Free NCAA Football Picks: Cincinnati Bearcats at UCF Knights Expert Predictions
Cincinnati Bearcats at UCF Knights, Saturday Nov. 17, 8 p.m. ET
It's all about perspective. To most people this is a showdown for the divisional win in the tougher division of the best Group of 5 conference. The winner of this game is all but a lock to win the division and very likely to win the AAC championship. Those are high stakes. But to fans and staff of the Knights, this game means a whole lot more. It brings their team one game closer to their second consecutive national championship. They will bore you to tears with stories of how they were robbed last year, and how they are on track to be robbed again this year despite an unbeaten record for most of two years. Never mind, of course, that they don't really play anyone or that at times this year they haven't been exactly dominant against outmatched opponents. They don't want to hear that. They just want recognition. A win here won't get that for them. But a loss will certainly destroy any chance of respect that they have.
Cincinnati at UCF Betting Storylines
The obvious storyline here jumps right off the page when you look at this game. Cincinnati has an elite defense, ranking fifth nationally in yards per game allowed and seventh in points allowed. It ranks well against the run and the pass, so they are well balanced. The success the Bearcats have had are all a result of this defense. And they are up against a very elite offense in this one. The Knights rank third nationally in yards per game, fourth in rushing yards, and eighth in points per game. They have scored at least 31 points in every game they have played and have had 48 or more points four times. The most points Cincinnati has given up in a game is 30, and they have given up three touchdowns or fewer in seven of their 10 - including two shutouts and two games in which their opponents scored only once. You can't have a game in which a stingy defense and a potent offense both play their game. So, something has to give. And obviously, the team that sets the tone here will win the game. The challenge is that it is tough to know which team is at an advantage. UCF has yet to play a strong defense. The closest teams have come to containing them - 31- and 35-point games - were against Memphis and Navy teams that don't exactly stand out defensively. And Cincinnati's defensive numbers are surely inflated somewhat by the weakness of their schedule. So, not only do we have strength against strength, but we have untested unit against untested unit. My head hurts already.
While it will be strength against strength when UCF has the ball, the same won't be true when the Bearcats are in control. Cincinnati's offense is barely inside the Top 30 in points scored, so it is somewhat respectable, but it is a long way from balanced - it ranks 86th nationally in passing yards per game. And UCF's defense is pretty dismal - ranking 91st in total yards allowed, and 105th in rushing yards. Like Cincinnati's offense, though, the UCF defense exceeds their stats in the one way that matters - they rank 28th in points allowed, allowing 21.2 per game. When the ball is in the Bearcats' hands, the goal for both teams will simply be to avoid losing the game.
Cincinnati at UCF Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with UCF favored by 7.5, and it has mostly been stable at that level, though it can be found at the key number of seven in some spots. More than 60 percent of bets have been on the Bearcats, so the line movement is consistent with expectations. There is even a chance that it could fall to 6.5, so there could be a chance at a middle if you are into such things. The total opened at 58.5 and has climbed as high as 60.5.
The Bearcats are a dismal 7-15 ATS in their last 22 conference games, 1-4 ATS in their last five in November, and 1-6 ATS in their last seven against teams with winning records. The Knights are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games overall and 5-2 ATS in their last seven conference games. They are, however, just 2-6 ATS in their last eight November games.
Cincinnati at UCF Predictions and Picks
This game is an indicator for me of how important a half a point can be. At 7.5 I don't like this game much at all. But at seven points UCF becomes much more attractive in my eyes, and they become the play here. I find their claims of being robbed obnoxious, but McKenzie Milton is a heck of a QB, and they should be able to find room to move against a Cincinnati defense that hasn't seen anything like this before this year.
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