COLUMBUS, Ohio – Luke Fickell returns to Columbus on Saturday with Cincinnati to face the hometown school where he spent most of his football career as a player, assistant coach, interim head coach and defensive coordinator. The third-year Bearcats coach faces a formidable challenge against a fifth-ranked Ohio State team that began the Ryan Day era with a convincing win at home last week over Florida Atlantic.
TV: Noon ET, ABC. LINE: Ohio State -16.5
Fickell brings some horses to the Horseshoe on a team that finished 11-2 last year and started the new season with a 24-14 home victory last week over UCLA, but knocking off the Buckeyes on their home turf would be a major upset for the American Athletic Conference program. The final score in Ohio State's 45-21 opening win was somewhat misleading after the Buckeyes, led by new starting quarterback Justin Fields and a defense that did not give up a touchdown until the fourth quarter, raced to a 28-0 lead in the opening minutes and cruised from there. Ohio State hasn't lost to Cincinnati since 1897 and is 5-0 against the Bearcats since 1999, including a 50-28 victory in their last meeting in 2014. Fickell has downplayed the visit to Ohio Stadium this week, telling reporters: "I can't allow myself to get involved in the emotional type of things."
ABOUT OHIO STATE (1-0)
Fields' dream start to his Ohio State career featured four touchdowns in the first 8:10 of the first quarter (one rushing, three passing) against Florida Atlantic and he finished 18-of-25 for 234 yards and four touchdowns in the air while adding 61 yards on the ground, including a 51-yard scamper to start the scoring. Because the Buckeyes raced to the big early lead, they kept things simple on offense and defense while outgaining the Owls by 241 total yards. Standout defensive end Chase Young, who accounted for 1.5 of the team's 12 tackles for loss, and the rest of the defensive front seven will be a handful for Cincinnati to block.
ABOUT CINCINNATI (1-0)
Fickell said the Bearcats didn't play particularly well in their opener, but running back Michael Warren II, a second-team All-AAC pick a year ago, rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries and quarterback Desmond Ridder, the 2018 AAC Rookie of the Year, connected on 18-of-26 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Cincinnati's defense allowed UCLA only 12 first downs, 8-of-26 pass completions and 218 total yards, with 75 of those yards on one of the Bruins' two touchdowns. A next-level challenge awaits this week against Ohio State's multitude of offensive weapons, but if the Bearcats could force three turnovers as they did last week and keep the Buckeyes from racing out to another big early lead, that could improve the chances for a stunner.
1. Ohio State has won seven consecutive games, the second-longest streak active streak among Power Five conference schools, and Ryan Day is 4-0 as a head coach after winning this year's opener and leading the Buckeyes to three victories to start the 2018 season while Urban Meyer served a suspension.
2. Ohio State has not lost to an in-state opponent since Oberlin (7-6) in 1921, but the Bearcats could be one of the best teams from Ohio the Buckeyes have faced in recent years.
3. Cincinnati S James Wiggins, expected to be one of the team's standouts on defense, is out for the season with a torn ACL.
PREDICTION: Ohio State 35, Cincinnati 21