The two teams have worked through remarkably similar opening schedules that started with road losses to Associated Press top-20 Southeastern Conference teams followed by home-opener wins over Football Championship Subdivision teams.
Cincinnati (1-1) is coming off a 63-10 pummeling of Kennesaw State this past Saturday at Nippert Stadium after losing 31-24 at No. 19 Arkansas on September 3.
Miami (1-1) lost 37-13 at Kentucky to a Wildcats team that has moved up to No. 9 in the Associated Press poll. The RedHawks followed up with a 31-14 win over Robert Morris on Saturday at Yager Stadium.
That win over the Colonials, which featured the first career start for redshirt freshman quarterback Aveon Smith, looked better to Miami coach Chuck Martin on video than it did live.
“The tape looked better than I thought,” the ninth-year RedHawks coach said on Monday. “There were a lot of good things. They hit a 79-yard play on their second play, which was a good lesson for us. Even if you’re playing an FCS team, if you’re not where you’re supposed to be, they will make you pay. The defense was pretty solid the rest of the game.
“Offensively, we didn’t pass much, but we were pretty efficient. Running the ball, we were hit-and-miss. We weren’t consistent enough.”
Unlike Wise, Martin and many of his players are quite familiar with the Bearcats, especially senior quarterback Ben Bryant and senior linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Bryant went 21-of-31 for 206 yards and one touchdown with an interception in Eastern Michigan’s 13-12 Mid-American Conference win over Miami at Ypsilanti, Mich., last season in his only year with the Eagles after transferring from Cincinnati. He transferred back to the Bearcats after the season.
“That’s bizarre,” Martin said. “He was a backup at Cincinnati in 2020. He was a starter at Eastern Michigan in 2021, and now he’s a starter for Cincinnati in 2022. It’s unlimited free agency. It’s like they shifted him to the minor leagues for a year and told him, ‘Go play a year and then come back.’”
The 6-foot, 205-pound Pace was named first-team All-MAC and the Pro Football Focus MAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2021 after leading the conference and ranking 10th in the nation with 125 tackles. That was two years after the Colerain High School product tied an NCAA single-game record with six sacks against Akron.
“He was a good player for us for a couple of years,” Martin said. “When he was in high school, he wanted to play for Cincinnati, but they didn’t think he was good enough. That kind of shocked me, because we thought he was the best player in Ohio his senior year. They didn’t offer him. We hung in there and he came here. Now, he’s good enough to play for Cincinnati.
“I still like Ivan,” Martin added. “I just don’t want to play against him.”