While the Bearcats' 1-2 record is not too impressive, the simple fact OU has to leave the state brings up some concerns for Sooner Nation. All five of the Sooners' losses last season came outside of Owen Field, but OU is looking to set a new standard on the road, senior defensive end Jeremy Beal said.
The first way to reset that standard is for redshirt sophomore quarterback Landry Jones to improve his play on the road. In seven road or neutral-site games, he completed just 55.4 percent of his passes and threw two more interceptions than touchdowns.
The poor stats on the road compared to at home a year ago can be credited to the lack of road preparation, Jones said.
"I think it just comes from my preparation during the week and going out on a road game and not getting hurt or getting rushed or anything like that," he said. "Just going through the regular reads; making the regular plays I would at home."
But, making those plays just like he was at home should come with a disclaimer: make the same plays Jones would when he is on top of his game. Jones has been inconsistent in the three home games, and he and the rest of the offense is ready to show everyone what they really can do.
"Last year we showed a little bit on the road," Jones said. "So we do as an offense [have] a little something to prove. So, I'm excited about this week and to see how we play."
One of the ways Jones can turn around his road woes is by finding his favorite target over the past two years, junior wide receiver Ryan Broyles, who made his first significant impact for OU against Cincinnati in 2008. In that game, he caught seven passes for 141 yards with a touchdown in a 52-26 romp.
Broyles has started the season on fire by racking up more than 100 receiving yards in each of the Sooners' first three games. Even though Broyles has been one of, if not the most reliable offensive weapons, he does not overvalue his role.
"The coaches call the plays, and I don't want to drop any balls," Broyles said. "And when I get the ball I'm just going to make the best out of it. I feel like I'm one of those guys who can make those plays, and I pride myself in doing that."
While the offense has to establish road identity, the defense must create a new one of its own after some less than stellar road performances in 2009, most notably against Texas Tech, a game the defense uses as a learning experience, said senior defensive back Jonathan Nelson.
"One thing about that game was that we were just sort of flat from the opening kickoff," he said. "I don't know what it was because I felt like we had a good week of preparation, but once we got there were flat."
So how does the defense avoid going up to Cincinnati and coming out flat? Nelson believes it depends on the execution.
"It's not all about preparation – most of it is – but it's also about getting there and executing, and we didn't execute at all," he said.
The defense should not have many problems executing tonight because it will line up against a more traditional offense. Although the defense has struggled at times this year, it has only struggled against unusual offensive schemes.
In the one game OU has faced a regular offense, it allowed just 345 yards in a 47-17 beat down against Florida State.
Not only should the defense put on a good performance against Cincinnati's traditional offense, but it should come away with a good amount of sacks. In three games, Cincinnati has allowed 15 sacks.
"We're playing more of a conventional passing attack this week; we'll find out how good our front four really is," defensive line coach Bobby Jack Wright said.
With the Red River Rivalry just a week away, this road game against Cincinnati means more than just a single win or loss, but also momentum for the start of Big 12 play and a possible spot in the Big 12 championship game. If the Sooners win this week, they will still have a good shot toward winning next week, too.