Ruling the Buckeye State: Cincinnati vs. Ohio State From WhatIfSports.com image

Ruling the Buckeye State: Cincinnati vs. OSU

Crunching the numbers to find the best team in Ohio
By Eric Schmoldt and Paul Bessire, WhatIfSports.com
November 16th, 2009

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We don't need a computer to determine Cincinnati's chances of making the Rose Bowl so we likely won't get to see the Bearcats and Ohio State Buckeyes square off this season. That won't stop us from seeing what would happen if they both found their way onto the same football field (or at least in our computers) to determine the best college football team in Ohio.

Thus, we take a look at what might happen in a 2009 Ohio Bowl.

Ohio State beat Iowa on Saturday to earn at least a share of the Big Ten title and a spot in the Rose Bowl. The Buckeyes are 9-2 with their only losses coming at home against USC and on the road at Purdue At the time, USC was considered one of if not the most talented team in the country and Purdue was just a bad loss to a bad team. Terrelle Pryor was hearing a lot of criticism and people were actually calling for Jim Tressel's head. However, now - behind that same Terrelle Pryor and coach Tressel - they've won four games in a row and are bowling in roses.

Pryor is Ohio State's leading passer and rusher, throwing for nearly 1,800 yards with 15 touchdowns and 9 interceptions and rushing for 633 yards and seven more scores. The Buckeyes rushing numbers per game look good, but they’re only averaging a run-of-the-mill 4.65 yards per carry. While their rushing attack may not be as good as its numbers, Ohio State's passing attack is probably a little probably better than some numbers show. The Buckeyes rank outside the top 100 in passing yards per game, but still average 7.37 yards per pass attempt.

But it's their defense that has really shouldered the load in leading the Buckeyes to another Big Ten title. There is nothing deceiving about the nation's fourth-ranked rushing defense, which is one of just 12 teams that is giving up less than three yards per carry. There are even fewer teams in the country that give up fewer yards per attempt than Ohio State. It's allowing just 5.41 yards per passing attempt. The Buckeyes may not look as strong as in past seasons where they have been included in BCS bowls, but make no joke, at 4.05 yards per play, their defense ranks amongst the best in the country.

But that defensive prowess will be stacked up against one of the nation's premier offensive teams. Cincinnati is 10-0 despite losing its starting quarterback and Heisman Trophy hopeful earlier this season. The Bearcats dominated the early part of the season, but have won their last two games by a combined three points and scored a season-low 24 points against West Virginia on Friday.

Whether Tony Pike or Zach Collaros has been at quarterback hasn't really mattered all that much. When it comes down to it, the Bearcats have one of the nation's top offensive attacks either way. Only Nevada is averaging more yards per play in the country than Cincinnati's 7.45 yards per play and the Bearcats are only losing that race by 0.01 yards per play. With two quarterbacks that have played nearly equal time and both played on Friday, we use the average numbers of both of them and a passing offense that ranks third in the nation at 9.33 yards per passing attempt. Lost in all of the Bearcats' passing accolades is its rushing offense. With Isaiah Pead and Jacob Ramsey carrying the ball, Cincinnati averages 5.37 yards per carry.

On defense, Cincinnati has been no slouch, either. Despite entering the year with ten new starters, the Bearcats rank right in the middle of the pack in terms of rushing yards allowed per game, but give up less than 3.5 yards per carry. Through the air, the Bearcats have allowed just eight touchdowns all year. They rank outside the top 40 in the country in passing yards per game as well, but they are only allowing 6.18 yards per pass attempt.

It's one of the nation's best offenses against one of the nation's stiffest defense. It's a run-of-the-mill offense against a run-of-the-mill defense. It's the battle for Ohio supremacy and arguably the nation's top offense wins out.

In 10,000 simulations between Ohio State and Cincinnati, the Bearcats win three-quarters of the time - 75.2% to be exact - and by an average final score of 30-23. With such a convincing victory, maybe the question shouldn't be which team is the best college team in Ohio, but which team (after the Bengals) is second best at any level in the state of Ohio (and if the Browns would finish fourth or worse in that debate).

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Eric Schmoldt is a writer and Paul Bessire is the Product Manager of Content and Quantitative Analysis for WhatIfSports.com, a division of FOX Sports Interactive specializing in NCAA Matchup analysis and college football sim games. With any comments, questions or topic suggestions, Paul and Eric can be reached at BtB@whatifsports.com. Thanks!

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