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Cincinnati and Tommy Tuberville are always wild cards. 2016's a whole new level.

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From 3-9 to 11-1, anything is possible.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here. Below, a unique review of last year's team, a unit-by-unit breakdown of this year's roster, the full 2016 schedule with win projections for each game, and more.

1. A mulligan year

Cincy enters 2015 with reason for severe optimism. If you're looking for reasons to set high expectations, you've got them. Of course, good or bad, it's rarely a smart idea to set expectations for a Tommy Tuberville team. Regardless, the Bearcats should be fun as hell on offense, so even if they don't live up to the expectations I am setting (despite the fact that I know better), the entertainment factor should be high.

-- The 2015 Cincinnati guide

You can poke fun at me for even briefly entertaining the notion that a Tuberville team could be a safe bet. You can use hindsight to point out the team I called maybe the best in the AAC had nothing close to the ceiling of others like Houston and Temple. But you cannot say Cincy wasn't entertaining.

Never mind 2015 as a whole: The Bearcats defied expectations from game to game and quarter to quarter. They scored 46 in a loss and 19 in a win. They stayed within a touchdown of Temple, Memphis, and Houston and lost by a combined 73 to USF and San Diego State. They scored at least 34 points seven times and allowed at least 33 eight times.

They also dealt with as much bad luck as any team in the country. They lost their star quarterback to a pretty nasty head injury for a bit, then lost him again before the bowl game. The secondary once again got hit hard enough by injury to tinker with receivers on the DB depth chart.

And to top it off, Cincinnati dealt with by far the worst turnovers luck in the country. The Bearcats recovered only 37 percent of fumbles, and considering typical INT-to-PBU ratios, they threw about seven more interceptions than expected while reeling in about three fewer. Using national averages, their turnover margin should have been around minus-6. It was minus-13. In a season that featured three one-possession losses.

None of this excuses the bowl performance, by the way. Playing without their quarterback and wrapping up a disappointing seven-win season, Cincinnati went to the Hawaii Bowl against an excellent SDSU, found itself down 14-0 six minutes in, and never threatened to crawl back, falling down 42-0 before finally reaching SDSU's redzone.

While the team was preparing to get shellacked on the islands, the coaching staff was getting raided. Cincy lost offensive coordinator Eddie Gran, QBs coach Darin Hinshaw, and defensive co-coordinator Steve Clinkscale to Kentucky, a team that was even more lifeless. Plus, OL coach Darren Hiller went to USF.

If injuries and bounces actually break Cincinnati's way a bit, and if the new staff hires bring a jolt of life, then the team has enough returning experience to become an interesting threat. Kiel will be working with a completely different receiving corps (to go with the new coordinator), and an absolutely wretched run defense will have to improve at least a little bit.

But with the bounces that went against UC in 2015, the rough-draft talent that will show up in uniform in 2016, and the massive number of tossup games that the Bearcats will play this fall, this might be the single biggest wildcard team in the country.

2015 Schedule & Results

Record: 7-6 | Adj. Record: 7-6 | Final F/+ Rk: 72 | Final S&P+ Rk: 74
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Win
Expectancy
vs. S&P+ Performance
vs. Vegas
5-Sep Alabama A&M N/A 52-10 W 73% 100% +12.0
12-Sep Temple 45 26-34 L 38% 23% -12.6 -15.0
19-Sep at Miami-OH 113 37-33 W 28% 42% -12.0 -15.0
24-Sep at Memphis 41 46-53 L 55% 55% +1.6 +3.0
1-Oct Miami-FL 62 34-23 W 64% 78% +27.2 +17.5
16-Oct at BYU 35 24-38 L 10% 0% +5.6 -7.5
24-Oct Connecticut 80 37-13 W 87% 100% +16.7 +11.5
31-Oct Central Florida 128 52-7 W 92% 100% +23.2 +17.5
7-Nov at Houston 26 30-33 L 77% 85% +8.7 +5.0
14-Nov Tulsa 95 49-38 W 68% 92% -1.4 -6.5
20-Nov at South Florida 44 27-65 L 3% 0% -35.1 -40.5
28-Nov at East Carolina 73 19-16 W 36% 32% +6.0 +4.0
24-Dec vs. San Diego State 43 7-42 L 20% 1% -29.0 -34.0

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 32.8 42 33.4 98
Points Per Game 33.8 38 31.2 91

2. Running out of steam

Cincinnati actually looked the part for a little while. After beginning the season with gut-wrenching losses to Temple and Memphis and a near-disaster against Miami (Ohio), then losing Kiel for a couple of weeks, the Bearcats were a mid-October wrecking crew. They beat UConn and UCF by a combined 89-20, suffered one of the least likely losses of the college football season against Houston -- it is almost impossible to outgain an opponent, 8.5 to 4.9, on a per-play basis and lose, but the Bearcats found a way -- and then gunned their way past Tulsa.

