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Cincinnati Bearcats vs. BYU Cougars Game Preview and Prediction

Bronson Kaufusi

Bronson Kaufusi

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Cougars and Bearcats, oh my! The Friday night lights feels like a perfect setting for a BYU-Cincinnati matchup that looks destined to be a high-scoring affair between two teams that are riding a wave of momentum after big wins.

Cincinnati (3-2) defeated the Miami Hurricanes two weeks ago at home in Nippert Stadium, while BYU (4-2) came away with a late-game victory over East Carolina last week.

This is the first time that BYU and Cincinnati have ever played against each other. For Cincinnati, this is the first time in 18 years that they will have played a game in the Mountain Time zone. The last time the Bearcats played in the Mountain Time zone was against Utah State in the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho. Yeah, it’s been awhile.

Both teams have played difficult schedules to this point of the season, so we should have a great game between two teams that are very confident, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

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Cincinnati at BYU

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Friday)

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: BYU -6.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Quarterback situation for both teams

Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville has a difficult decision on his hands this week with the quarterback position. Gunner Kiel suffered a scary neck injury three weeks ago against Memphis. Kiel had started 17 consecutive games for the Bearcats at quarterback until being sidelined. The former No. 1 high school recruit and Notre Dame QB had already thrown for 868 yards this season.

Kiel returns this week but isn’t a lock to be the starter. In practice, Tuberville had Kiel compete against Hayden Moore, who came in for Kiel at Memphis and started against Miami.

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Moore threw for a school-record 557 yards off the bench against Memphis and led the Bearcats to a big win over Miami at home two weeks ago. It’s led to a debate, does Tuberville ride the hot hand in Moore, or go with Kiel who has more experience, and has been the team’s clear-cut starter?

My thought is that Tuberville will ride the hot hand with Moore. The fact that Tubs made it a competition during practice this week leads me to believe that Moore is going to have the edge over Kiel.

For BYU, the Cougars suffered an injury scare last week against East Carolina. Tanner Mangum went out of the game for three offensive drives due to a hamstring injury. With Mangum out, ECU was able to tie the game at 38 all before the true freshman returned and led BYU on another game-winning drive.

Mangum’s status is listed as probable right now, which is a good sign for BYU. Mangum participated in practice this week, so I’d expect that he plays, but a hamstring injury is a delicate thing. It helps that Mangum isn’t a quarterback that is running out of the pocket very often.

2. Does BYU go 3-0 versus the American Athletic Conference?

This is the third game in a three-game stretch between BYU and American Athletic Conference (AAC) teams. The first two came in wins against UConn and East Carolina.

Expect more scheduling agreements in the future between BYU and the AAC teams. Back in 2014, American commissioner, Mike Aresco, said the Cougars and his conference have a “quasi-alliance” where they help to bolster each other’s strength of schedule.

Both BYU and Cincinnati carry themselves like Power 5 programs, so scheduling matchups like this are good for both college football and the fans.

3. Cincinnati OT Parker Ehinger vs. BYU DE Bronson Kaufusi

A pair of two possible NFL Draft picks next spring will square off when Cincinnati’s offense takes the field versus BYU’s defense. Bearcat offensive tackle Parker Ehinger against BYU defensive end Bronson Kaufusi should give us many competitive 1-on-1 battles.

Both players have been starters since they were freshmen for their respective schools. Kaufusi has been playing his best football since that freshman season when he was paired up with current Detroit Lion Ziggy Ansah. The offseason conditioning program with new BYU strength coach Frank Wintrich has made a noticeable difference in Kaufusi. Because of the improvement in Kaufusi, head coach Bronco Mendenhall said at the beginning of the season that the senior was BYU’s best pass rusher.

Final Analysis

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This should be a fun football game between two teams that are coming off big wins. Similar to BYU’s game against East Carolina, I’d expect another high-scoring affair, as the Bearcats not only can air it out, but they also average over 200 yards on the ground.

BYU has been a resilient football team, producing three wins on game-winning drives this season. Don’t be surprised if BYU has some more magic up its sleeves with another late-game victory. Instead of a Hail Mary, I’m looking at BYU producing a field goal to come away with the win.

Prediction: BYU 40, Cincinnati 37

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