The defending American Athletic Conference champions University of Cincinnati soccer team opens its 2021 season against rival Miami University over Labor Day weekend.
The AAC announced on Thursday that the Bearcats will host the RedHawks at Nippert Stadium on September 4.
Cincinnati, which went 9-0 last season before losing to Georgia in the Peach Bowl, has won a school record 20 games in a row at Nippert.
UC has won against Miami 14 times in a row in the battle for the Victory Bell. The two teams didn’t play last season as the Mid-American Conference, the home conference of the RedHawks, chose to play a six-game conference only schedule due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Cincinnati will host FCS opponent Murray State on Sept. 11, followed by back-to-back road games in Indiana and Notre Dame.
The Bearcats will face a Hoosiers-squad that finished 6-2 (6-1 Big Ten) last season. Indiana started 4-0 before falling 42-35 in the state of Ohio. The Hoosiers finished 11th in the final College Football Playoff rankings.
After a farewell week, Cincinnati will head to South Bend on October 2 to defeat former defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman and the Fighting Irish.
Freeman, who was head coach Luke Fickell’s defensive coordinator for his first four seasons at Cincinnati, left the program last month to take the same position under former UC coach Brian Kelly at Notre Dame.
The Irish went 10-0 last season before losing to Clemson in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game. Notre Dame, mostly independent, joined the ACC for the 2020 season.
The Irish finished fourth in the College Football Playoff Rankings and lost in the playoff semifinals to eventual champions Alabama.
Under Freeman, Cincinnati’s defenses topped the AAC and one of the most stifling in the country. TheBearcats helped the American in the hasty defense, scoring defense and total defense last season. UC was fourth in the country with the fewest yards allowed per game, third in pass efficiency, and had the highest touchdown intercept ratio (7-16) in the country.
Fickell replaced Freeman with longtime Michigan State assistant coach and former Bearcats assistant Mike Tressel.
In conference play, Cincinnati has home games against Temple (Oct 8), UCF (Oct 16), Tulsa (Nov 6) and SMU (Nov 20). The Bearcats will be hitting the road for meetings at Navy (Oct. 23), Tulane (Oct. 30), South Florida (Nov. 12), and East Carolina (Nov. 27).
The AAC championship game is scheduled for December 4. Cincinnati won its first AAC title last season, beating Tulsa 27-24 in Nippert.
UC, which finished eighth in College Football’s final Playoff rankings, returns to last season’s 16 starters, including AAC Offensive Player of the Year Desmond Ridder and 2020 AP Second Team All-America Cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner.
Knight, who announced last month that he was returning to Cincinnati for “one last run,” is 30-5 as a starter. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound quarterback passed 2,296 yards and 19 touchdowns against six interceptions last season, while rushing for 592 yards and 12 more scores, the most compelling touchdowns of an FBS quarterback in 2020.
Knight’s 22 rushed touchdowns in his career are the most by a Cincinnati quarterback and the eighth in program history.
Fickell, who is 35-14 in four seasons with UC, was last season’s AAC Coach of the Year. The 47-year-old was also the American’s top coach in 2018.
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