The Tulsa win, however, basically marked the end of the season. The offense slumped, and the defense gave out after that.

  • Average Percentile Performance (first 6 games): 45% (~top 70) | Record: 3-3 | Yards per play: UC 6.4, Opp 6.1
  • Average Percentile Performance (next 4 games): 81% (~top 25) | Record: 3-1 | Yards per play: UC 8.3, Opp 5.1
  • Average Percentile Performance (last 3 games): 20% (~top 100) | Record: 1-2 | Yards per play: Opp 6.2, UC 4.8

The USF loss was beyond humbling. The Bearcats stumbled into an ambush, falling behind 20-0 after eight minutes, 34-0 after 16, and 51-3 at halftime. Kiel entered the game smoking hot but went 8-for-15 with two picks and took a seat on the bench. And after a rather lucky win over USF came the almost-as-embarrassing bowl defeat.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.25 72 IsoPPP+ 114.9 27
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 48.2% 12 Succ. Rt. + 116.4 13
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 30.3 76 Def. FP+ 30.3 83
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 4.3 79 Redzone S&P+ 113.5 27
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 24.3 ACTUAL 33 +8.7
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 6 20 13 27
RUSHING 57 51 18 81
PASSING 6 23 19 30
Standard Downs 22 14 29
Passing Downs 25 28 29
Q1 Rk 32 1st Down Rk 18
Q2 Rk 9 2nd Down Rk 36
Q3 Rk 50 3rd Down Rk 23
Q4 Rk 3

3. A Zac Taylor offense

Kiel's season was pretty dramatic, from the moments of absurd upside to the scary head injury to his brief disappearance (he missed the bowl due to "family issues"). But if you look purely at his full-season numbers, 2015 seems like it was a success. In just 10 games, Kiel threw for nearly 2,800 yards, completed almost two-thirds of his passes, and averaged a robust 8.5 yards per pass attempt (including sacks). His completion rate went up, his sack rate went down, and he produced more big plays.

We'll see how any of this changes with a new receiving corps and a new offensive coordinator. Tuberville replaced Gran with former Miami Dolphins coordinator (and Nebraska quarterback) Zac Taylor.

Taylor was the device with which Bill Callahan attempted to shift Nebraska's offense to a West Coast attack. In two years in Lincoln, he threw for 5,800 yards, 45 touchdowns, and 20 interceptions, and he's quickly risen in the coaching ranks. In 2011, he was a Texas A&M graduate assistant, but within two years he was Miami's quarterbacks coach, then took over play-calling two years later.

Taylor will bring to UC a no-huddle attack -- familiar territory for his personnel -- that likely focuses a bit more on the run than Cincy's 2015 attack did. This is because of both philosophy and necessity.

When he was introduced to the press, he said, "One of the things I believe about turnovers is we’ll protect the quarterback. I don’t want to drop back 40 times a game. There’s other ways to get the throws. We’ll be under center, do some play action, some screens, help take the pressure off the line and the quarterbacks. That all starts with a great run game as well."

Beyond philosophy, however, is the simple fact that UC returns a couple of exciting running backs, a solid offensive line, and a bunch of new faces in the receiving corps.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Gunner Kiel 6'4, 215 Sr. 5 stars (6.1) 0.9869 206 316 2777 19 11 65.2% 8 2.5% 8.5
Hayden Moore 6'3, 203 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8229 133 225 1885 9 11 59.1% 17 7.0% 7.4
Luke Wright 1 3 16 0 0 33.3% 1 25.0% 3.8
Ross Trail 6'3, 209 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8697
Jake Sopko 6'2, 210 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7977

