For the first time since 2018, Fenway Park will play host to college football as the Cincinnati Bearcats will face off against the Louisville Cardinals in the Wasabi Fenway Bowl. Both teams will play this game with a coaching staff thrown together after the departure of both teams’ head coaches.
Head Coaching Situation Heading Into Fenway Bowl
Luke Fickell, who led the Bearcats to the college football playoff last season, accepted the head coaching position at the University of Wisconsin in November. One the other side for Louisville, former head coach Scott Satterfield left the Cardinals to become the head coach of the Bearcats. Satterfield, who knows this Louisville Cardinals team better than anyone, will be stepping aside and removing himself from the game.
“It’s kind of a weird situation, Cincinnati playing Louisville in the bowl game, I told both teams I’ve removed myself from the bowl game.” Satterfield said. “This is awkward, that’s why I’m stepping away from anything with bowl prep. … I’m going to be hosting families and recruits. Now, we may be sitting in front of a TV and watching it.”
So just to recap:
– Scott Satterfield left Louisville for Cincinnati
– Louisville faces Cincinnati in the Fenway Bowl
– Both teams share the same sideline
This should be interesting 👀 pic.twitter.com/k09DnbLEzH
— PFF College (@PFF_College) December 5, 2022
Louisville will have now Interim head coach and Director of Player Development Deion Branch at the helm for the game while Cincinnati will have special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs leading the Bearcats at Fenway Park.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to represent this university, my university, but way more grateful to go out and lead these men on the field in the bowl game.”
@deionbranch84 ready to lead the Cards @FenwayBowl as Interim Head Coach 💪
— Louisville Football (@LouisvilleFB) December 6, 2022
This will be the first time since 2013 that these two former Big East rivals will face off against each other. This will be the first time since then that “The Keg of Nails” traveling trophy will be up for grabs. Out of the 53 total meetings between the two schools, the Bearcats lead the series 30-22-1. This will also be the first time these two have faced off in a bowl game.
The Fenway Bowl (Cincy vs Louisville) now has an extra storyline in addition to being the Keg of Nails: https://t.co/SN1PmIbsdJ
— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) December 5, 2022
Look Into the Numbers
Cincinnati comes into the Fenway Bowl averaging 31.1 points per game which is good enough for 46th out of the 131 schools who compete at the FBS level. Louisville is 76th in the nation averaging just over 27 points.
Where both teams excel defensively is. Louisville is 19th in the country in scoring defense only allowing 20 points a game while Cincinnati is right on their heels being ranked 23rd with 20.3.
The discrepancies between score for Louisville is more drastic though. Louisville gave up 30 points or more four times this season, all four were losses whole they were undefeated when holding team to 21 points or less.
Cincinnati’s games were much closer, especially their conference games. The Bearcats had six one score games, winning four of them.
The two teams also had one common opponent this season, the UCF Knights. Louisville defeated them 20-14 back in week two while Cincinnati lost 25-21. Both games were played at UCF.
Quarterback Evan Prater has taken the reigns over for the Bearcats after Ben Bryant suffered a foot injury against Temple. Prater, who is regarded as one of the top recruits ever to go to the University of Cincinnati, is a true dual threat quarterback.
Quarterback Evan Prater on the job Kerry Coombs has done as UC’s interim head coach for the Fenway Bowl:
“If you listen to him for two or three minutes you’re ready to run through a brick wall.” pic.twitter.com/kriR3P0weP
— Dan Hoard (@Dan_Hoard) December 12, 2022
The offense will run a lot different with Prater at quarterback moving from a pass heavy offense to much more of a rushing attack. Prater led the Bearcats to a comeback against Southern Florida and played majority of the game against Temple. He is a prolific runner with the ball, averaging over five yards a carry. In the loss to Tulane, he ran for 83 yards while passing for 102. Prater was Mr. Football in Ohio in 2019.
Running back Charles McClelland is the leading rusher for the Bearcats. His 6 yards per carry ranks him 25th in the country. He has seen his carries drop since Prater came in as quarterback but did have his best of late against Tulane having 57 yards on eight carries with a touchdown.
Defensively for the Bearcats Ivan Pace Jr has been a menace this season. His 9 total sacks are good for 16th in the country while his 120 tackles have him ranked eighth.
Pace has shot up the NFL draft boards this season and is looking to be a mid to late round picks in the 2023 NFL Draft. Pace holds the NCAA record for sacks on a game with 6, which he set his freshman season at the University of Miami Ohio.
With Malik Cunningham entering the NFL Draft he will be skipping the Fenway Bowl. Cunningham has been the best quarterback other than Lamar Jackson to play for the Cardinals. Cunningham broke Jacksons school record for rushing touchdowns with 50.
Brock Domain will start at quarterback in Cunningham’s absence. Domain played sparingly throughout the season but took most of the snaps the last three games. Domain will rely heavily on his running back Jawhar Jordan.
Jordan has come strong as of late establishing himself as the number one running back the past month averaging well over a hundred yards per game. Jordan leads the Cardinals with 700 rushing yards this season.
Jordan will see increased snaps as fellow running back Tiyon Evans has declared for the NFL draft and will sit out the Fenway Bowl. Leading receiver Tyler Hudson is also out for this Louisville offense as well.
Senior linebacker Momo Sanogo leads the Cardinals defense in tackles with 86. The Ole Miss graduate transfer has come on strong later with multiple double-digit tackle games in November helping solidify this Louisville defense.
Linebacker Yasir Abdullah and defensive lineman Yaya Diaby lead this Cardinals defense with eight sacks each this season. Abdullah also has two interceptions as well.
Fenway Bowl Prediction
Saturday is expected to be a wet one in Boston but the bigger issue may be Friday night. Boston is expected to have 40 to 50 mile per hour wind gusts with over an inch of rain which could make the playing surface quite treacherous. With half of the field being freshly laid sod, this could make for a sloppy game. Especially with both teams starting their backup quarterbacks coming into the season, this has the potential to be an old school game with lots of running.
It's beginning to look a lot like football. 🏈 pic.twitter.com/QRmMDoUp7l
— Wasabi Fenway Bowl (@FenwayBowl) December 13, 2022
At the moment the over under is set at 41, which would seem to be a smart bet with how both teams’ defenses have played as of late and the weather factor too. Cincinnati is a one point underdog coming into this one as well. Louisville may have had some more quality wins on their schedule coming into this Fenway Bowl but the loss of their three biggest playmakers is going to hinder them too much I believe.
Cincinnati will have some familiarity with them having a more complete coaching staff as well. My prediction is that the Bearcats will be bringing The Keg of Nails trophy back with them back to Cincinnati from the Fenway Bowl beating Louisville by a score of 17-10.
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