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Simulating BYU at Cincinnati

BYU has been a tough out and already beat UC last year. Should we believe that evidence or the machines?

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at Brigham Young Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Its been a rough year for the BYU Cougars. While they are 4-4, that doesn’t speak to how competitive they have been. Their four losses have come by a combined eight points, including a 28-27 setback to nationally ranked Boise State last time out.

Don’t worry. We’re not going to shed any tears for the Cougars, considering the Bearcats essentially fell down and played dead against Temple last weekend. However, I’d bet the Cougars would love have known what was going to happen in every game because just one changed decision may have led to a few more victories.

That brings us rambling to this week’s simulation exercise, where we’ll toss UC and BYU in a virtual blender and see what comes out the other side in preparation for the real game between the two programs at Nippert Stadium this weekend.

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 Cougars. We can also adjust the weather, which calls for mostly sunny skies, temperatures in the low 60s and light winds on Saturday afternoon in Cincinnati according to AccuWeather.com. Here are the results of five simulations.

Cincinnati 30 BYU 19

Oh yeah! Let’s just stop right here and claim victory. Mike Boone breaks out and runs for 144 yards and two touchdowns, including the one that puts it on ice with just over a minute to play. Meanwhile, Tion Green adds a pair of scores of his own and DJ Dowdy leads the team with 73 receiving yards even as Gunner Kiel struggles (19-of-31, 260 yards, 2 INTs). Taysom Hill is inconsistent and completes less than 50 percent of his pass attempts, while BYU’s only touchdown comes on a 74-yard punt return.

Cincinnati 37 BYU 31

Its a come-from-behind victory for the Bearcats this time around. Nick Kurtz catches two touchdown passes in the first half and the Cougars hold a 21-7 lead late in the second quarter. However, a 56-yard touchdown run from Boone is sandwiched between touchdown passes to Tshumbi Johnson and Nate Cole during the final two minutes and allows UC to take a 28-21 lead into the break. After BYU ties things up early in the third quarter, UC grinds out a win on the back of three field goals, as Hill is intercepted on the Cougars’ final drive.

Kiel throws for 340 yards and two touchdowns, as well as one interception, while Boone finishes with 158 yards from scrimmage. Hill throws for 262 yards and runs for 60 more but is again erratic (23-of-42) and has as many touchdowns as interceptions, with two each.

BYU 38 Cincinnati 19

Unfortunately, this feels more in line with what’s coming. Boone is bottled up this time around, as the Bearcats finish with only 90 yards and average 2.3 yards per carry. On the other side, BYU racks up 198 yards and three scores on the ground, with Jamaal Williams accounting for 82 yards and two touchdowns. Kiel struggles and somehow reaches 233 yards despite completing only 21-of-44 pass attempts.

BYU 44 Cincinnati 33

Even though they take a 23-16 lead into the break, the Bearcats fall short, scoring only 10 points after the break while the Cougars go crazy with four touchdowns. Kiel throws two of his three interceptions in the second half, ruining an otherwise solid game (20-of-32, 328 yards, 2 TDs). The loss comes by no fault of the running game, as Boone (107 yards, TD) and Green (104 yards, TD) each have great outings. Nate Cole also records 103 yards and a score on four catches.

Hill dominates in leading the Cougars to a shootout victory. He throws for 255 yards and two scores on 18-of-27 passing and also rushes for 35 yards and a touchdown. Jamaal Williams has a fine game as well, rushing for 98 yards while adding 79 through the air.

Cincinnati 24 BYU 13

Its the defense that dictates this one. Tyrell Gilbert records one of four sacks on Hill and Linden Stephens snags a key interception in the red zone. Hill is rattled by the constant pressure and completes only 11-of-27 pass attempts for 172 yards. BYU is held to only 273 yards of total offense, far below the 490 from the Bearcats. The only reason UC doesn’t absolutely blow this one open is an 8-1 discrepancy in penalties.

Kiel plays his best contest of the bunch, throwing for 328 yards and two scores, as well as a pick, on 27-of-46 passing. Boone (65 yards) is somewhat effective, but not all together unstoppable.

As positive as these results may seem, there might be some issues with the wiring of our simulator, as BYU has beaten teams like Toledo this season and hung tough with West Virginia, Utah and Boise State. However, there is at least a glimmer of hope, even if by Saturday evening the facade of these Truman Show-ian results dissolve.