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Tion Green RB 6'0, 230 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8590 151 729 8 4.8 3.9 41.7% 2 2
Hosey Williams RB 138 777 4 5.6 4.9 40.6% 1 1
Mike Boone RB 5'10, 201 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7893 104 749 9 7.2 7.5 45.2% 1 1
Hayden Moore QB 6'3, 203 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8229 39 121 2 3.1 3.9 28.2% 8 4
Gunner Kiel QB 6'4, 215 Sr. 5 stars (6.1) 0.9869 24 64 2 2.7 2.4 29.2% 4 3
Chad Banschbach RB 5'9, 200 Jr. NR NR 19 72 0 3.8 3.0 36.8% 0 0
Deionte Buckley RB 5'9, 208 Jr. NR NR
Joshuwa Holloman RB 5'11, 188 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8497
Taylor Boose RB 6'0, 200 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8404
Gerrid Doaks RB 5'11, 203 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8456







Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
Yds/
Target
%SD Success
Rate
IsoPPP
Shaq Washington WR 128 90 982 70.3% 24.6% 7.7 59.4% 59.4% 1.18
Chris Moore WR 70 41 905 58.6% 13.5% 12.9 67.1% 57.1% 2.09
Max Morrison WR 70 52 617 74.3% 13.5% 8.8 67.1% 61.4% 1.30
Alex Chisum WR 60 38 475 63.3% 11.5% 7.9 60.0% 46.7% 1.52
Mekale McKay WR 53 27 507 50.9% 10.2% 9.6 62.3% 49.1% 1.76
Johnny Holton WR 29 17 461 58.6% 5.6% 15.9 79.3% 55.2% 2.84
Nate Cole WR 6'1, 202 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8565 26 19 262 73.1% 5.0% 10.1 53.8% 61.5% 1.46
Mike Boone RB 5'10, 201 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7893 19 15 108 78.9% 3.7% 5.7 42.1% 31.6% 1.60
DJ Dowdy TE 6'4, 248 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8484 18 12 104 66.7% 3.5% 5.8 66.7% 33.3% 1.64
Tion Green RB 6'0, 230 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8590 15 13 101 86.7% 2.9% 6.7 53.3% 40.0% 1.46
Tshumbi Johnson WR 5'11, 183 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8522 11 4 64 36.4% 2.1% 5.8 45.5% 18.2% 2.78
Hosey Williams RB 9 6 37 66.7% 1.7% 4.1 33.3% 33.3% 0.97
Kahlil Lewis WR 6'0, 197 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8529 6 3 53 50.0% 1.2% 8.8 66.7% 50.0% 1.61
Tyler Cogswell TE 6'5, 254 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8475 5 4 22 80.0% 1.0% 4.4 100.0% 80.0% 0.58
Jamil Kamara
(Virginia)
WR 6'2, 210 So. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9377
Avery Peterson
(LSU)
WR 6'2, 200 So. NR 0.9130
Devin Gray WR 6'0, 181 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8115
Tyrin Summers WR 5'9, 161 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8104
Malick Mbodj WR 6'4, 188 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8435
Jerron Rollins WR 6'2, 175 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8260
Doug Bates WR 6'4, 230 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8267
Thomas Geddis WR 6'1, 160 Fr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8032
Marcel Paul WR 6'1, 187 Fr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8026

4. A total rebuild

First things first: There's upside here. "Leading" returning receiver Nate Cole has had a 76 percent catch rate over the last two years and averaged a healthy 13.8 yards per catch in 2015. Running backs Mike Boone and Tion Green are solid out of the backfield. Tight ends DJ Dowdy and Tyler Cogswell and receivers Tshumbi Johnson and Kahlil Lewis were all mid-three-star recruits. Incoming transfers Jamil Kamara (Virginia) and Avery Peterson (LSU) were both four-stars per the 247Sports Composite. And again per 247, Tuberville just signed six more three-star wideouts.

Just listing ingredients, this year's receiving corps might be more impressive than last year's. One problem: Continuity in the passing game means the world, and even while ignoring QB injuries (of which Kiel has had plenty), UC has almost no continuity whatsoever. The top six receivers from last year are all gone. Johnson is the second-leading returning wideout and had all of four catches last year. Cole and a lot of others have upside, but potential alone doesn't account for losing six guys who provided 410 targets, 265 catches, and 3,947 receiving yards.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 100.9 3.09 1.92 40.1% 74.5% 16.5% 126.9 3.3% 6.8%
Rank 69 33 127 50 25 24 36 30 54
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. 2015 Starts Career Starts Honors/Notes
Parker Ehinger LT 13 51 2015 1st All-AAC
Deyshawn Bond C 6'1, 291 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8231 12 35 2015 2nd All-AAC
Ryan Leahy RG 6'6, 292 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8438 13 16 2015 2nd All-AAC
Justin Murray RT 13 25
Idarius Ray LG 6'6, 312 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7783 9 9
Chad West RT 3 3
Delonte Murray RG 6'5, 334 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7867 1 1
David Niehaus C 6'1, 295 Jr. NR NR 1 1
Korey Cunningham RT 6'6, 305 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8148 0 0
Garrett Campbell RG 6'6, 312 Jr. NR NR 0 0
Ryan Stout LT 6'6, 285 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8017 0 0
Evan Mallory LG 6'5, 318 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8463

