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Cincinnati Inspired by Young Cancer Patient

Kevin Riddell / NY Times

Mitch Stone, 12, was “adopted” by the Bearcats through a charity called Friends of Jaclyn.

CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Bearcats are neck-and-neck with Ohio State in the polls, their quarterback is a Heisman Trophy contender and they have surged into the national title conversation. With the country’s hottest coach in Brian Kelly, a devastating offense that is ranked No. 3 nationally in scoring and a revamped defense that replaced 10 starters from last season’s Orange Bowl team, Cincinnati is enjoying a renaissance.

Interviews, insight and analysis from The Times on the competition and culture of college football.

But players, coaches and support staffers are quick to identify Mitch Stone, a 12-year-old...

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