Every week is an important one during the college football season. That’s what everyone says. For the most part, its true. But we all know that there are some games that loom a little larger. This weekend’s showdown between the Cincinnati Bearcats and the UCF Knights is one such game.
In one corner stands UCF, which has won 22-straight games and is the toast of the American Athletic Conference. In the other corner stands Cincinnati, the upstart program that has surprised the world by going 9-1 through its first 10 games of the season. Both squads may have taken different routes to get here, but each has the same goal on Saturday: win the game and improve the chances of a conference championship game appearance.
As preparations for the game continue on the practice field, it makes sense for us as fans to prepare for what to expect. To do so, we’re going to run the old simulation machine once more.
As I will outline every week, here’s how this works. I will run five simulation sets using NCAAGameSim.com. The site has entirely updated rosters, so even though this is just an approximation, it’s a better one than year’s past. Now let’s get to the fake football.
Cincinnati 21 UCF 20
Our simulation set isn’t convinced that UCF is heads and shoulders above the Bearcats. Although the Knights win 90 of 122 total simulations, they only win by an average score of 27.7-18.9. That’s still a hefty spread, but much closer than their usual margin of victory.
In this particular simulation, the Bearcats stun the Knights and the college football world as a whole. They don’t do so with a last-second score. Instead, they build a 21-7 lead on 112 rushing yards from Michael Warren and another 76 from Desmond Ridder and hold on down the stretch. Forcing two McKenzie Milton interceptions seals the deal.
UCF 24 Cincinnati 13
Milton isn’t a likely culprit for why UCF would lose, and he is a major reason they win this simulation. With two touchdown passes and 255 yards through the air, the UCF signal caller takes home player of the game honors as UCF keeps on winning. Gabriel Davis helps Milton the most, turning six catches into 145 yards.
The Bearcats do their best to keep up with the Knights, as Warren surpasses 100 yards rushing and catches an 18-yard touchdown pass from Ridder. However, the passing game is grounded otherwise and the offense suffers because of it.
Cincinnati 38 UCF 24
I’m not sure we’re ready for this type of success, but the Bearcats would certainly take it. Defense leads to offense and that leads to victory in this one, as UC forces two interceptions to give itself short field position more than once. Ridder takes advantage, throwing three touchdown passes while connecting on nearly 70 percent of his passes. On the down side, Warren is held to 2.7 yards per carry and a season-low 49 yards, but Thomas Geddis comes out of hiding to turn in 57 yards and a touchdown on five catches.
UCF 44 Cincinnati 7
Here we encounter the nightmare scenario for the Bearcats. Losing won’t spell doom, but being completely eviscerated will shake confidence in what Luke Fickell has built this year. It will be difficult to avoid such a result if the defense lets Milton spread the ball around (18-for-29, 228 yards, three touchdowns) and allows 311 yards on the ground while the offense sputters to the tune of 296 total yards.
Cincinnati 16 UCF 9
So UC has won three of the five simulations. Why even bother playing the game now? Just give the Bearcats the win and move on.
In all seriousness, if the Bearcats hold UCF to nine points, they need to be immediately jettisoned into the College Football Playoff conversation since that kind of defense needs a national stage. It would also help if Ridder threw for 272 yards on 20-of-28 passing as he did in this particular fake football contest.
These simulations are cold and unfeeling, but they are actually providing a little comfort for Bearcat fans this week. Beating UCF on the road seems like an insurmountable task, but perhaps its not as difficult as we imagine. Or perhaps this is just a pointless weekly exercise. It could be that as well.