Tyler McGarr OL 6'4, 284 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8054

Reed Armagost LT 6'7, 230 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7790

Morgan James RT 6'6, 290 RSFr. NR NR

Kendall Calhoun OL 6'7, 290 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8070

Zach Bycznski OL 6'5, 290 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8242

5. The line should be fine

A renewed focus on the run game could pay off as Kiel (plus Hayden Moore and whoever else spells Kiel if/when he gets injured again) gets to know the new receiving corps. While both tackles are gone up front, and you never know how a new offensive line coach will fare, two all-conference interior guys (Deyshawn Bond, Ryan Leahy) return. The Cincy line kept defenders out of the backfield for the most part, and while Tion Green occasionally took advantage, Mike Boone frequently did. Boone struggled down the stretch like everybody else, but through 10 games he was averaging 8.8 yards per carry. This duo should have a nice year.

Tackles gone ... six receivers gone ... injury-prone QB ... the universe is telling Tommy Tuberville to run the ball more. He will probably listen.

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Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.33 98 IsoPPP+ 91.0 97
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 40.9% 63 Succ. Rt. + 91.8 96
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 26.8 120 Off. FP+ 26.1 122
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity 4.4 63 Redzone S&P+ 90.5 106
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 18.6 ACTUAL 14.0 -4.6
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 78 93 96 97
RUSHING 92 119 115 115
PASSING 57 74 65 75
Standard Downs 112 112 113
Passing Downs 64 58 75
Q1 Rk 101 1st Down Rk 93
Q2 Rk 92 2nd Down Rk 107
Q3 Rk 78 3rd Down Rk 81
Q4 Rk 106

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs

LY/carry
Pass.
Downs

LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs

Sack Rt.
Team 78.5 3.14 3.60 41.3% 60.5% 15.2% 50.8 2.0% 4.8%
Rank 128 99 104 99 31 114 127 124 109
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Silverberry Mouhon DE 13 32.5 4.5% 8.0 4.5 0 0 0 0
Alex Pace DT 6'2, 295 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8478 13 21.5 3.0% 4.5 0.0 0 1 1 0
Cortez Broughton DT 6'2, 297 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.7533 12 20.0 2.8% 1.5 0.0 0 2 0 0
Mark Wilson DE 6'3, 246 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7966 12 16.0 2.2% 5.5 2.0 0 0 0 0
Kevin Mouhon DE 6'1, 242 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8784 10 15.0 2.1% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Sione Tongamoa DT 6'1, 287 Sr. NR NR 12 14.5 2.0% 3.5 3.0 0 0 0 0
Chris Burton DT 6'2, 290 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8131 11 14.0 2.0% 2.0 0.5 0 0 0 0
Kimoni Fitz DE 6'3, 243 So. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8135 11 11.5 1.6% 1.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Marquise Copeland DT 6'3, 260 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8519 10 10.5 1.5% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Lyndon Johnson DT 6'6, 277 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7694 12 6.5 0.9% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Landon Brazile DE 6'5, 238 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8032 6 4.5 0.6% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Norman Oglesby DT 5'11, 265 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8220 3 2.0 0.3% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Keith Minor DT 6'4, 271 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7685 2 1.5 0.2% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Hakeem Allonce DT 6'4, 309 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8454
Bryan Wright DE 6'3, 238 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8228
Caleb Ashworth DE 6'3, 238 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8066
Michael Pitts DE 6'3, 232 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8098
Elijah Ponder DE 6'3, 225 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7961

6. Absolutely, positively, ridiculously, absurdly dreadful against the run

For most of two decades, as defensive coordinator at Miami and Texas A&M and head coach at Ole Miss and Auburn, Tuberville was one of the most consistent defensive coaches in the country. But over the past six seasons, as he has attempted to adapt both his offense and defense to spready-happy college football, the D has grown inconsistent.

