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Simulating Cincinnati vs. East Carolina

It’s rivalry week in college football so the Bearcats are naturally playing the East Carolina Pirates.

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at East Carolina
Nov 18, 2017; Greenville, NC, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats running back Michael Warren II (3) runs with the ball during the forth quarter against the East Carolina Pirates at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The East Carolina Pirates defeated the Cincinnati Bearcats 42-20. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

This is a week for great rivalries. Michigan/Ohio State. Auburn/Alabama. Washington/Washington State. UCF/USF. Notre Dame/USC. The list goes on.

This is also a week where teams without clear cut in-division rivalries have to play football. That’s why the Cincinnati Bearcats, fresh of a rather harrowing loss in their biggest game of the season, will follow up their Thanksgiving celebration with a visit from the East Carolina Pirates.

In the sea of great rivalry games, not to mention a super helping of college basketball, the Bearcats and Pirates may get lost in the shuffle. To be prepared in case you aren’t able to see the actual game, let’s run our weekly simulation exercise so you can have an idea of what’s to come.

As I will outline every week, here’s how this works. I will run five simulation sets using 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.

East Carolina 21 Cincinnati 19

If you think this is an anomaly, you’re about to be disappointed. According to the numbers, this is going to be a very close game, with our simulation set predicting a final score of 19.7 to 17.6. The overall prediction is for a UC win, but the Pirates took this particular simulation.

If this outcome is what happens on Friday, it will be a banner day for bad quarterback play. ECU’s Holton Ahlers may throw for 223 yards and two touchdowns, but he is also intercepted four times. UC’s Desmond Ridder has fewer picks (one) and fewer touchdowns passes (one) and completes seven fewer passes (22 vs. 15). The Pirates match their pass defense with solid work against the run, holding Michael Warren to only 57 yards on 21 carries.

Despite their offensive struggles, the Bearcats actually hold a 19-14 lead late in the game, but a one-yard touchdown run from Hussein Howe completes the ECU comeback.

Cincinnati 21 East Carolina 13

Ahlers’ struggles with throwing the ball to non-Bearcats rears its head again. The ECU quarterback is picked off three times, which is enough for a pedestrian offensive performance from the Bearcats to carry the day. Ridder throws for 175 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions, on 18-of-30 passing, while adding 46 yards and a score on the ground. Jayshon Jackson sets up one of those scores with a 56-yard reception and Warren tallies a business-like 78 yards on 19 attempts.

Cincinnati 24 East Carolina 10

Everything comes together for the Bearcats in this one. The defense limits Ahlers to 17 completions and 226 yards passing while picking him off once. Meanwhile, the offense gets great games from Ridder (20-of-26, 176 yards, two touchdowns, 50 rushing yards), Warren (124 all-purpose yards and two total touchdowns) and (a hopefully healthy) Kahlil Lewis (nine receptions, 73 yards).

Cincinnati 17 East Carolina 7

Based on everything we’re seeing in these simulations, its pretty clear that Ahlers is primed to throw at least one interception. He is guilty of two in this one, a game in which UC’s defense dominates en route to allowing 273 total yards, including a measly 95 on the ground. Unfortunately, the Bearcats don’t look that great on offense themselves, with Ridder throwing two picks of his own while Warren rushes for only 69 yards. Ridder mitigates his two turnovers with two rushing touchdowns and Rashad Medaris makes a few big plays on his way to 82 yards receiving.

Cincinnati 28 East Carolina 20

This is the most offensively competitive game of the five simulations, but the Bearcats still pick Ahlers off three times. That doesn’t stop Trevon Brown from scorching the UC secondary for 118 yards on six receptions, but it does ultimately prove the difference. Ridder counters Ahlers’ with an efficient passing day, completing 21-of-32 passes for 273 yards and a touchdown. Lewis (six receptions, 94 yards) and Medaris (three receptions, 60 yards, touchdown) are the best receivers on the day and Warren tacks on two touchdowns and 96 yards to his stellar campaign.

There are a few things I don’t really agree with on these simulations, particularly in terms of scoring. The Bearcats may have been stymied against UCF, but they are still scoring 33 points a game. The Pirates can also put points on the board (26.4 PPG). It seems unlikely we’ll get a low-scoring affair, but we’ll have to wait and see.