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Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) looks to pass during a game against the Temple Owls. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire)
October 1st, 2021
The Cincinnati Bearcats will try to insert themselves into the College Football Playoff discussion when they travel to South Bend to face Notre Dame on Saturday.
Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder is a top-five Heisman candidate, and he chose violence this week when he said that Notre Dame’s stadium “shouldn’t be loud for too long” on Saturday.
That is a bold statement to make, especially against a Fighting Irish defense that forced Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz into five turnovers, including a pair of pick-sixes last weekend.
🗣 Desmond Ridder isn’t worried about the noise pic.twitter.com/7ycWai4NO8— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 30, 2021
🗣 Desmond Ridder isn’t worried about the noise pic.twitter.com/7ycWai4NO8
If there is ever a time to back up such a statement, now is the time to do it. Cincinnati knows a win could give it the inside track to an unbeaten season and a CFP spot, after flirting with doing so last year.
The one thing Ridder cannot have is a slow start like he did against Indiana. The Bearcats fell behind, 14-0, to the Hoosiers, before storming back to a 38-24 win. They also scored just seven points in the first half against Murray State the week before, so Ridder must step up in order to make his prediction a reality.
Wide receiver Tyler Scott is averaging more than 24 yards per catch, and Ridder will need to find him a couple times to stretch the field for running back Jerome Ford. The former Alabama back gained just 66 yards on 20 carries against the Hoosiers and must help keep Notre Dame’s defense honest in this one.
Defensively, preseason All-American corner Ahmad Gardner will have his hands full with Notre Dame wide receiver Kevin Austin, and the defense must find a way to slow down tight end Michael Mayer.
Mayer is a favorite target of Notre Dame quarterback Jack Coan, and Cincinnati may need to double-team him in order to force Coan to find another way to move the chains.
Coan will start if he is fit from an ankle injury, according to coach Brian Kelly, but he will need better protection from his offensive line.
The line allowed six sacks last week to Wisconsin’s defense, and both Coan and replacement Drew Pyne were constantly under pressure.
Additionally, Notre Dame is having issues running the ball, gaining just 32 yards on nine carries last week, and averages just 81.5 yards per game.
Thankfully, the Irish defense was outstanding, as it turned a fourth-quarter, 13-10 deficit into a 41-13 win, thanks to a pair of pix-sixes in the final two and a half minutes of the game.
It wasn’t a typical performance from Notre Dame’s defense, which ranks 58th in yards allowed per play and 77th in passing defense. Both of those numbers must improve against Cincinnati if the Irish want to win at home.
NOTRE DAME PICK SIX 🚀🚀🚀The Irish are running away with it 🔥(via @CFBONFOX) pic.twitter.com/vyJiQ5CLAw— 247Sports (@247Sports) September 25, 2021
NOTRE DAME PICK SIX 🚀🚀🚀The Irish are running away with it 🔥(via @CFBONFOX) pic.twitter.com/vyJiQ5CLAw
The biggest advantage the Irish defense has is Marcus Freeman, who left Cincinnati this past offseason to join the Notre Dame staff.
The former Bearcats defensive coordinator will know exactly how to attack this offense and has seen Ridder up close for years. Safety Kyle Hamilton will likely be key to stopping the Bearcats’ deep passing game, as he leads the team with three interceptions on the season.
Ridder might find it much more difficult to quiet the crowd at Notre Dame Stadium than he expects.
This crowd will be fired up for a huge matchup, and Notre Dame's stingy defense will feed off the energy.
Ridder has not faced a crowd or defense like this in the 2021 season, and it will likely be the difference-maker on Saturday.
While I think Cincinnati would have an outstanding chance to win on a neutral field, it is impossible for me to take the Bearcats to cover as a favorite in a stadium where Notre Dame has won 26 straight.
Notre Dame should be favored in this matchup, so take the Irish moneyline outright.
If you’re looking for a same-game combo, go for a big win by pairing the Irish moneyline with the Over (48.5 points), a total that has hit in all but one of the seven combined games played by these teams.
Score prediction: Notre Dame 27, Cincinnati 24
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