I attended two football games this weekend. Which one can you guess is the one I want to talk about first?
*The Bearcats jump into the AAC East's driver's seat. The man who might have had the best Friday night of all of us might have been Marcus Freeman. UC's defensive coordinator was masterful against UCF, as his defense swarmed the Knights, matching its speed while feeding off of the loudest Nippert Stadium crowd I can recall.
The 27-24 victory was the signature win of Luke Fickell's run, and for those of us in attendance, I'm guessing it was a sporting event we'll remember, and be talking about for a whike.
This is a different-looking Bearcats team than the one that got off to a 2-1 start. Desmond Ridder looks more comfortable, the forced changes on the offensive line didn't yield the disastrous results some of us feared, the Cats are healthier in the backfield, and the defense is playing lights-out.
I'm more than mildly excited. The season is really just starting, and the AAC schedule isn't be without its challenges, but there's a decent chance that the Bearcats will be favored in every game except for the finale against Memphis, and it's fun to think about how this team will improve in the coming weeks given how far they've come in less than a month,
Ten regular season wins is far from unimaginable. And a conference title is very much on the table.
*The Bengals are neither winning ten games or winning a conference title. We are five weeks in, and honestly, I'm drained. Yes, it's nice that they mounted a nice little fourth quarter comeback yesterday. But the result was the same, and the way they went about drafting up this particular L is more than maddening.
Among the issues...
-Andy Dalton taking it himself out of the shotgun instead of handing the ball off to Joe Mixon on a fourth and one?
-The number of lengthy plays the Bengals gave up on long down-and-distance situations.
-How Nick Vigil was lined up against David Johnson on the game-deciding drive.
-The way Kyler Murray was allowed to scamper down the field to set up the game-ending kick.
-And mainly, the utter lack of excitement I have for watching a franchise that not long ago, I lived and died with.
I wish I had more on the game itself, but honestly, what's the point?
*All that matters right now is whether or not the Bengals are willing to trade established players for draft picks. Here's a piece from Jason LaCanfora about the interest other teams may have in acquiring players like AJ Green.
Frankly, I'm not sure what the argument against dealing AJ is. The Bengals need to start fresh, and the only way to do that is my purging the roster of older, expensive players and receiving draft capital in exchange. You're not rebuilding around a 32 year-old wide receiver with an injury history, and guys like Geno Atkins, Tyler Eifert, and yes, even Andy Dalton are each unlikely to be productive players in Cincinnati by the time the Bengals are ready to compete for anything meaningful.
Mainly, I want AJ Green to get a chance to play for a championship, and to have the opportunity to catch passes from a better quarterback, with a possibility of authoring a signature postseason moment.
*Back to the Bearcats. Yes, I'm opposed to fans rushing onto the field. I'm also for cool visuals. And come on, this was a cool visual...
Sometimes, head and heart get conflicted.
*A MNF guess: After a 4-0 mark against the spread in the NFL in this week's Blog of Football Guesses, we will take Cleveland (+5) over San Francisco. I think the Browns are pretty good. I'm still not sure the Niners are. Speaking of, San Francisco would be a good destination for AJ Green.
*An obvious statement: Having four MLB playoff games, plus a compelling Monday Nighter makes for a nice little Monday.
*Another obvious statement: The hype for most Midnight Madness events usually supersedes the excitement and execution of the event itself.
*Radio Show: Me and Tony today. Sam Adams Tap Room OTR. Join us at 3:05 on ESPN1530.