Big East Against the Spread Picks: Connecticut Huskies at Cincinnati Bearcats

Connecticut Huskies at Cincinnati Bearcats
Nippert Stadium – Cincinnati, Ohio
Saturday, December 3, 2011, 12:00 pm Eastern, TV:ESPN
Opening Line: Cincinnati -8 1/2
Current Line: Cincinnati -9
Opening Total: 48
Current Total: 47
Opening Money Line: Cincinnati -350 / UConn +290
Current Money Line: Cincinnati -350 / UConn +290

The UConn Huskies are 9 point underdogs at Cincinnati in Big East action Saturday. The Huskies will be bowl eligible with a win, and Cincinnati will clinch a share of the Big East Title with a win.

Cincinnati’s chances of winning the Big East BCS bid took a  serious hit with West Virginia’s 30-27 win at South Florida Thursday night. The 8-3 Bearcats can still clinch a share of the Big East Title with West Virginia and Louisville if Cincinnati beats Connecticut at home Saturday. However, West Virginia would most likely win the tiebreaker in a three way tie as they are the only team in the Big East ranked in the BCS standings. A Cincinnati loss would give the title to Louisville. The game is also important for 5-6 UConn as they can become bowl eligible with a win against Cincinnati. Cincinnati is coached by Butch Jones and UConn is coached by Paul Pasqualoni. Cincinnati leads the series 5-2 including 4-0 in Cincinnati. UConn won last year 38-17 in East Hartford.

Last week, UConn hosted Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights were 3.5 point favorites on the road. The Huskies jumped out to a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter and never looked back. UConn kicked a field goal at the end of  the first half to take a 24-10 lead. It started a run of 19 straight points for the Huskies, and UConn was up 40-10 at the end of the third quarter. Rutgers scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to make the final 40-22. The Knights went for two on both and failed to convert each time. Rutgers had 6 turnovers including a fumble returned 9 yards for a touchdown by UConn in the second quarter. The Huskies had one turnover. The Huskies had an extra point blocked in the third quarter. Connecticut had 290 total yards including 178 rushing yards. Husky quarterback Johnny McEntee threw for 90 yards. Scott McCummings completed a 22 yard pass in his only attempt of the day. He had 10 carries for 47 yards and two rushing touchdowns though. Lyle McCombs had 20 carries for 95 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with 4 catches for 30 yards. Rutgers had 430 total yards including 439 passing yards. Yes, Rutgers had -9 rushing yards. Connecticut had 6 sacks in the game.

UConn is averaging 317.1 yards a game, including 189.5 passing yards and 127.6 rushing yards. The Huskies are scoring 24 points a game. UConn has 20 turnovers and has allowed 35 sacks. The Huskies are 49/164 on third and fourth down conversions, and 30/34 scoring in the red zone with 18 touchdowns. Connecticut is allowing 371 total yards a game including the third best rush defense in the country allowing 84.2 yards a game. The pass defense is among the worst in the country allowing 286.8 yards a game.  The Huskies are allowing 23.4 points a game. UConn has forced 28 turnovers and 33 sacks. Husky opponents are 53/164 on third and fourth down conversions and 27/33 scoring in the red zone with 19 touchdowns. UConn has 5 defensive/special teams touchdowns this season, including 3 fumble returns.

McEntee is 152/189 passing (51.5% completion) for 1,858 yards, 6 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Back-up Scott McCummings takes a few snaps as well. He has completed 5  of his 10 passes, two for touchdowns, but is mostly used as a runner with 71 carries for 271 yards and 5 touchdowns. McCombs has 254 carries, 1,109 yards, and 7 touchdowns along with 19 catches, 172 yards, and a touchdown catch. Back-up D.J. Shoemate is out for the season with a shoulder injury. He only had 8 carries before the injury, and will redshirt this year. Receiver Kashif Moore has 38 catches, 557 yards, and 5 scores. Isiah Moore has 37 catches, 496 yards, and no touchdowns. Ryan Griffin has 30 catches, 454 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Nick Williams has only 9 catches, but he has 191 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Kicker Dave Teggart is 28/29 on extra points, and 18/24 on field goals with a long of 53 yards.

