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What you need to know: BYU vs Cincinnati

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at Temple Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The History

The BYU Cougars and the Cincinnati Bearcats have only met once before, and that was in Lavell Edwards Stadium last year. The Bearcats play in the American Athletic Conference and have played football since 1885, amassing a 595-570-51 record. The visit by the Cougars on Saturday will be the first time the football team will have played in the state of Ohio.

Provo, UT 2015 (38-24)

A slow start didn’t stop the Cougars as Tanner Mangum led BYU to another fourth quarter win. Cincinnati scored the first 10 points of the game before BYU would trade a field goal for another Bearcat touchdown, going down 17-3 in the second quarter. BYU would then use an Algernon Brown rush to pull within seven at the half. BYU would tie the game after converting a fourth down that led to Mangum finding Nick Kurtz for the tying touchdown. The Bearcats would take the lead back in the third quarter, but that is when BYU would take care of business in the fourth. Brown would get into the action again as he again scored on a run and tied the game. Mangum would once again find Kurtz, this time on a 53 yard pass, for the lead at 31-24. Francis Bernard put the icing on the cake when he scored from 11 yards out for the 38-24 win.

The Outlook

Based on the score of the Boise State game the Cougars looked to have played well. Unfortunately it was more that the Broncos turned the ball over and gave up defensive points. The offense scored a measly 13 points while the defense put 14 on the board. Even though the defense did their part on the scoreboard, they still gave up almost 600 yards of offense, even while causing five turnovers. The Cougars need to play much better in all areas of the game if they want to finish out strong, and this week will go a long way in telling us where they stand.

The Positives

Although the Cougars defense gave up 571 yards, 442 through the air, the five forced turnovers and two defensive touchdowns kept the game close. The pick sixes went for 50 and 59 yards, giving BYU a chance to take the lead. Without the defense making plays when they did, the game could have been a one-sided affair that would have been over early.

The Negatives

There are a number of candidates for this area of the game as specials teams had their struggles, the coaches caused some heartburn moments, and the offense never really got off the ground. Without Jamaal Williams the Cougars had to rely on 41 passes from Taysom Hill, which is never a recipe for success. Squally Canada did a good job in his first start but he didn’t quite put the fear into the defense that Williams would have. Dropped passes, inaccurate throws, and bad decisions marred the offense, and the inability to score lost the Cougars the game. BYU received the ball twice inside the Broncos 30 yard line, and came out with three points. This can’t happen if the Cougars want to win, and this point was proven in Boise.

The Match-ups

The Cougars offensive line vs the Bearcats defensive line. In order for the Cougars to win the game the BYU line needs to open holes for the Cougar running backs. The offense struggles when Hill has to win with his arm and so the line needs to make their presence known as they push the defense away from the ball.

The Keys to Watch

When the Bearcats have the ball:

Watch for the Bearcats to rally behind their senior quarterback who recently won his job back. Gunner Kiel has started the last two games after being benched for the first six. He has had mixed reviews in the two games since he started again, but he is the quarterback the team wants to lead them. He has struggled a little with his accuracy, as he is only completing 52% of his passes, but he has six touchdowns to zero interceptions. He has a good group of receivers to help him out as Devin Gray, Kahil Lewis, and Nate Cole each have over 400 yards receiving and at least three touchdowns. From the backfield the Bearcats will rely on Tion Green and Mike Boone to keep the defense honest as they both have over a hundred carries, although Green has a hundred more rushing yards.

Watch for the Cougars to pressure Kiel as they try and make him pass the ball quicker than he would like. If successful, the Cougars will create even more inaccurate throws which could lead to a few turnovers in the secondary. Watch for the Cougars to limit the rushing game in order to make the Bearcats offense one dimensional, forcing Kiel to win the game through the air.

When the Cougars have the ball:

Watch for the running game to be a priority with, or without, Williams. The Cougars need the run to set up the pass and to take pressure of Hill. When the run game is on point the defense can’t just sit back and cause havoc in the secondary. Watch for Hill to take part in the run game as the offense attempts to spread out the defense. With the defense on their heels the receivers and tight ends can gain some separation, giving themselves a chance at the big play.

Watch for the Bearcats to stack the box in order to stop the run as they force Hill to use his arm. Until Hill can be consistent through the air, the defenses won’t respect it and will do everything they can in order to stop the run game. Watch for the secondary to play tight, but man, defense in order to free up the rest of the team for run defense. Watch for the Bearcats to use these extra players not only to stop the run, but to pressure Hill and force bad decisions. The defense will try to bring more players at Hill and Williams than the offensive line can block, looking to make it another long night for the offense.

Interesting Tidbit

The Cincinnati football program is the fifth oldest football program in college football. According to the Bearcats first fielded a team in 1885, only 16 years after the first football team was created by Rutgers. Being around this long also leads to Cincinnati and the University of Miami (OH) playing the eighth oldest rivalry, it started in 1888, and is the 11th longest running rivalry in Division I football.

Next Meeting

There is no future meetings scheduled at this time.

The Broadcasting Details

Time: 1:30 pm MT

Where: Nippert Stadium-Cincinnati, Ohio

TV: CBS Sports Network

Radio(BYU): KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYU Radio-Sirius XM 143

Listen Live via Internet(KSL): Click Here