Ranking The Games (Away)

 Fans fill the stands for the September 27, 1930 night game against Cedarville. The Bearcats won 46-0. (UC Libraries via uc.edu)

Fans fill the stands for the September 27, 1930 night game against Cedarville. The Bearcats won 46-0. (UC Libraries via uc.edu)

As much I love Nippert Stadium, a hallmark of football season is still that first day in which you spend 12 hours on the couch drinking beer, eating chips, and watching football between naps. It's good. Maybe even the best.

Given that the Bearcats are only guaranteed 12 games this season, it's not likely you'll be skipping any, making this list somewhat irrelevant aside from being a novelty. That's never stopped me from writing before.

Here's the definitive ranking of 2018's most watchable Bearcat road games:

1. UCLA – Saturday, Sept. 1 (7PM)

Maybe this is obvious, but the UCLA game is Cincinnati football’s biggest television event of the season. The Bearcats are significant underdogs, but a prime-time ESPN date in the Rose Bowl on the first Saturday of the season is still a huge deal. At the very least, I'm hoping this will shake out like last season’s Michigan game, in which the ‘Cats turned heads but ultimately couldn't hang with the better team. I'm still a ruthless optimist and a dirty homer, so I’ll continue to hold out hope UC will spring the upset. Cincinnati football is long overdue for a premiere win. It’s Chip Kelly’s first game as head coach, UCLA won’t have much tape on UC, and the Bearcats finally have enough talent to give them a puncher's chance against the big dogs. The 'Cats have nothing to lose and everything to gain in Pasadena. Bring it on.

Rating: 5/5

2. Miami (OH) – Saturday, Sept. 8 (8PM)

This is cheating because it’s only a road game in a technical sense. When Cincinnati re-upped their contract with Miami for the Victory Bell game, AD Mike Bohn pulled another brilliant move, getting the RedHawks to agree to play a few “home” games in UC’s neighborhood at Paul Brown Stadium. No, it’s not at Nippert, but this is still a building UC called home for a full season just a few years ago. The stadium will be crawling with UC fans, it’s the first game of the season in Cincinnati, and (against all odds) the Victory Bell still tends to command one of the season's biggest crowds every year. Last year’s finish was an instant classic. I’m excited for this one.

Rating: 4/5

3. UCF – Saturday, Nov. 17  (TBD)

The defending National Champions* play host to the ‘Cats in mid-November, UC's final road trip. UCF probably won’t be quite as good this season, but they’ll still win a bunch of games and will be battling Memphis for AAC supremacy. They’re led at quarterback by Hawaii-native and Heisman-hopeful McKenzie Milton. Milton is a blast to watch, and on 11/17 UC will use guys like Bryan Wright, Malik Clements, and Perry Young to try to make sure he’s not a blast to watch. It’s a tall task, but challenges are opportunities. With any luck, UC will be in the thick of the hunt for a bowl game, meaning the stakes should be high in this one.

Rating: 3/5

4. Temple – Saturday, Oct. 20 (TBD)

This game is coming off a bye week and marks the start of the back half of the season. Take a look at UC’s schedule and you’ll notice that nearly all of their toughest games are located down the home stretch. The Bearcats will use the mid-October week off to get healthy and (hopefully) find another win or two to return to a bowl game for the first time since 2015. Temple is picked to finish ahead of UC in the standings, and road games are always tough, but this is one I’m circling as a potential statement win. The ‘Cats will be underdogs, but this game is within reach. A victory in Philly could change the trajectory of the season.

Rating: 3/5

5. SMU – Saturday, Oct. 27 (TBD)

The margin of error this season is razor thin for a team with their sights set on a bowl game, and it’s gonna make for a fun time if you can handle some high blood pressure. SMU is picked to finish one spot behind the ‘Cats in the AAC overall standings, and the fact that this one is in Dallas means it could be a toss-up. We know the deal in basketball, but we haven’t had a high-stakes game in Dallas on the gridiron yet. This is the football equivalent of a late-January cage match at Moody between two teams with a lot on the line.

Rating: 3/5

6. UConn – Saturday, Sept. 29 (TBD)

UConn is one of two conference opponents on the schedule that’s easily inferior to the Bearcats on paper. Yes, I know UC lost in their last trip to Storrs (arguably rock bottom in the Tuberville era) but we’re back to the good old days where Cincinnati has a clear talent advantage in this match-up. You never want to write off road games, especially the first high-stakes one of the season, but this has noon kickoff and a 28-13 UC victory in a snoozer written all over it.

Rating: 2/5