Saturday’s matchup against UCF is much more than a conference battle for an AAC East Division crown or a meeting between two nationally ranked teams. This game serves to not only show how far the University of Cincinnati football program has come, but the American Athletic Conference in general.
To think that two years ago the Bearcats were getting blown out, struggling to stay afloat with Tommy Tuberville captaining the sinking ship, to Luke Fickell leading his fearless warriors into a prime time showdown against the Knights of Central Florida, is unreal.
This is a young team, but the energy they bring to the sidelines and to the fans will get anybody onboard the Fickell train. The most notable example from this season was during the break between the third and fourth quarter where “Shout” was being played over the loudspeakers. The whole Cincinnati sideline erupted with jumping and arms being thrown in the air, while the USF bench looked like they were waiting to board their flight back to Tampa. A dominant team always has a little edge to them, and these young kids sure know how to electrify the atmosphere.
Growing up as a kid and seeing College Gameday every morning really drew me into the culture surrounding college football. To finally get ESPN to feature the Bearcats is something that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. It means a little more to the diehard fans who have suffered throughout the end of the Tuberville era, and are finally being rewarded for their dedication.
The AAC finally gets their exposure as well after two plus years of annoying the Power 5. I would be annoyed too, but teams in the American have not only been winning, but beating up on other top-tier teams in the Power 5 (Hint, hint, Auburn and Oklahoma). This league finally gets the national spotlight after years of taking the backseat, but Saturday is built entirely around this conference.
Coming into this year, if you said the Bearcats were given a featured spot on College Gameday in a ranked matchup for a national audience to witness, I would’ve told you to “get a job” (Tommy Tuberville, 2016). I know I keep mentioning the past, but the incredible job Luke Fickell has done for this program is still a wonder to me.
This will be a true test to see just how far this team has improved, but reaching nine wins this season is a miracle alone. These kids have battled through injuries to their leaders and have played unlike any other team in Clifton over the past five years. With all that said, here’s to a happy Saturday filled with Skyline dip, Lee Corso, and a Bearcats win!