South Florida at Cincinnati
Time: 6 PM CT
Spread: CIN -14
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Cincinnati Bearcats are 8-1 and in second place in the AAC East Conference. It will host conference foe South Florida at 6 PM Saturday (CT) on ESPNU. Cincinnati is 14-point favorites in the game according to college football oddsmakers at 5dimes, and it has an over/under set at 55 points by the same bookmaker.
Cincinnati has lost just one game, three weeks ago, to Temple. It defeated SMU and Navy the past two outings, and it is 4-1 in Conference play. The Bearcats have been getting it done with one of the nation’s stingiest defenses, allowing just 14.0 points per game and ranking No. 6 in that respect. Offensively, it is no slouch either, with the nation’s No. 15 rush attack guiding its offense to 35.0 points per game (no. 31). Cincy’s lead rusher has been Michael Warren II, who has 931 yards and 14 TDs to his credit on a team-leading 178 rush attempts.
But quarterback Desmond Ridder is quite a dual-threat in his own right. He throws 63.1 percent for completion (1,703 yards) while having rushed for another 426 yards on 109 attempts (second-most on the team). Ridder has five rushing TDs and he has thrown for another 13 with just five interceptions. His passer rating is 141.3, and his top three targets all have 300 yards or better on the year. Kahlil Lewis, Josiah Deguara, and Rashad Medaris have caught 85 pass attempts between them as a trio, and they have 12 receiving TDs between them, with Lewis having snagged five of those.
Cincinnati has two other tremendous backfield options with Charles McClelland and Tavon Thomas each having rushed for over 300 yards. The Bearcats average 5.1 yards-per-rush-attempt as a team, and have 28 rushing TDs on the year while having scored 14 TDs via the pass. There is more balance than ostensibly one would guess, it is just having a dual-threat QB like Ridder opens up so many ways to hurt an opposing team. And given the strength of Cincy’s defense, those points often go unanswered with its +19 point differential.
South Florida is 7-2 on the season with a 3-2 mark in conference play, but it has lost its past two games to Houston and Tulane. Neither game was close. Houston won 57-36 and Tulane dominated to a count of 41-15. The defense has been weak, and it now ranks No. 90 in the nation in allowing 30.9 points per game. The Bulls still have a positive differential of +2.4 points, due to its 33.3 points per game which ranks No. 36 in the nation. Both the pass and rush are ranked No. 28 at 273 and 218.8 yards, respectively, but it is tough to win while surrendering that kind of output to offenses that are not even that great.
Blake Barnett has been making some poor reads out of the pocket, too. Despite a 62.2 percent completion ratio, he has thrown nine interceptions to his 11 TD passes. Running back Jordan Cronkite has helped make up for it with his 7.0 yards-per-attempt rushing the football. And he has 946 yards on 136 carries, while Johnny Ford adds another 496 yards on 64 attempts. Barnett has been good in his own right on the ground, with 303 yards on 91 attempts and a team-tying lead for eight touchdowns.
The Bulls have 24 rushing TDs and average 5.5 yards-per-attempt as a team while having scored 11 TDs via the pass.
Tyre McCants and Randall St. Felix have combined for over 1,000 yards and the Bulls have five other pass recipients with 100 yards or more on the season, but all the offense has vacated them in the past two weeks while its defense has been abysmal. If trends count for much, we like Cincinnati to prevail because it has been hot while South Florida has a litany of issues to correct before it can resume its winning ways.