Despite injury, Cincinnati still managed a No. 52 ranking in Def. S&P+ in 2014, but the Bearcats plummeted to 98th in 2015.

It might not have been an awful time for some new blood at coordinator, but Tuberville brought in a new DBs coach (former Colts assistant Mike Gillhamer) and promoted linebackers coach Jeff Koonz to co-coordinator with line coach Robert Prunty.

Prunty will continue to wear three hats -- co-coordinator, DL coach, associate head coach -- but the second of the three might occupy a lot of his time this year, as he and Koonz will have to fix what was one of the FBS' worst run defenses.

Cincinnati got a decent push in short-yardage situations but was outright pathetic in most other regards. The Bearcats ranked 128th in Adj. Line Yards, 119th in Rushing S&P+, 114th in stuff rate, and 127th in Adj. Sack Rate. They had absolutely no disruptive presence up front, and the closest thing to a disruptor (end Silverberry Mouhon) is now gone.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Eric Wilson WLB 6'2, 219 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8438 13 78.5 10.9% 3.5 0.0 0 2 1 1
Bryce Jenkinson MLB 6'1, 235 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8361 13 44.5 6.2% 3.0 1.0 1 1 1 0
Kevin Brown WLB 13 42.0 5.9% 1.0 0.0 1 2 0 0
Jaylyin Minor WLB 6'1, 241 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.7744 11 26.5 3.7% 2.5 0.0 0 1 0 0
Antonio Kinard MLB 6'4, 220 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8364 11 5.0 0.7% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Kevin Hyland LB 13 3.5 0.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Franklin Bruscianelli LB 6'0, 234 Sr. NR NR 3 2.0 0.3% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Mason Antoun LB 9 1.5 0.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Matthew Draper LB 6'2, 214 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8488
Joel Dublanko LB 6'3, 227 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8696
Tyquan Statham OLB 6'0, 214 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8584
Ty Sponseller LB 6'3, 195 Fr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8304

7. Experience, at least

Inexperience wasn't the only issue for this feckless front seven, but it was AN issue. Six of the top eight linemen were either freshmen or sophomores, as were two of the four primary linebackers. Combine that with awful continuity -- 10-11 linemen saw a decent amount of action, and only two played in all 13 games -- and you do have a couple of issues that could be rectified in 2016. With reasonable health, the competition should be strong at both end (Mark Wilson, Kevin Mouhon, Kimoni Fitz, Landon Brazile, Bryan Wright, and Caleb Ashworth) and tackle (Alex Pace, Cortez Broughton, Sione Tongamoa, Chris Burton, Marquise Copeland, Lyndon Johnson, Norman Oglesby, Hakeem Allonce). Pure quantity suggests that quality might be alright with continuity.

It's the same story at linebacker. Between seniors Eric Wilson and Antonio Kinard, junior Jaylyin Minor, sophomore Bryce Jenkinson, and redshirt freshman Matthew Draper, it's possible some reliable options emerge. It's also possible a ton of guys get hurt or fail to develop.

Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Zach Edwards S 6'1, 200 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8175 13 78.0 10.9% 4.5 0 3 8 1 0
Grant Coleman
(2014)
CB 6'0, 171 Sr. NR NR 13 45.5 5.9% 1 0 0 2 1 0
Tyrell Gilbert S 6'1, 195 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7893 13 36.5 5.1% 1 0 1 6 0 0
Leviticus Payne NB 12 35.5 5.0% 3.5 0 0 3 1 1
Linden Stephens CB 6'0, 180 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 0.8014 13 31.0 4.3% 1 0 2 1 1 0
Carter Jacobs S 6'1, 196 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7806 13 27.0 3.8% 0 0 0 0 1 0
Mike Tyson NB 6'2, 206 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.7983 11 26.5 3.7% 2 0 0 4 0 0
Malik Clements S 6'0, 193 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8395 13 17.0 2.4% 0.5 0 0 0 0 1
Alex Thomas CB 6'1, 170 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7826 9 16.5 2.3% 1 0 0 1 0 0
Andre Jones S 6'1, 210 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8369 9 15.5 2.2% 1 0 1 1 0 0
JJ Pinckney CB 6'3, 188 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8447 11 13.0 1.8% 0 0 0 4 0 0
Jarred Evans CB 12 8.0 1.1% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Adrian Witty CB 4 6.0 0.8% 0 0 0 2 0 0
Bobby Brown CB 6'0, 205 Jr. NR NR 4 3.5 0.5% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tshumbi Johnson CB 5'11, 183 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8522 10 3.0 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Davon Witherspoon CB 6'3, 201 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7000 4 1.5 0.2% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Chris Murphy NB 5'11, 189 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8593
Sheldon Doss S 6'1, 197 RSFr. NR NR
Eric Jenkins DB 5'10, 185 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8407
Davin Pierce S 6'2, 175 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8056
James Wiggins DB 5'11, 180 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8512
Marquis Smith CB 5'10, 169 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8284
Perry Young NB 5'10, 197 Fr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8018

