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Thursday morning links and notes -- UC Bearcats kickoff tonight

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Even though the Bengals play tonight, another local football team kicks off their season tonight. The Cincinnati Bearcats host the Eastern Kentucky Colonels, tonight at 7:30pm at Nippert Stadium. Brian Kelly's first season with the the Bearcats last season finished with a 10-3 record and a 17th ranking in the AP rankings. A total of 12 starters return on offense and defense (six each), including cornerback Mike Mickens who earned the first team all-Big East.

The Enquirer's Bill Koch runs through the Big East, listing the Bearcats fifth behind West Virginia, South Florida, Pittsburgh, and Rutgers. He writes that the "Bearcats enter Brian Kelly's second season as head coach well-equipped on defense with All-America tackle Terrill Byrd and two standout defensive backs in Mike Mickens and DeAngelo Smith. But there are question marks on offense, beginning at quarterback." While Ben Mauk continues his effort to have the NCAA reinstatement him after his eligibility was up, Dustin Grutza will have another opportunity to remain as the team's starting quarterback. Preview tonight's game here.

Naturally, I'm a Buckeyes fan first in the college ranks. But I like seeing the Bearcats succeed; and the start of a Brian Kelly era may be generating a ton of local interest. We'll talk about them throughout the year. For now, let's get on with the Bengals.

There's an increasing belief that Ryan Fitzpatrick might become the team's starting quarterback because of the lack of protection for Carson Palmer. Even though Fitzpatrick will start tonight, having an opportunity to shine, I doubt it means anything more than auditioning for next year's free agency, where he could become the most coveted veteran quarterback available. And yes, I mean veteran by having some NFL game experience -- though it's not a lot.

Through three seasons, Fitzpatrick has started three games (all as a rookie with the Rams) and played in one game in each of the past two seasons (one with the Rams, one with the Bengals), though not attempting a pass. As a starter with the Rams, Fitzpatrick is 0-3, recording only one touchdown and seven interceptions (five in one game against the Vikings). His last pass attempt in a regular season game happened on December 18, 2005.

I've always liked Rudi Johnson -- not for just his play, but he's always been a good guy for the community. However, I think he's doing a disservice to himself by publicly showing pity for himself. "It's already been decided; the game is irrelevant," Johnson said, "The situation has already been presented. The game doesn't really matter."

However, Marvin Lewis denied any trade rumor. James Walker isn't buying it, saying "Lewis also denied interest in Chris Henry and that the team was offered two first-round picks for Chad Johnson. So we know the drill." Apparently, "we" means James himself. Lewis was truthful about Henry, only to have ownership supercede his word. As far as Lewis is concerned with Rudi Johnson, he's probably still telling the truth and ownership is doing their own thing again; which word has it, Lewis was taken aback when he learned of the rumor too.

The Ravens don't expect Ed Reed to play kickoff weekend against the Bengals.

Paul Daugherty asks what football town this is, Bearcats or Bengals? I ask, why does that matter? And I'd say high school football should be weighed in also, for this area.