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Zach Pekale | | January 2, 2020

Cincinnati vs. Boston College: Birmingham Bowl prediction, time, TV channel, preview

Clemson defeats Ohio State, 29-23, in the College Football Playoff

No. 21 Cincinnati (10-3) and Boston College (6-6) will meet in the 2020 Birmingham Bowl on Thursday, Jan. 2. Find a prediction, preview and more for the game below.

MORE: Complete bowl schedule, TV listings

Cincinnati-Boston College: Birmingham Bowl time, TV channel

Cincinnati and Boston College play at 3 p.m. ET on Thursday, Jan. 2 from Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama. The game is on ESPN. Click or tap here for live stats.

Cincinnati-Boston College: Birmingham Bowl prediction, preview

In just three seasons, Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell took his team from four wins to less than 90 seconds away from a conference championship. For a second consecutive year, the Bearcats have double-digit wins coming into a bowl game. A 10-3 regular season record comes on the heels of a conference championship game appearance and the program's first-ever finish in the College Football Playoff poll.

Losses to Ohio State and Memphis (twice) likely kept Cincinnati out of a New Year's Six game. Instead, the Bearcats will use this contest against Boston College as a building block for 2020. 

Like Cincinnati, the Eagles can use the Birmingham Bowl as a primer for next season. Questions loom on both sides of the ball after a 6-6 year, arguably none bigger than how to replace A.J. Dillon. The junior running back logged over 300 carries in 2019 and is the program's all-time leading rusher. His absence in Thursday's game means the Eagles will get an early look at what the future holds.

In terms of the present, BC is in a bowl game for the sixth time in seven seasons. Interim coach Rich Gunnell aims to lead his alma mater to victory in his first appearance as head coach.

MORE: Tracking each conference through bowl season

Without Dillon, Gunnell's team will rely on backups at running back and quarterback. Anthony Brown missed the final six games of the season, forcing Dennis Grosel into the starting role. Boston College's offensive line was exceptional, allowing under one sack per game and serving as the backbone to a rushing attack that averaged over 267 yards per contest.

However, Grosel completed under 50 percent of his passes, sometimes turning BC's offense one-dimensional. Joining him in the backfield will be David Bailey. The sophomore had a strong campaign as a backup, running for 818 yards ‚ÄĒ nearly six per carry‚ÄĒ and¬†seven touchdowns. Bailey's role as a complementary back will likely increase Thursday, a possible foreshadowing for next season.

Boston College racked up over 450 yards of offense per game. They also conceded an average of over 480, a bottom-five mark in FBS. Unlike some teams in the AAC, Cincinnati is more defensive minded. It allowed 21.7 points per game, leading the conference in scoring defense for a second consecutive year.

The Bearcats have held teams to under four yards per carry this season. Alternatively, their top three rushers all average over four yards per carry with at least 90 attempts. If Fickell's team can continue to limit the run, it'll be able to control the clock and possibly the game.

Cincinnati-Boston College: Stats, how they compare

10-3 (7-1 American) Record (Conference) 6-6 (4-4 ACC)
29 Points per game 30.9
21.7 Points allowed 31.7
385 Yards per game 451.2
187.4 Passing ypg 183.4
197.6 Rushing ypg 267.8
376.6 Yards allowed per game 480.3
233.2 Passing yards allowed 299.6
143.4 Rushing yards allowed 180.8
Desmond Ridder
2,069 yards (17 TD, 9 INT)
Passing yards Dennis Grosel *
896 yards (9 TD, 3 INT) 
Michael Warren
1,160 yards (4.8 per att.), 14 TDs
Rushing yards A.J. Dillon
1,685 yards  (5.3 per att.), 14 TDs
Alec Pierce
621 yards, 2 TD
Receiving yards Hunter Long
464 yards, 2 TD
Perry Young
77 tackles, 8.5 tfl, 2 INT,
Defensive leader Max Richardson
108 tackles, 14.5 tfl, 3.5 sacks

Cincinnati-Boston College: Prediction

Boston College has relied on its running game all season and won't have Dillon available for the bowl game. Bailey has run well as the backup and his 140 attempts in 2019 suggest a workhorse role next season. Asking him to carry the Eagles against a tough Bearcat defense is a tall order in his first career start.

Cincinnati 30, Boston College 17

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