The no. 20 Cincinnati Bearcats will continue their quest for an American Conference championship this week when they play host to the Connecticut Huskies in a battle of former Big East foes. Kickoff is set for 3:30 EST on Saturday, November 9 at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati. Fans can find the game on CBS Sports Network.
Current odds list Cincinnati as a 35-point home favorite with an over/under of 54.5 points. Click here for a full list of this week’s college football betting odds.
The Bearcats had a scare last week that nearly derailed their entire season. Cincinnati was down 12 points in the fourth quarter against East Carolina and needed a pick-six and a last-second field goal to escape with a 46-43 win. Prior to that, it had been mostly smooth sailing for the Bearcats, who are 7-1 with wins over the likes of UCLA, Central Florida, and Houston with their only loss coming against Ohio State.
Of course, the most important thing is that Cincinnati remains undefeated in AAC play. The Bearcats could actually absorb one loss in their final four games and still play in the AAC Championship Game. However, any loss would hurt their chances of reaching a New Year’s Six bowl game, which is a distinct possibility if the Bearcats can win their remaining games, including the AAC title game.
Meanwhile, the Huskies are still searching for their first conference win of the season. UConn has managed wins over Wagner and UMass, but they’ve lost the rest of their games, falling to 2-7 after last week’s loss to Navy. Randy Edsall’s second stint with the Huskies isn’t going as well as the first one. UConn has just six wins over the last three seasons and has lost 16 straight conference games.
Needless to say, the Huskies are getting desperate for something good to happen. UConn still has a game against East Carolina, who is also winless in conference play, giving them some hope of breaking that AAC losing streak. At this point, even staying competitive with a team like Cincinnati would be a step in the right direction for the Huskies.
As mentioned, these two teams have been playing yearly since 2005 when both were members of the Big East. The Bearcats have won 11 of the 14 head-to-head meetings in the series since then, including a 49-7 win in East Hartford last season. UConn actually has a win in this series as recently as 2016, but they are winless in eight previous visits to Nippert Stadium.
Fool me once, shame on you, but fool me twice, shame on me. A week ago, I ate the points and took Cincinnati to cover a big spread against East Carolina in a game they nearly lost. I’m not going to make the same mistake two weeks in a row. Admittedly, UConn has lost four games by at least 35 points, including last week’s 56-10 thrashing by Navy. But Cincinnati had just one win by that wide of a margin this year. After last week, I’m choosing not to trust the Bearcats, so I’ll take my chances with the Huskies keeping this game within five touchdowns.
To be fair, Cincinnati is a great team, but that doesn’t mean they’re built to blow teams out. They’ve only scored more than 35 points in three games this season, so covering that total isn’t going to be easy for them. Even last week when they scored 46 points, it was with the help of a defensive touchdown and largely out of necessity because their defense let them down.
In fairness, the Cincinnati offense has been productive this year, but they’re not necessarily explosive and built to score massive amounts of points. Quarterback Desmond Ridder has completed less than 60% of his passes and is averaging less than 200 passing yards per game. Those aren’t the stats of a quarterback leading a high-scoring offense. The Bearcats are more focused on their ground game with Ridder and running back Michael Warren. That tandem has carried the Bearcats this year, but it’s rarely going to be responsible for 40-plus points in a game.
On the other side of the ball, I have to call into question the Cincinnati defense after last week. There’s no way East Carolina should have been able to score 43 points against the Bearcats, especially doing so much damage through the air. Even if the Bearcats overlooked ECU, it took too long for Cincinnati to wake up, which is concerning for a team that’s expected to cover 35 points a week later.
Granted, the UConn offense is well below average. But they’re not that much worse than the East Carolina offense looked on paper a week ago. There have been a few times this year that the Huskies have either been able to score early before a defense has settled in or score late in garbage time. Either way, it may only take one or two scores for Connecticut to keep this game within five touchdowns. I’m always a little reluctant to lay down this many points, and Cincinnati gave me enough reasons last week to take the underdog and the points this time around.