The Cincinnati Bearcats (1-0) travel to face the Illinois Fighting Illini (1-0) in an AAC vs. Big Ten clash on Saturday, September 7. This will be the third-ever meeting between these teams. The most recent came in 2009 when then-No. 5 Cincinnati topped Illinois 49-36 at home as an 18.5-point favorite.

If you are looking to watch this game, you can catch it on ESPN 2 at 12:00 EST Saturday afternoon. Taking a look at the odds in Las Vegas, I find Cincinnati as an 8-point road favorite at Illinois and a total set of 54 points.

Why Cincinnati Covers

The Bearcats are coming off a 10-win season and have huge expectations in 2013 as one of the favorites to win the new American Athletic Conference. They made a statement with a 49-7 home victory over Purdue in new head coach Tommy Tuberville’s first game. They outgained the Boilermakers 425-266 in a dominant showing against a Big Ten opponent that is likely superior to Illinois.

Munchie Legaux completed 13 of 20 passes for 145 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. The Bearcats rushed for 221 yards as a team while averaging 4.7 yards per carry. It was the defense that was the most impressive in this one, forcing four turnovers and limiting the Boilermakers to just 4-for-12 on third down conversions.

Unlike Cincinnati, the Fighting Illini were fortunate to escape with a 42-34 victory over Southern Illinois in their opener. Illinois was a 17-point favorite in that contest and did not look very good at all. The defense surrendered 407 total yards, allowing Salukis’ quarterback Kory Faulkner to completed 25 of 40 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns in the win.

Remember, this is an Illinois team that went 2-10 last season, getting outscored by 15.4 points per game in the process. The Illini have now lost ten straight against FBS opponents. The Bearcats are 13-3 against the spread in their last 16 non-conference games. Illinois is 1-9 against the spread in its last 10 games overall. The Illini are also 0-7 against the number in their last seven vs. a team with a winning record.

Illinois is 1-9 against the spread in its last 10 games overall. The Illini are also 0-7 against the number in their last seven vs. a team with a winning record.

Why Illinois Covers

Due to the nature of the opener for both teams, the Illini could be undervalued at home here. Cincinnati won in a blowout, which has the public believing perhaps that it is a better team than it really is. Meanwhile, Illinois only won by eight points against Southern Illinois, which means the public won’t be big on the Illini heading into this one.

There’s no question that the Illini are going to be better in head coach Tim Beckman’s second year on the job. The offense returned eight starters and actually played a very good game against Southern Illinois, putting up 42 points and 464 total yards. Nathan Scheelhaase looked like his old self, completing 28 of 36 passes for 416 yards and two touchdowns. He is back to full strength after missing time due to an injury last season.

Plays on home underdogs of 3.5 to 10 points (ILLINOIS) – after 1 or more consecutive straight up wins, in the first two weeks of the season are 40-12 (76.9%) ATS since 1992.

The Fighting Illini are 14-2 over the past seven season when hosting a non-Big Ten opponent. The Bearcats are 0-4 against the spread in their last 4 games following a SU win of more than 20 points.

My Early Lean: Cincinnati -8 & OVER 54