College Football's Oldest Non-Conference Rivalry
by Aaron Lynn
Legend has it that the famous “Victory Bell” was stolen from Miami’s Harrison Hall by several over-eager Cincinnati fans following a Bearcat win in the early 1890s. That kicked off the rivalry in earnest and began the tradition of passing the Victory Bell to the winning school. The first game in the rivalry, a 0-0 tie played on December 8, 1888, was actually the very first collegiate football game played in the state of Ohio.
Since that first game, the Miami RedHawks and Cincinnati Bearcats have squared off 125 times. Thanks to a rivalry record 15 straight wins, the Bearcats have knotted the all-time series at 59-59-7 and have a chance to take the series lead for the first time in over 100 years. The Victory Bell Game is the oldest active non-conference rivalry in all of college football and the fourth-most played game within the FBS division.
UC Head Coach Luke Fickell didn’t miss a beat in the rivalry, guiding the Bearcats to a double-digit comeback victory in his first season in 2017 and his teams have dominated the series ever since. Cincinnati has since outscored Miami 105-27 in the last three meetings. In their current 15-game win streak, the Bearcats have won 11 of those games by double digits.
There’s always a unique wrinkle in the rivalry between two schools located just 40 miles apart, and the 2022 edition of the Victory Bell Game is no exception. Ivan Pace led the RedHawks with over 120 tackles last season and was the MAC Defensive Player of the Year but transferred to Cincinnati. He joins his brother Deshawn who was Cincinnati’s leading tackler with 95 tackles and added four interceptions at the linebacker position. The Pace brothers form a formidable tandem on the Bearcat defense and all eyes will be on Ivan as he faces his former team.
Both teams enter this matchup with a 1-1 record after both faced a tough SEC road test followed by a home win against an FCS opponent. The Bearcats will be heavily favored in this game, which is no surprise considering the program’s historic run to the College Football Playoff in 2021. In addition, Miami quarterback Brett Gabbert was injured late in their loss to Kentucky and is expected to miss several weeks. It’s a tough blow for the RedHawks considering Gabbert’s experience and potential to be the best quarterback in the MAC this season. Aveon Smith will play quarterback after getting his first career start last week against Robert Morris.
We had an opportunity to travel to Oxford and get an inside look at the Miami program. Click below for our preseason preview of the RedHawks and our recap of their 31-14 victory over Robert Morris last week.
The Bearcats lost the winningest quarterback in program history in Desmond Ridder to the NFL Draft (One of nine UC players taken in the 2022 NFL Draft). Ben Bryant started his career with Cincinnati and has returned after being the starting at quarterback for Eastern Michigan last season. It will be interesting to see how Fickell utilizes Evan Prater, a quarterback who is Cincinnati’s highest rated recruit in school history, throughout the rest of the season. Despite all of the personnel losses from last season, Fickell has his team poised for what appears to be another great season even despite the close opening week loss to Arkansas (ranked #10 this week in the 5th and Goal Top 25 poll). The Bearcats demonstrated their prowess on offense, defense, and special teams in a 63-10 blowout victory over Kennesaw State. A third-straight American Championship and New Year’s Six birth seems like a very real possibility for Cincinnati.
The 2022 edition of the Victory Bell Game will be played at Paycor (Paul Brown) Stadium where Cincinnati claimed a 31-24 victory in 2014 and a 21-0 win in 2018. Follow us on social media for live coverage of the 126th edition of this historic rivalry!