BYU Cougars Football: Cincinnati Simulation

BYU vs Cincinatti

By: David Strong

BYU vs East Carolina Review

Last Saturday the BYU Cougars once again won a close contest, thanks to yet another Tanner Mangum lead drive that ended in a touch down in the closing seconds of the game.

And once again, my BYU computer simulation program (which from here on out I shall call the Gorum Algorithm) did a pretty good job of predicting the outcome of the game.

In this article the Gorum Algorithm predicted that BYU would beat East Carolina University (ECU) by a score of 30-22, that BYU’s passing game was not going to find much resistance against the Pirate secondary, and that in order for ECU to win the game they would most likely have to completely shut down the Cougar run game.

While the final score of 45-38 was higher that the algorithm predicted, the margin of victory was almost identical.

As predicted, the ECU defense was unable to figure out a way to stop Tanner Mangum and the Cougar passing attack (other than trying to make Mangum slide and pull a hamstring).  Mangum completed 73% of his passes for 332 yards, 3 TDs, and 0 INTs in just 3 quarters worth of work.

As for the Pirates run defense vs the Cougar’s rushing attack, ECU had stymied BYU’s efforts near the line of scrimmage for most of the game.  Unfortunately for them, they could not keep it up in the closing minutes of the contest.

They had their chance.  ECU had scored 17 unanswered points in the 4th quarter to tie the game up at 38 apiece.  BYU had to drive the length of the field with an injured QB and a run game that with the exception of one successful draw play was averaging only 2 yards per carry.  Based on BYU’s complete inability to stop ECU QB Blake Kemp from moving the ball up and down the field, an ECU defensive stop would likely have resulted in Pirate victory.

They couldn’t do it.  During the first 56 minutes of the contest, BYU running backs ran the ball for 5+ yards only six times.   BYU ran the ball six times on that final drive.    Every time single time they ran for at least 5 yards.  The result was a clock eating drive that put BYU up by a TD with 19 second remaining in the game and sent East Carolina home with their third loss of the season.


BYU vs Cincinnati prediction

In the 1000 simulated games the Gorum Algorithm ran between these two teams, BYU won 75% of the match-ups by an average score of 42-34.

In each of the 1000 simulations BYU’s Passing game was very successful, and Cincinnati’s rushing attack struggled.  Those were the 2 constants.

The two match-ups that showed enough variation in the simulated games to qualify as “key match-ups” were the Cincinnati passing offense vs the BYU passing defense, and the BYU rushing attack vs the Cincinnati run defense.  In the simulated games in which the Cincinnati Bearcat won, their offense either put up an insane amount of passing yards and/or their defense was able to slow (though not stop) the Cougar run game.

According to the Gorum Algorithm, BYU doesn’t need to stop, or even significantly slow down Cincinnati’s passing offense to win.  Why?  2 reasons.  1) The Cougars are going to score points.  The fewest BYU scored in any of the simulations was 37 points.  2) The Bearcats will have trouble moving the ball on the ground.  If BYU can make a handful of stops and force a couple turnovers it will probably be enough to come away with the victory, even if Cincinnati throws for 400 yards.

The other thing the algorithm tells us to watch for is how well and for how long the Bearcats defense can limit the Cougar rushing attack.  Unlike East Carolina, Cincinnati does not have to completely shut down the Cougar run game to win.  If they can just slow it down, their offense can be good enough to make up the difference.  This is a good thing for the Bearcats because Cincinnati’s defense was never able to do anything more than that against the BYU offense in any of the simulations.

So in summary, as long as BYU doesn’t give up a ridiculous amount of passing yards and gets a decent run game going they should be in pretty good shape.  BYU 42 Cincinnati 34.

Go Cougars!


About the author

Grant Bagby

Since moving to Utah in 2005, I have changed from following all sports in D.C/Virginia to following all sports in Utah. I am a Chicago Bulls fan first (Born and raised by my father), but I am also a hardcore Jazz fan with 7 years of being a season ticket holder under my belt. I started TornBySports to write about the BYU/Utah Rivalry after Max Hall ran his mouth.

  • Ryan

    I never comment on things like this, but I love these simulations! I know that it can only be so accurate, but I find it so interesting how much statistics can show you regarding a football game that hasn’t happened yet. Keep them coming!

  • Clark

    In 1000 simulations BYU never scored fewer than 37 points? Doesn’t that seem suspicious. In 1000 games, there ought to be at least a few in which BYU suffers multiple significant injuries, or Mangum throws 4 picks (or Hoge throws even more), or Cincinnati has a monster defensive game, or there is a massive rain/snow storm, or BYU loses 4 fumbles, or . . . There has got to be at least a 0.1% chance (1 in 1000) that BYU has an absolute horrible game (I remember a very tragic one that ended 54-10 a few years back where absolutely everything went wrong.) But there’s also got to be a reasonable chance (I’d estimate 5% or more) that BYU has a reasonable offensive outing, gets a multiple touchdown lead, tries to burn some clock in the second half and ends up with a 35-24 victory.

    On a more general note, any simulation running hundreds or thousands of possibilities ought to be finding some that seem to be unlikely outliers. Upsets happen, and crazy blowouts happen, too. I just wish they happened in our favor a little more often.

    • David Strong

      When I created the Algorithm, my #1 goal was trying to project how BYU would perform during the 2015 season. The Simulator is just a tool to help project the most probable outcome of BYU’s games based on the data available. It’s simulations don’t project all possible scenarios, just the most likely ones based on the teams past performances.
      In that respect it has worked very well. It has not only predicted the victor correctly in 6/7 games, but has predicted margin of victory has correctly (within on TD at least) in 6/7 as well.
      As for the upset crazy blow outs, I always look back at BYU’s 59-0 annihilation of UCLA and smile. 🙂