Butch Jones is gone, but Cincinnati still has a bunch of talent and a great shot at taking home the American Athletic Conference title.
The Bearcats sort of got the short end of the stick with regards to conference realignment. Rutgers and Louisville got call-ups to bigger and better pastures, but Cincinnati's gonna stick in the now-renamed Big East. The Bearcats have won four conference championships in five years, including shared titles the last two, and Tommy Tuberville's group can make sure those departing squads don't get the pleasure of leaving with a title.
2013 Cincinnati schedule
Projections from Football Outsiders' 2013 college football almanac.
Cincinnati returns some serious talent, with more players on Phil Steele's top two All-AAC teams than any other squad. The Bearcats bring back both quarterbacks who contributed last year, Brendon Kay and the man he replaced, Munchie Legaux, as well as a sparkplug of a running back in Ralph Abernathy IV. Plus four offensive linemen who placed on those top two all-conference teams, and six defensive starters on a squad that held opponents to just 18.5 points per game, 14th in the country.
Last year, the Big East ended up in a four-way tie, with Cincinnati only dropping games against Rutgers and against Louisville in overtime. The Bearcats will have to wait well into the season to get revenge; they face the Scarlet Knights in Piscataway on Nov. 16 before hosting Louisville for their regular season finale on Dec. 5. The latter is a Thursday night matchup during championship week in other conferences, so it should big if both teams still have the ability to contend for a major bowl game.
The Bearcats get a pair of other feature conference matchups -- a Friday night game against Temple and a Wednesday-nighter against Memphis, but the Bearcats should be favored in both. After failing to drop any conference games they weren't supposed to lose last year, Cincinnati will hope for more success in reasonably winnable games.