An Interesting Battle In Birmingham
When Boston College and Cincinnati kick off on Thursday it shapes up as an intriguing contest. On one hand, the Bearcats hoped for a better bowl destination but are playing in Birmingham. The Eagles are fortunate to play in a bowl. However, they are without their head coach and a couple of key players. Let’s look at both sides and pick a winner with our 2020 Birmingham Bowl preview. First some history of the game and a look at the sponsor.
A Historic Location
The Birmingham Bowl began in 2006 as the Papa John’s Bowl. Like most bowls it’s had several sponsors over the years. From 2011-2014 it was the BBVA Compass Bowl. This year’s game is brought to you by TicketSmarter, which as the name suggests is a ticket resale company.
TicketSmarter gives one dollar from every ticket sold to St. Jude’s Hospital, who of course helps fight childhood cancer. In addition they are the official ticket resale partner of the Rose Bowl.
The game is held at historic Legion Field in Birmingham, which for many years hosted the Iron Bowl battle between Alabama and Auburn. In addition it hosted the first two SEC Championship games in 1992 and 1993. Normally the contest features a battle between the American Conference and the SEC. However this year there weren’t enough bowl eligible SEC teams so Boston College got the bid.
Now that we’ve given you the history of the game let’s look at the teams starting with Cincinnati.
Scouting The Bearcats
Under coach Luke Fickell Cincinnati comes into the Birmingham Bowl with a 10-3 record. However, their only losses came to Ohio State and Memphis twice all on the road. The combined record of the schools which beat them was 25-3. In fact had Cincinnati been able to beat Memphis they likely would have played Penn State in the Cotton Bowl.
The Bearcat offense is headed by quarterback Desmond Ridder. On the season the sophomore threw for 2069 yards and 17 touchdowns. However he threw nine interceptions. He’s also a threat on the ground gaining 545 yards and scoring twice. His best game came against Marshall where he passed for 281 yards and four touchdowns.
Lining up behind Ridder is running back Michael Warren II who ran for 1,160 yards and 14 touchdowns. That ranked him fourth in the American conference in 2019. When Ridder throws the ball his favorite targets are Josiah Deguara and Alec Pierce. Between the two they accounted for 70 receptions, 1,113 yards and nine touchdowns.
Continuing on with our 2020 Birmingham Bowl preview let’s now look at the Eagles.
Missing Some Important Players
It’s certainly been an interesting year for the Eagles. They finished the regular season 6-6 and fired head coach Steve Addazio, who went 44-44 in seven years. Current wide receivers coach and former standout Rich Gunnell is coaching the team in the Birmingham Bowl. The Eagles already have their new coach in former Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley.
The new journey now begins.
To the BC community, I'm now in and once again I ask all of you to #GetIn. Let's all do this together through Toughness, Love and by competing daily! I am humbled and proud to be your new head coach.#WeAreBC🦅
— Jeff Hafley (@CoachJeffHafley) December 29, 2019
In addition to having a new coach on the sidelines Boston College is also missing two of it’s top offensive stars. Running back A.J. Dillon will not play in the game as he prepares for the NFL Draft. The ACC’s leading rusher had 1,685 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2019 as a junior. In is place is sophomore David Bailey, who ran for 811 yards this season.
Dennis Grosel is going to be under center for the Eagles in the bowl game. This due to a season ending knee injury suffered by starting quarterback Anthony Brown. In addition Brown announced he’s entering the transfer portal. Playing in 10 games Grosel threw for 896 yards and nine touchdowns.
History and Bowl Records
Boston College and Cincinnati have met seven times in history with the Eagles holding a 4-3 lead. The last time they met was in 1997 with the Bearcats winning 24-6 on the road. This is the 28th bowl game all-time for the Eagles and they currently sport a 14-12 record. Last year’s game against Boise State in the First Responder Bowl was cancelled due to severe weather.
On the other side of the ball this is Cincinnati’s 18th bowl game all-time. They are 8-9 all-time and are coming off a 35-31 win over Virginia Tech in the Military Bowl. Ridder suffered a leg injury in the first quarter and didn’t return. However Warren took up the slack running for 166 yards and backup quarterback Hayden Moore rallied the team to victory.
This is a very interesting game in some regards. Cincinnati controlled their own destiny and had their chances to be in a bigger game. However they couldn’t take advantage and are playing in Birmingham. Will they be motivated to win an 11th game for a second straight year? Or do they come out flat because of the disappointment of where they are playing?
As for Boston College they should just be happy to be here. They had to go on the road and win at Pittsburgh in the season finale to even get to six wins. However they are without their best player and starting quarterback. While the BC faithful are very excited about Hafley that will have to wait until 2020.
In the end look for Cincinnati to dominate the game with their ground attack and prove they can play and win against a Power Five school.
Thanks for checking out our 2020 Birmingham Bowl preview here at Last Word On College Football. Don’t forget we have previews and recaps of every bowl game leading up to the National Championship on January 13th.