The No. 19 Louisville Cardinals (10-1, 6-1 AAC) travel to face the Cincinnati Bearcats (9-2, 6-1 AAC) on Thursday, December 5. The winner of this game can win at least a share of the American Athletic Title only if Central Florida loses to SMU on the road this weekend.
The Bearcats had won four straight in this series before falling 31-34 in overtime at Louisville last season. Oddsmakers in Las Vegas have installed Louisville as a 3.5-point favorite at Cincinnati. You can catch this game on ESPN at 7:30 EST Thursday night.
Why Louisville Covers
If not for a blown 28-7 lead at home against UCF, we would be talking about the Cardinals as a possible national title contender. There’s no question that this is still one of the most talented teams in the country that returned almost everyone from a team that went to the BCS Sugar Bowl last year and beat Florida. Rarely will you get the Cardinals as this small of a favorite, either. In fact, they have been a double-digit favorite in every game this season up until this point.
Louisville has actually played its best football on the road this season. It is 4-0 away from home, outscoring opponents by an average of 22.3 points per game. The numbers show that this team is one of the best in the land as well. The Cardinals are putting up 35.5 points and 455.0 yards per game to rank 33rd in total offense. They have been even better on the other side of the ball, giving up 11.4 points and 242.7 yards per game to rank 2nd in the country in total defense.
Last year, Louisville really dominated Cincinnati at home, but only won by a final of 34-31. The box score indicates that this game was a bigger blowout than the final score would indicate. The Cardinals outgained the Bearcats 524-353 for the game and forced three turnovers. Tedd Bridgewater had a huge game, throwing for 416 yards and two touchdowns. DeVante Parker was on the receiving end of both of those scores, finishing with four receptions for 120 yards.
The Cardinals are 6-0 against the spread in road games off two or more consecutive unders over the past three seasons. Louisville is 12-3 against the spread in its last 15 road games vs. a team with a winning home record. The Cardinals are 18-7 against the number in their last 25 road games overall. The favorite is 11-5 against the number in the last 16 meetings in this series. The road team is 7-1 against the spread in the last eight meetings.
Why Cincinnati Covers
The Bearcats have saved their best football of the season for last. They have won six straight games coming in with four of those victories coming by double-digits. They now still have a shot to win the American Athletic with some help from SMU this weekend, which would put them in a BCS Bowl. No matter what Louisville does, it won’t be playing in a BCS Bowl because it already lost head-to-head to Central Florida. So the motivational edge has to favor the Bearcats.
Cincinnati boasts one of the best home-field advantages in the entire country. It is a perfect 5-0 straight up and 3-2 against the spread at home this season, outscoring opponents 43.0 to 15.4, or by an average of 27.6 points per game. The Bearscats are putting up 34.2 points and 487.3 yards per game to rank 19th in the country in total offense this season. They are also yielding just 18.5 points and 302.4 yards per game to rank 8th in total defense.
Cincinnati boasts one of the best home-field advantages in the entire country. It is a perfect 5-0 straight up and 3-2 against the spread at home this season, outscoring opponents 43.0 to 15.4, or by an average of 27.6 points per game.
This has really been a one-sided series in recent years. The Bearcats have gone 4-1 straight up and 4-1 against the spread in the last five meetings in this series. Their only loss came last year at Louisville by a final of 31-34 as a 3.5-point underdog in overtime, so they clearly want revenge from that defeat. Plus, Brendon Kay was not playing quarterback for them against Louisville last year. Kay has certainly been a gamer in 2013, completing 70.2 percent of his passes for 2,799 yards with 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions, while also rushing for four scores.
The Bearcats are 9-4 against the spread in their last 13 home games. Cincinnati is 4-1 against the number in its last five Thursday games. The Cardinals are 1-6 against the spread in their last seven games overall. Louisville is 0-6 against the number in its last six games following a win. Louisville is 0-6 against the spread in its last six games after allowing less than 20 points in its previous game.
My Early Lean: Cincinnati +3.5
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