For the sixth time since 2001, the Miami Hurricanes have started their season 3-0. After having a bye week following their 36-33 overtime victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the Hurricanes are on the road to face the Cincinnati Bearcatson Thursday night.
Last Thursday, the Bearcats (2-2) lost a thriller on the road to the Memphis Tigers 53-46. After starting quarterback Gunner Kiel left with a neck injury in the first quarter, redshirt freshman Hayden Moore threw for 557 yards and four touchdowns in a losing effort.
College Football Podcast: Week 5 Preview with Andy Staples
Miami at Cincinnati
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Thursday)
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Miami -5.5
Three Things to Watch For
1. Moore gets another start
After Kiel was injured for the second straight week, Moore came in and performed admirably against the Tigers. After expressing uncertainty about Kiel's status for this game ealrier in the week, Cincinnati ruled him out on Tuesday.
“Hayden played good enough to start, but we’ll sit down with the doctors,” Bearcats head coach Tommy Tuberville said prior to making the decision to hold Kiel out. “We just don’t know Gunner’s situation where something might make it worse. He could be the starter next week, I don’t know.”
Moore played well against Memphis but was average the previous week against Miami (Ohio). He finished 7-of-14 for 118 yards and two interceptions against the RedHawks. Moore also threw the decisive interception against Memphis with 10 seconds left in the game.
2. Brad Kaaya
The Hurricanes' offense doesn’t have the roster of their glory years when Andre Johnson, Clinton Portis and Jeremy Shockey were inside their huddle, but this team still has a ton of talent. Kaaya has been the one player Miami has depended on each week.
Against Nebraska, Kaaya threw for 379 yards and two touchdowns. Against a Cincinnati defense that ranks 96th in the country, the sophomore could have a huge night.
In the Bearcats' last two games against Miami (Ohio) and Memphis, their defense gave up a combined total of 1,018 passing yards. With defensive backs Adrian Witty out for the season and Clemente Casseus suspended, look for Kaaya to throw the ball deep to wide receivers Rashawn Scott, Stacy Coley and Herb Waters throughout the game.
3. Hurricanes' defense
Coming into the game against Nebraska, Miami was ranked eighth nationally in total defense, giving up 234 yards per game. The Cornhuskers put up 462 yards as quarterback Tommy Armstrong threw four touchdown passes.
This week, Miami will have to try and slow down the nation's No. 2-ranked passing offense in Cincinnati. The Bearcats come into this game averaging 412.5 yards per game through the air.
“You can’t let them have time to throw the ball and get vertical, they’re a good run-after-catch team," said Hurricanes head coach Al Golden. "So many receivers on their team have so much experience. Their catch resume is phenomenal. They have a lot of guys that can do a lot of things with the ball after the catch."
Even though its Moore at quarterback for Cincinnati, the Hurricanes' secondary will have a tough time covering the Bearcats' receivers. Both Hurricane safeties Deon Bush and Jamal Carter will miss the first half of Thursday night’s game per NCAA rules after each was ejected last week against Nebraska for targeting.
Neither Miami nor Cincinnati has a great defense, so that should make for an entertaining contest. The game is going to come down to which team can protect the football and the advantage there goes to Miami.
The Hurricanes have a plus-eight turnover margin, which is the second-best in the NCAA. Cincinnati ranks last in the country in turnover margin at minus-10.
Kaaya and running backs Joseph Yearly and Mark Walton should be able to make a number of plays against a terrible Bearcats defense if they can eliminate the mistakes. Miami recorded 13 penalties for 114 yards against Nebraska. If Golden's team can cut down on the mental mistakes, the Hurricanes should defeat the Bearcats by double digits.
Prediction: Miami 38, Cincinnati 27
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.