Last week, Cincinnati was a 2 point favorite at Syracuse. The Bearcats took a 10-6 lead into the locker room at halftime. In the third quarter, Cincinnati expanded their lead to 23-6. Syracuse scored near the end of the quarter to pull within 23-13. The Bearcats scored in the fourth to make the final 30-13. Cincinnati had 8 penalties for 60 yards, but Syracuse had 6 penalties for 55 yards and a turnover. Cincinnati had 368 total yards including 189 rushing yards. Bearcat quarterback Munchie Legaux had 169 passing yards with 2 touchdowns. Legaux is subbing for injured quarterback Zach Collaros who is out for the season with a broken ankle.  Running back Isaiah Pead had a monster game with 17 carries for 80 yards and a touchdown, along with 9 catches, for 112 yards, and a touchdown. Travis Kelce also caught a touchdown pass. Syracuse had 373 total yards including 203 passing yards.

Cincinnati is averaging 400 total yards including 181.6 rushing yards and 218.4 passing yards. Cincinnati is averaging 33.4 points a game which is the 28th best scoring offense in the country. The Bearcats have allowed 16 sacks and have 16 turnovers. Cincinnati is 65/164 on third and fourth down conversions, and 38/48 scoring in the red zone with 29 touchdowns. Cincinnati is allowing 369.8 total yards a game including the tenth ranked rushing defense allowing only 99.4 yards a game. Unfortunately, the passing defense allows 270.5 yards a game which is #104 out of 120 teams. The Bearcats allow 19.4 points a game, the #15 scoring defense in the country. Cincinnati has forced 38 sacks and 27 turnovers this season. Bearcat opponents are 61/181 on third and fourth down conversions, and 26/31 scoring in the red zone with 17 touchdowns. Cincinnati has 4 defensive touchdowns this season.

Collaros was 154/243 passing (63.4% completions) with 1,854 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions, along 76 carries, 242 yards, and 8 scores.  Lagaux is 40/81 passing (49.4% completion) for 532 yards, with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, along with 31 carries, 157 yards and 2 touchdowns. Pead has 186 carries, 1,042 yards, and 11 touchdowns along with 33 catches, 305 yards, and 3 touchdown catches. Five other players besides Collaros, Lagaux, and Pead have rushing touchdowns this season. Receiver Kenbrell Thompkins has 44 catches, 536 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Anthony McClung has 40 catches, 533 yards, and 3 touchdowns. D.J. Woods has 36 catches, 432 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Adrien Robinson has only 7 catches, but has 152 yards and 3 scores. Kicker Tony Miliano is 38/41 on extra points and 16/22 on field goals with a long of 48 yards. Cincinnati defensive back Dominique Battle is out for the season with a torn ACL.

Cincinnati is 6-5 against the spread the total is 4-7 this year. UConn is 4-7 ATS and the total is 6-5 this season. Connecticut is 4-1 ATS in the last 5 against Cincinnati, and the underdog is 5-2 all time in the series. The Huskies are 5-1 ATS as a road underdog of between 3.5 and 10 points, 8-3 in conference games, 20-8 as an underdog of 3.5 -10 points, 13-6 as an underdog, 15-7 against a team with a winning record, 1-4 in December and in road games, 0-5 after a straight up win, 0-4 after a cover, and as a road underdog. The Bearcats are 5-2 ATS against teams with losing records, 2-5 after a cover, 4-12 in conference, and after a straight up win, 1-4 as a favorite, 1-5 as a favorite of 3.5-10 points, and 0-4 in December.

Both of these teams struggle against the pass on defense. However, both of these teams are stronger running the ball than throwing it, so that shouldn’t be much of an issue. It has to be a little bittersweet for Cincinnati knowing that even if they win it likely won’t be enough to win the tiebreaker, especially when you consider Cincinnati was in firm control of the Big East less than a month ago. I could see a let down for the Bearcats opening the door for the Huskies to perhaps pull off the upset or at least cover.

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