Despite an impressive 9-3 record this season, the Cincinnati Bearcats head to the Wasabi Fenway Bowl as underdogs against the 7-5 Louisville Cardinals.
The game on Dec. 17 at historic Fenway Park in Boston will be the first time the bowl game has been played. It will involve a rekindling of a decades-old rivalry between the two schools — and one that got more interesting when Cincinnati hired away Louisville’s head football coach just weeks ago.
Unfortunately, Ohio sports betting will not be live in Ohio in time for this game. The industry is set to kick off on Jan. 1, 2023.
Bearcats will battle old rival in Boston
The Fenway Bowl will pit the longtime rivals against each other for the first time since 2013, when the Louisville Cardinals defeated the Cincinnati Bearcats in overtime to win the Keg of Nails rivalry trophy.
Fresh off a College Football Playoff appearance, the Bearcats came close to pulling off a third-consecutive American Athletic Conference title this season, finishing 6-2 in the conference. Cincinnati had a shot at hosting the AAC title game but couldn’t hold on against Tulane in their final home game.
More disappointment soon followed. Bearcats head coach Luke Fickell accepted the head coaching position at Wisconsin after compiling a 57-18 record over six seasons at Cincinnati. The Bearcats then hired none other than Louisville head coach Scott Satterfield, who has decided not to coach his new team against his old team in the Fenway Bowl. Cincinnati will be led by longtime assistant coach Kerry Coombs.
The Bearcats will also be without starting quarterback Ben Bryant, who threw for 2,732 yards and 21 touchdowns. He’s out with a foot injury. Reshirt sophomore QB Evan Prater, a highly touted recruit and Cincinnati native, is set to start the game.
Oddsmakers favor Cardinals over Cincinnati
With Bryant out, Louisville is favored to beat Cincinnati in the Fenway Bowl. Prater appeared in eight games this season, going 28-of-51 for 340 yards with no passing touchdowns and one interception, along with 196 rushing yards and a TD on the ground.
The Bearcats boast a solid receiving corps, with junior Tyler Scott leading the way (899 yards, nine TDs).
- Spread: Louisville -2.5
- Total points scored: 45
- Records: Cincinnati: 9-3, 6-2 AAC; Louisville: 7-5, 4-4 ACC
Bearcats put together solid season in 2022
Cincinnati won nine games to reach bowl eligibility. In the process, they defeated bowl-eligible teams in Miami (OH), SMU and East Carolina. All three of their losses came to bowl-eligible teams.
The Bearcats received votes in the final AP top-25 poll, sitting just three spots outside the top-25. Louisville did not receive votes.
Cincinnati comes up short down the stretch
The Bearcats won six straight after an opening-week road loss to No. 19 Arkansas, but another sweep of the AAC was not to be.
Cincinnati suffered its first conference loss of the season at Central Florida, falling 25-21 on Oct. 29.
Despite the lone conference loss, the Bearcats were still in line to host a rematch with UCF in the AAC title game if they could get past another top-25 squad in Tulane on Nov. 25.
But Cincinnati let another late lead slip away, and the Green Wave ended the Bearcats’ 32-game home winning streak. It was Tulane’s first victory over a ranked team since 1984, the longest streak in FBS.
Tulane went on to beat UCF in the AAC championship game.
Cincinnati’s special 2021 season ended with loss to Alabama
Last year, Cincinnati’s storybook season resulted in the first CFP appearance by a non-Power 5 school. The No. 4 Bearcats gave mighty Alabama a game, but the Crimson Tide pass rush and rushing game was too much for Cincinnati, and the top-seeded Tide won a comfortable 27-6 contest.
The Bearcats defense allowed a season-high 301 rushing yards (6.4 yards per attempt) to Alabama and produced only two field goals across 58 plays. Five in 10 offensive drives ended in punts, and Cincinnati failed to convert a third down after the first quarter.
Still, the CFP appearance was a high point for a Bearcats program that has seen considerable success over the previous 15 seasons. Nine Bearcats were selected in the 2022 NFL draft, the third-most among all of college football.
Fickell moves on to Wisconsin
Because of his massive success at UC, Fickell has been a target of coaching searches at major programs for years. Wisconsin was finally the right fit for Fickell, who has Big Ten roots after playing at Ohio State University from 1993-96 before joining the program as an assistant coach.
After Fickell’s departure, UC AD John Cunnigham named UC assistant coach Kerry Coombs interim head coach of the Bearcats. A Cincinnati native, Coombs acted as special teams coordinator and cornerbacks coach during the 2022 season. Before he coached at the college ranks, including Ohio State, Coombs was the longtime head coach at Colerain High School in Cincinnati, winning the state title in 2004.