Editor's note: On Thursday, Cincinnati and Tulsa announced that Saturday's game had been postponed due to COVID-19 concerns for the Bearcats. The game has been rescheduled for Dec. 5.
The Cincinnati Bearcats are back in action this week as the preseason favorites to win the American Athletic Conference (AAC) look to improve to 4-0. But for the first time this season, No. 8 Cincinnati is on the road, and its opponent, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, is off to its own impressive start. The Golden Hurricane may have a record of 1-1, but they are undefeated in AAC play with a statement win at UCF two weeks ago. A win against the Bearcats would send Tulsa soaring to the label of AAC favorite.
No. 8 Cincinnati at Tulsa
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 17 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Cincinnati -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Cincinnati in the top 10 means people are watching
It may still be too early to focus on the Group of 5 race, especially without the Mountain West Conference and MAC on the field just yet, but the Bearcats are leading the pack right now. And with their highest ranking in the AP Top 25 (No. 8) since being ranked No. 4 in the final poll of the 2009 season, the eyes of the college football world will begin watching a little more closely. That raises the pressure on the Bearcats to not only win but win with authority. Given how Tulsa has played early on, that may not be an easy task for Luke Fickell's program on the rise.
2. Can Cincinnati break through the Tulsa defensive line
A look at the box score of Tulsa's win over UCF two weeks ago isn't the most impressive selling point for the Tulsa defense, but this is the same unit that currently leads the nation with 12.0 tackles for a loss per game. That included 10 TFLs against UCF and an eye-opening 14 against Oklahoma State and star running back Chuba Hubbard in the season-opener. Cincinnati has allowed 15 TFL in three combined games this season.
3. Third-down advantage: Cincinnati
Say what you will about relatively small sample sizes, but Cincinnati has proven to be a far more effective offense on third downs this season. Tulsa ranks at the bottom of the AAC in third-down success rate (6-of-27, 22.2 percent) but Cincinnati is among the best (24-of-45, 53.3 percent). Tulsa failed to convert a third down against a solid Oklahoma State defense in the opener but did show some improvement against UCF two weeks ago. Against Cincinnati, Tulsa will face one of the best third-down defenses in the AAC.
Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder has had some ups and downs already this season with six touchdowns and four interceptions, but he is the best option for Cincinnati to win some big games this season. Ridder didn't have a great performance against Tulsa last season, completing 12-of-22 passes for 172 yards and a touchdown. Cincinnati's defense won't ask for Ridder and the offense to do a lot, but a slightly more efficient showing form Ridder certainly would not hurt Cincinnati's cause.
Prediction: Cincinnati 26, Tulsa 20
Podcast: Week 7 Preview and Predictions
(Desmond Ridder photo courtesy of Cincinnati Athletics)