8. A healthy secondary is a loaded secondary

For the second straight year, I am proclaiming that if the secondary can remain healthy, it should be alright. Even with WRs showing up on the two-deep, it was still more reliable than the front seven. And with safeties Zach Edwards, Tyrell Gilbert, and Mike Tyson back and corner Grant Coleman rejoining the mix after missing most of the year with injury, Cincy should be able to top last year's No. 74 Passing S&P+ rating. Now just imagine what could happen if the pass rush actually exists.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Sam Geraci 6'4, 222 Jr. 44 46.3 5 10 14 54.5%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Andrew Gantz 5'9, 170 Jr. 85 62.8 31 3 36.5%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2016
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Andrew Gantz 5'9, 170 Jr. 49-50 14-16 87.5% 7-11 63.6%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2016
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Mike Boone KR 5'10, 201 Jr. 17 16.4 0
Johnny Holton KR 10 22.0 0
Shaq Washington PR 13 10.3 0
Max Morrison PR 2 3.5 0
Category Rk
Special Teams S&P+ 31
Field Goal Efficiency 35
Punt Return Success Rate 73
Kick Return Success Rate 63
Punt Success Rate 61
Kickoff Success Rate 80

9. Special teams should be a strength again

Cincinnati had a legitimate special teams strength last year in place-kicker Andrew Gantz, but more importantly, the Bearcats had no particular weaknesses. Special teams is often about the margins -- the particularly good or bad pieces -- and Cincinnati lived well inside of those margins. And if punt coverage gets a little better, then the Bearcats could have another legitimate strength in strong-legged Sam Geraci. He averaged 46 yards per kick last year, but punt efficiency ranked only 61st because of returns.

2016 Schedule & Projection Factors

2016 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk Proj. Margin Win Probability
1-Sep UT-Martin NR 24.5 92%
10-Sep at Purdue 88 1.0 52%
15-Sep Houston 53 0.5 51%
24-Sep Miami (Ohio) 107 15.7 82%
1-Oct South Florida 41 -2.3 45%
8-Oct at Connecticut 81 0.0 50%
22-Oct East Carolina 78 5.0 61%
29-Oct at Temple 61 -5.3 38%
5-Nov BYU 35 -3.4 42%
12-Nov at Central Florida 99 4.9 61%
18-Nov Memphis 77 4.9 61%
25-Nov at Tulsa 93 2.9 57%
Projected wins: 6.9
Five-Year F/+ Rk 7.6% (50)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 70 / 64
2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* -19 / -5.7
2015 TO Luck/Game -5.1
Returning Production (Off. / Def.) 69% (55%, 82%)
2015 Second-order wins (difference) 7.1 (-0.1)

10. I have absolutely no idea

Cincinnati's receiving corps is brand new, its quarterback has gotten hurt a lot, and its defensive front seven was awful last year. If you're looking for reasons to think that the best is in the past for Tuberville at UC, those are three good places to start.

On the flipside, Kiel is awesome when healthy and has at least one intriguing backup (Moore) when he's not. The running game should be sound, the receiving corps should be athletic (if almost certainly inconsistent), and the secondary could be great. And while a Tuberville season almost never goes as planned, in a vacuum it appears that luck will probably turn around a bit, too.

You can see whatever you want to see with UC this year, and that's before we get to talking about an amazing schedule. Cincy has a 92 percent chance of beating UT-Martin in the opener and has an 82 percent chance of beating Miami (Ohio). The other 10 games are all between 38 and 61 percent.

Ten tossups! For a Tommy Tuberville team! That is an invitation to insanity. If the potential weaknesses are a little less weak than we think, then the Bearcats could legitimately go 10-2 or 11-1 this year. But if the passing game never takes and the front seven is still too leaky, 3-9 is on the table.

This might be the biggest wildcard team that a wildcard extraordinaire has ever had. I have no idea what is going to happen, and I cannot wait to find out.