 and No 3 receivers—and they are good!

6'4" Armon Binns is a junior and has caught 51 passes for 755 yards and 9 touchdowns this season.  Sophomore D.J. Woods has caught 40 passes for 533 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Cincininnati's leading rusher is freshman Isaiah Pead.  Pead has rushed for 682 yards and 8 touchdowns.  He gains 6.5 yards/carry and he can catch the ball out of the backfield.

The skilled positions are set and there are only 16 graduating seniors in the entire program this season.  Unlike last year, when Kelly had to replace 10 starters on the defense, he'll only have to replace five or six next year.

That's not the only reason Kelly will realize he's in the right place—next year's recruiting class will be the best in Cincinnati's history and will get stronger before national signing day.

There's another reason that Kelly will stay—the schedule.  Next year, the Bearcats will not have to worry about being disrespected by the BCS.  Along with a strong Big East schedule, they have a Sept. 25 showdown with Oklahoma at Paul Brown Stadium.

And it's not just about 2010!  In 2011 the Bearcats play at Tennessee.  In 2012, they'll play the toughest non-conference schedule in the country: @Ohio State, Virginia Tech, and @ Miami, FL.

The plan is set; win 10 games on a regular basis, win the Big East, and play in a BCS bowl—hopefully the National Championship game.  That's not happening at Notre Dame anytime soon, and Brian Kelly knows it.

Kelly's in a great bargaining position with the university.  He's got leverage!  He's getting more leverage each time his name is mentioned as the leading candidate for Charlie Weis's job—but he's not leaving Cincinnati.

Kelly will think about leaving—it's only natural.  He'll fantasize being the head coach of the Fighting Irish because it was probably a dream of his at one time.  He'll be tempted by the big money they throw at him.

The fans of Cincinnati football are going to get a little anxious.  People don't like to lose what took them decades to find.  But Brian Kelly will sit down, sometime soon, and realize he can win a National Championship at Cincinnati much sooner than he can at Notre Dame.

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