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Simulating Cincinnati at Michigan

How high can computers count?

Austin Peay v Cincinnati Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines are a good football team. The Cincinnati Bearcats probably aren’t, at least based on how they played in their season opener. Those two facts are known to people but what about to machines? That’s right. It’s time to enter some names into a computer program and decide who will win between Cincinnati and this week’s opponent, Michigan.

The Wolverines just got finished dousing then No. 17 Florida Gators 33-17 on the road and now they return to the Big House. Jim Harbaugh, who is cagey as ever, will be coaching against a former Ohio State rival in Luke Fickell, giving him an early season appetizer for the biggest game of the Michigan season against the Buckeyes.

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 Wolverines. We can also adjust the weather, which calls for partly sunny skies, temperatures in the mid 60s and light winds on Saturday afternoon in Ann Arbor according to AccuWeather.com. Here are the results of five simulations.

Michigan 52 Cincinnati 6

This is what we call a worst-case scenario. The unfortunate thing is it might also be the most likely scenario. If UC had trouble handling Austin Peay, Michigan is going to present all sorts of problems.

Michigan literally runs away with this one, scoring five touchdowns on the ground while rushing for 319 yards. Hayden Moore is hammered by the Wolverine defense and makes a ton of terrible throws, throwing three interceptions and completing just 16-of-32 pass attempts for 174 yards.

Michigan 41 Cincinnati 13

Better?

The Bearcats actually keep it close and enter the intermission tied at 6-6. The wheels come off in the final three quarters as Wilton Speight throws three touchdown passes and Ty Isaac rushed for 87 yards and another score. Meanwhile, Moore once against struggles to complete passes, at least to his own teammates, going 15-for-30 for 217 yards while being picked off twice.

Michigan 32 Cincinnati 16

In this one, Michigan runs out to a 29-6 lead by the end of the third quarter and just holds the Bearcats off like an older brother handling a charging sibling. Chris Evans stars for the Wolverines, rushing for 137 yards and a touchdown as Michigan once again batters UC on the ground. Devin Gray makes an impression as the Bearcats try to throw their way back into the game, catching five passes for 111 yards. He helps Moore have a respectable day (19-of-30, 283 yards, one interception) but it isn’t even close to enough.

Michigan 47 Cincinnati 16

Moore doesn’t throw an interception, but he’s sacked five times and completes just below 50 percent of his pass attempts. Kahlil Lewis has a nice game (four receptions, 76 yards), but the Wolverines just hammer the ball on the ground, gaining 311 rushing yards compared to 115 from UC. And, to add insult to injury, the Wolverines kick a 42-yard field goal as time expires to really rub it in.

Michigan 45 Cincinnati 7

Moore throws a 16-yard touchdown pass midway through the first quarter as the Bearcats take a 7-0 lead! Then they never score again while Speight throws for 261 yards and two touchdowns and Isaac piles up 87 yards and two scores on the ground. UC does nearly match Michigan in first downs (26-22), but loses three fumbles and goes just 4-for-19 on third down.


So what have we learned? Saturday is going to be a long day.