- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
Well, it's pretty obvious that this isn't the same Cincinnati we remember from the past couple of years.
Gone is the aura of invincibility. Gone is the high-powered offense. Gone, at least so far, are any meaningful wins.
As bad as the Bearcats played at Fresno State in the opener, they were even worse Thursday night at NC State, losing 30-19 in a listless effort. It took two fourth-quarter scores to make the score look respectable after the Wolfpack built a commanding 30-7 lead.
Where oh where has the offense gone? Take away the fourth quarter against NC State and the 28-point third quarter against Indiana State, and Cincinnati has scored just four touchdowns in its other 10 quarters this season.
Of course, it's hard to score when your quarterback has no time. Bearcats offensive guard Alex Hoffman boasted earlier this week that Zach Collaros "wouldn't get touched" in Raleigh. Instead, he got sacked five times. The pressure kept Collaros from taking many shots downfield, and the offense rarely got anything going. Add the fact that Isaiah Pead didn't play with a knee injury, tight end Ben Guidugli left before halftime with an ankle injury and, of course, Vidal Hazelton is out for the season, and this suddenly looks like a below-average attack.
The Bearcats must play Oklahoma this week, and no one in their right mind would pick them to win based on how they've played so far. That means they could easily be 1-3 after four games under Butch Jones. That still doesn't rule out a run in the Big East, which looks as wide open as ever. But Cincinnati isn't going to contend unless it can raise its overall level of play in a hurry.
Jones was dealt a tough hand, having to follow Brian Kelly, opening with a brutal schedule and beset by injuries. But he could be facing questions from a spoiled fan base about why things have gone wrong so fast.
It's more bad news for the Big East , too. The league still hasn't beaten a BCS opponent. Even the struggling ACC now has notched a win against the Big East.