Coming off a 52-10 trouncing of FCS Alabama A&M, the 2015 Cincinnati Bearcats were ready to set the American Athletic Conference ablaze, as the prophecies had foretold throughout the preseason.
However, the first sign that the 2015 campaign was not going to end with a title and accompanying glory came in week two against Temple, an upstart team that topped the Bearcats 34-26 on the road and went on to 10 wins. If we had known then what we know now, a whole lot heartache, or at least missed expectations, could have been avoided.
The loss ended a five-game winning streak for UC against Temple and goes to show that you really never know what’s going to happen each week. (Paging Houston). But let’s not fall into the fear of the unknown. Let us at least attempt to give ourselves some idea by simulating this weekend’s matchup between Temple and Cincinnati using the latest technology.
Before we get started, here is the disclaimer. The simulation site used (WhatIfSports.com) has not updated to include 2016 football rosters. However, with some slight tweaks, we can at least form a facsimile of the makeup of the Bearcats and the Owls. We can also adjust the weather, which calls for temperatures in the low 70s and light winds on Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia according to AccuWeather.com. Here are the results of five simulations.
Simulation 1: Temple 24 Cincinnati 14
Despite a big game from Tion Green and an early lead, the Bearcats can’t hold on for a critical road win. Green rushes for 143 yards on 16 carries and UC has a 14-7 lead at halftime thanks to two touchdown passes from Gunner Kiel. However, in the fourth quarter, the Owls score 17 unanswered points, finished off by a one-yard touchdown run from Ryquell Armstead, his second of the game.
Even though Armstead scores twice, he only has 23 rushing yards, with Temple finishing with only 88 yards on the ground. Kiel throws for 199 yards on 20-of-36 pass attempts, but is sacked five times Meanwhile, P.J. Walker throws for 383 yards on 25-of-44 passing.
Simulation 2: Temple 25 Cincinnati 23
The Bearcats once again start hot and fade. Green scores on a seven-yard touchdown reception early in the first quarter and UC gets a field goal to take a 10-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Owls dominate the second frame, getting a field goal, a rushing touchdown from Walker and a safety.
In the second half, Walker hooks up with Ventell Bryant for an 18-yard touchdown pass but otherwise its a field goal kicking contest. The most important of those is a 19-yarder with 46 seconds left in the game for the Owls, which makes Tshumbi Johnson’s touchdown reception on a desperation throw on the final play of the contest inconsequential.
Kiel racks up 351 yards, but is intercepted twice and only completes 19-of-40 pass attempts. Green rushes for 80 yards and the Bearcats lose despite out gaining the Owls 476-392.
Simulation 3: Temple 45 Cincinnati 27
Unfortunately, with the way both teams are playing, this might be the most accurate of the simulations. Jahad Thomas abuses UC’s defense to the tune of 143 yards and three touchdowns, while also hauling in a 49-yard touchdown pass along the way. Walker is also very efficient for the Owls, throwing for 251 yards and two touchdowns on 20-of-32 passing. Its a far cry from what Kiel does (17-of-34, 198 yards, TD, interception).
Simulation 4: Temple 34 Cincinnati 33
Good Lord! If these simulations are right the collective blood pressure of the cities of Cincinnati and Philadelphia will rise by a thousand whatever you measure blood pressure by. A field goal with 50 seconds remaining wins the game for Temple, erasing the lead UC earned with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Kiel to Kahlil Lewis. The loss spoils a noble comeback attempt from the Bearcats, who are down 21-10 at halftime but take a 27-21 lead early in the fourth after a touchdown run from Green and a scoring catch from DJ Dowdy in the third, as well as a 44-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Mike Boone erupts for 112 yards as the Bearcats rush for 210 yards. Kiel throws for 254 yards, completes a solid 20-of-34 pass attempts and has two touchdowns to one interception, although he is sacked three times.
Simulation 5: Temple 30 Cincinnati 20
Once again, a weak finish ruins UC’s day. Leading 20-17 entering the fourth quarter, the Bearcats allow two field goals and a 10-yard touchdown pass from Walker to Colin Thompson in the fourth quarter. Those scores push the Owls to a 10-point victory. The Bearcats loss comes because of a lack of success on the ground, as they have only 66 yards and average 1.7 yards per carry. Kiel does his best to throw the team to victory, amassing 351 yards and two touchdowns, but he is intercepted once and completes just over 50 percent of his pass attempts while being sacked four times.
These simulations do not paint a pretty picture for the Bearcats. Either they are beaten handily or suffer a heart-wrenching loss by only a point or two. Each of those outcomes is obviously not what a team that is trying to turn things around wants to suffer. Here’s hoping reality is
stranger more beneficial to UC than fiction.