Both the No. 6 Houston Cougars (2-0) and the Cincinnati Bearcats (2-0) kick off their conference play when they go head-to-head at Nippert Stadium Thursday night.
While any game between conference opponents is magnified, the game is set on an even bigger stage as both American Athletic Conference teams are gunning for a spot in the expansion of the Big 12 Conference. And it’ll happen on primetime Thursday night—the first of four weekday games for Houston.
— The American (@American_Conf) September 15, 2016
The Cougars hold a 14-10 all-time advantage, but they’ll be trying to get their first win in Cincinnati since 1971, where the Bearcats have taken four of the last five games. And Houston is certainly poised to do it.
The Cougars, currently ranked No. 6 in the AP Poll, have won their first two games of the season in dominating fashion. Houston defeated then-No. 3 Oklahoma to open up their season by a score of 33-23, and followed it up with a blow-out, shut-out win over Lamar, where they won 42-0 with their backup quarterback.
They’ve also limited their last four opponents to less than 100 yards rushing, holding Temple, Florida State, Oklahoma and Lamar to a total of 199 yards on the rush.
But despite the grim outlook for the Bearcats on paper, Cincinnati is not a team to be counted out. Head Coach Tommy Tuberville understands the challenge that this game brings, but welcomes it.
Regardless of their records, these two teams play each other close. The Cougars won their matchup last season for the first time in five meetings, just 33-30. In fact, the last three meetings between the two have been decided by a combined 18 points, according to the Associated Press.
And the run defense that Houston is known for will have to face the Cincinnati run that totaled 262 yards last week during their win over Purdue — their first victory against a Big Ten team in 59 years.
The quarterback battle will also be a showcase of tonight’s game. Houston quarterback and Heisman Trophy Candidate Greg Ward Jr. will make his return after being held out of the game against Lamar with a sore shoulder. He was 23 of 40 for 321 yards passing and two touchdowns during his game at Oklahoma. Hayden Moore, a redshirt sophomore, will start at quarterback for the Bearcats. During their victory over Purdue last week, he was 19 of 32 for 250 passing yards and three touchdowns, while also running for 71 yards and another pair of touchdowns
Looking purely at statistics, the two teams actually compare pretty evenly — the key mismatch being the defenses.
- Points Scored: Houston- 37.5 / Cincinnati- 33.0
- Points Allowed: Houston- 11.5 / Cincinnati- 13.5
- Rushing Yards: Houston- 235.0 / Cincinnati- 201.0
- Rushing Defense: Houston- 42.5 / Cincinnati- 140.0
- Passing Yards: Houston- 225.5 / Cincinnati- 255.0
- Passing Defense: Houston- 190.5 / Cincinnati- 273.5
- Total Offense: Houston- 460.5 / Cincinnati- 456.0
- Total Defense: Houston- 233.0 / Cincinnati- 413.5
While Houston comes up with the advantage, anything can happen in a football game — especially between conference rivals. Tyus Bowser, outside linebacker for the Cougars, takes more pride in this matchup over their previous games specifically because of the in-conference play.
The teams kick-off at 7:30 p.m.