A shot at a Top 25 opponent sure is an alluring thing to think about. The Cincinnati Bearcats will get such a chance this weekend against the No. 25 UCF Knights under the lights at Nippert Stadium. UCF is really good, obviously, so it might be time to temper expectations, especially after Marshall threw its way to an easy victory in the same sort of environment the Knights will face.
We’ll have coverage the rest of the week to get you ready for an upset (hopefully), but getting a feel for what to expect can certainly be helpful. And what better way than the weekly tradition like none other, where we push two teams together virtually and tell them to play ball so we can decide what’s going to happen before it even does.
Before we get started, here is the disclaimer. The simulation site used (WhatIfSports.com) has not updated to include 2017 football rosters. However, with some slight tweaks, we can at least form a facsimile of the makeup of the Bearcats and the Knights. We can also adjust the weather, which calls for clear skies and temperatures in the low 70s on Saturday night in Cincinnati according to AccuWeather.com. Here are the results of five simulations.
Cincinnati 28 UCF 14
This seems far too clean and simple but I don’t get to decide what the computer spits out. The big-play offense is on full display for the Bearcats, with Hayden Moore throwing for 202 yards and three touchdowns on only 13 completions. Mike Boone is the star, tallying 68 yards on the ground and 33 yards and a score through the air. Perhaps even more impressively, Moore leads a fourth quarter charge to win it, throwing touchdowns to Devin Gray and Boone in the final frame to break a 14-14 tie. On defense, the Bearcats finally get the pass rush they’ve been dreaming of, with four sacks of McKenzie Milton.
Cincinnati 27 UCF 16
I didn’t alter the algorithm for these simulations at all. I promise. UC figures out the run game, with 182 yards on the ground and three touchdowns from running backs. Boone racks up 111 yards, Gerrid Doaks has 40 and Michael Warren adds 30. The win comes despite another terrible game from Moore, who completes only 18-of-41 passes and is intercepted twice. However, UC’s defense stands up strong, with the team doubling UCF’s output in first downs (26-13) even though Tre’Quan Smith goes off for 129 yards and a touchdown on only four catches.
UCF 26 Cincinnati 19
Failure in the red zone hurts the heck out of UC, with the team settling for five Josh Pasley field goal attempts. Luckily, he makes four of them to keep it close, but UCF answers with a bunch of field goals as well, including two in the final two minutes to escape with the victory. UC can’t run much (2.9 yards per carry), but has a bounce back game in pass defense, allowing only 198 yards through the air. However, all that doesn’t matter because Moore can’t avoid throwing to the other team, wasting a 361-yard passing game with three interceptions even with Kahlil Lewis erupting for 127 yards on five receptions.
Cincinnati 31 UCF 17
Who knew a simulation system could sleep on a team? That’s what we have here, as UCF is given no respect, especially by Pasley who kicks six (!) field goals to propel the Bearcats to victory. With diminishing confidence in Moore seeping through the coaching staff, UC runs the ball over and over again to great success. Doaks escapes for 113 yards on only seven carries and Boone manages 78 yards on 20 attempts, while Warren scores one of only two offensive touchdowns for the Bearcats. Lewis has the other, scoring on a 43-yard reception. Milton is hampered by the UC pass rush, taking four sacks while throwing two interceptions, as the Bearcats rip the Knights up with strong defense.
Cincinnati 29 UCF 13
A quick start spells doom for the Knights, with Moore throwing 25-yard and 30-yard touchdown passes to Lewis and Jerron Rollins, respectively, early in the first half. Moore only completes 14 passes in the game, finishing with 209 yards and another interception, but Milton melts down and is picked off four times while completing only 16-of-34 pass attempts. In a fun twist, Cortez Broughton catches one of those interceptions near the line of scrimmage and rumbles and bumbles his way for a 10-yard return.
Hmm. Four wins for UC and one win for UCF. I think I might need to recalibrate this thing or else the Bearcats are kryptonite to the Knights.