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Simulating Cincinnati at UConn

By the power of technology, we can approximate what will happen on Saturday. Welcome to the Matrix.

NCAA Football: Connecticut at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Since 2001, Cincinnati has played the UConn Huskies 12 times and beaten them 10 times by an average score of 33-22, approximately. That includes a 37-13 victory last fall, which was the fifth-straight win for the Bearcats in the series.

So, based on all that, its easy to think that UC will win on Saturday. The Bearcats are two (or three depending on when you place your bet) point favorites in the contest according to most Vegas sports books, so clearly that is the way people are thinking.

But what do we all really know? Nothing. We know nothing, Jon Snow. But we also want to know something. We want to know who is going to win before it happens, even if knowing would take away the fun of watching. In search of that ever elusive knowledge, we turned to a sports simulation program to give us some indication of what will happen on Friday.

Before we get started, it should be noted that 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 Huskies. (Note: Gunner Kiel was used as the quarterback in the simulation since Hayden Moore is still not a lock to play and Ross Trail was not active last season). We can also adjust the weather, which calls for highs in the low 70s, partly cloudy skies, a 50 percent chance of showers and winds from five to 10 miles per hour on Saturday in Hartford according to Weather.com. Here are the results of five simulations.

Simulation 1: UConn 37, Cincinnati 22

Not off to the best start. The Huskies take a 27-7 lead at halftime behind the passing magic of Bryant Shirreffs, who throws three touchdown passes in the first half, including a 71-yard strike to Tyraiq Beals early in the first quarter. The Bearcats eventually fall behind 37-7 and then get some garbage time scoring in the final frame.

Gunner Kiel throws for only 175 yards and is picked off three times, while Mike Boone rushes for 83 yards and a touchdown. Shireffs has the game of his life, going 19-for-26 with 292 yards and four scores. Arkeel Newsome also pounds out 151 yards on the ground and Beals turns four receptions into 113 yards and two touchdowns.

Simulation 2: Cincinnati 45, UConn 24

Now that’s more like it. Mike Boone tears the UConn front seven apart, racking up 121 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, while also leading the team with 67 receiving yards. After the Huskies go up 7-0 in the first quarter on a 26-yard touchdown run from Newsome, the Bearcats rip off 20 unanswered points to take a 20-7 lead at the half.

In the third quarter, the teams trade scores, but the Bearcats break the doors down in the fourth, turning a 27-21 lead into a 45-24 victory, punctuated by a 24-yard interception return for a touchdown by Eric Wilson in the final minute.

Simulation 3: UConn 23, Cincinnati 14

A game featuring much less offensive firepower goes the Huskies’ way despite another strong outing from Mike Boone (120 yards and two touchdowns on 14 attempts). Newsome only gets 82 yards on 26 carries, but finds his way into the end zone three times. Kiel plays an extremely uneven game, completing just 15-of-30 pass attempts, while being picked off twice. UConn never turns the ball over, dominates the time of possession (35:47 to 24:13) and gets five sacks from its defense.

Simulation 4: Cincinnati 21, UConn 13

UConn controls the first three quarters and clings to a 13-7 lead heading into the last stanza. But the Bearcats find a way, getting a 29-yard touchdown run from Tion Green early in the fourth before Boone rattles off a 33-yard score with 1:24 to play. Green is the leading rusher for the Bearcats, finishing with 76 yards and DJ Dowdy turns in a three-catch, 64-yard effort which includes a touchdown. Once again, Kiel turns the ball over too many times (three interceptions) while Shirreffs tallies 297 yards and a touchdown to match an interception (from Tyrell Gilbert) on 18-of-27 passing. Shirreffs is forced to throw thanks to strong play from UC’s run defense, which allows only 62 yards on 26 carries (1.3 YPC).

Simulation 5: Cincinnati 19, UConn 14

Kahlil Lewis hauls in a four-yard touchdown pass in the first 10 seconds of the second quarter but neither team really finds much offensive success outside of that, with the next touchdown coming late in the third quarter on a three-yard run from Newsome. Thanks to a pair of field goals before it, Newsome’s score only cuts into the Bearcats’ lead (13-7). Green puts the last points on the board for UC early in the fourth on a four-yard run but the two-point conversion attempt fails. UConn manages to score again, but never pulls ahead, allowing UC to escape with a victory.

Kiel finally has a game without an interception (18-of-32, 243 yards, TD) and Boone leads the team in rushing (53 yards on 13 carries).

So, what did we learn? If we take the simulations at face value, then UC has the edge in this one, albeit a slight one. However, we’ll have to wait until Saturday to watch everything play out in reality.