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BYU Cougars vs. Cincinnati Bearcats Preview and Prediction

Taysom Hill

Taysom Hill

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A pair of 4-4 football teams looking to become one step closer to bowl eligibility highlights Saturday’s game between BYU and Cincinnati.

Last month both of these programs were hoping to hear they were going to be invited into the Big 12 as full members, but that obviously didn’t happen with the conference deciding to stand pat at their current model of 10 teams with no divisions.

This is the second game of a home-and-home series between the two schools. Last season, BYU won at home after scoring 21 unanswered points to come away victorious over the Bearcats.

BYU at Cincinnati

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 5 at 3:30 pm ET

TV Channel: CBS Sports Network

Spread: BYU -7.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Cincinnati QB Gunner Kiel
Any fan of college football is aware of the name Gunner Kiel. Kiel has been around college football for a while now after once being the No. 1 overall recruit in the country coming out of high school in Columbus, Ind.

Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville has shuffled the quarterback position quite a bit the past few seasons between Hayden Moore and Kiel, but Kiel has regained the job since an impressive performance at home against East Carolina.

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What can we expect from Kiel this week as the Bearcats are back at home after a disappointing loss in American Athletic Conference (AAC) play against Temple?

2. Who wins the turnover battle?
Both BYU and Cincinnati have had a lot of success this season creating takeaways against their opponents. BYU is currently second in the country for the most takeaways with 21 while the Bearcats are tied for fourth with 19. Will this trend continue on Saturday or will one team gain the upper hand in the turnover department?

3. Not all 4-4 records are created equal
BYU has played one of the toughest schedules in the country through its first eight games. Three of the teams that BYU has played are currently in the College Football Playoff rankings and the Cougars four losses have come by a total of eight points.

Cincinnati has the same 4-4 record but has only played one Power Five team and that was Purdue, a game in which the Bearcats won 38-20 on the road. Cincinnati looked good in the first half against then-No. 6 Houston in week three, but ultimately ended getting blown out in the final 30 minutes. According to the Sagarin ratings, the Bearcats have played the 81st toughest schedule, while BYU has played the 17th toughest.

Final Analysis

Going into the season this looked to be a game that would be evenly matched with both teams bringing on new offensive and defensive coordinators but BYU has looked more impressive to this point of the season and the Cougars have faced a much tougher schedule in the process.

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Cincinnati could get a big boost on the defensive side of the ball if safety Mike Tyson is able to play after suffering an injury versus East Carolina two weeks ago. The Bearcat defense will have a tall order in front of it facing BYU quarterback Taysom Hill, who Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville said earlier in the week is the best quarterback his team will see this season. Also, BYU running back Jamaal Williams is healthy again after suffering an ankle injury late in the game against Mississippi State, causing him to miss the following game against Boise State. He’s now ready to roll again after the bye week.

Offensively for the Bearcats, they’ve hurt their season by not starting Gunner Kiel out of the gates. Had Kiel played all season, the Bearcats might be a contender in the AAC right now, but that isn’t the case. The offense has sputtered and it’s hard to expect a different result against a BYU defense that has been solid this season, particularly against the run.

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake is still looking for the “perfect game” from his Cougar squad, and this is a great opportunity for that to happen against a team that BYU has the edge over at basically every position on the field.

Prediction: BYU 34, Cincinnati 17

— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is publisher of Rivals' BYU site, CougarNation.com, and also is the BYU reporter and insider for 1320 KFAN and co-host of "The Cougar Center" podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.