Cincinnati kicks off Big 12 era against No. 16 Oklahoma

Field Level Media

September 19, 2023 at 8:36 pm.

Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel has faced Cincinnati before.

Bearcats quarterback Emory Jones has faced the Sooners before.

Neither has done so with their current teams, however. That will change on Saturday when No. 16 Oklahoma (3-0) plays at Cincinnati (2-1) in the final Big 12 opener for the Sooners and the first one for the Bearcats.

“I know it,” Gabriel said of his record against Cincinnati. “I’m not going to say it. I know it. I know what it is.”

Gabriel is 0-2 against the Bearcats, but both of those meetings came when he was at UCF in 2019 and 2020.

The Sooners’ star has been excellent so far, completing 82.5 percent of his passes for 905 yards, 11 touchdowns and just one interception.

“He’s in a comfort level right now that he wasn’t at this time last year,” Oklahoma offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby said. “He had to go through some things last year that were hard, and I think that’s matured him in a way to have a really stern edge about him in how he’s preparing and playing with a chip on his shoulder.”

The Sooners are coming off a 66-17 win over Tulsa last Saturday. Oklahoma has outscored its opponents 167-28 so far.

“They’re as hot as any team out there right now,” Cincinnati coach Scott Satterfield said. “So we know we’ve got a huge challenge coming in here but one we welcome.

“They really stress you defensively, horizontally and vertically, keep the pressure on the defense and they go extremely fast.”

Cincinnati is coming off a 31-24 home loss to Miami (Ohio) in overtime. The Bearcats put up 538 yards of offense but had to settle four times for field-goal tries — making three — and turned the ball over twice, plus were stopped on downs another time inside the Miami 5.

Jones hasn’t been quite as prolific as Gabriel but is completing nearly two-thirds of his passes for 735 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions.

He was Florida’s starting quarterback in the 2020 Cotton Bowl against the Sooners, a game Oklahoma won 55-20.

Jones also has rushed for 144 yards and three touchdowns, adding a running element at the position different from any quarterback Oklahoma has faced.

“He can throw the ball a country mile, and he can pull it down and take it the distance at any time,” Sooners coach Brent Venables said. “He’s a really dangerous player. At the same time, you’ve got to stay within your scheme and your philosophy. We’ve got a great challenge. There’s no doubt about it.”

For the Bearcats, Saturday’s game also will mark a significant step forward as a program, with their first game as a member of a Power 5 conference after moving from the American Athletic Conference to the Big 12.

“Very excited about playing in this league,” Satterfield said. “I hadn’t been here, obviously. But I think about all the people and the hard work that went into getting to the Power 5, getting to the Big 12 Conference. … It’s awesome. It’s really neat to be playing at this level.”

Oklahoma will move from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference next season.

Saturday’s game will be the third between the programs. Oklahoma beat Cincinnati in 2008 and 2010.