We even got the gift of two overtimes last night but it wasn’t enough to get us over the hump with the total. We got 17 points from South Alabama which we were almost certain would have cashed the over but Georgia Southern played terrible, they were fortunate to come away with the win and it continues our tough start to the week. Rarely will you see us try to end a losing skid with a step out play but this is one we have had circled literally since last season when we backed Cincinnati in this game and the spot and price is right to go big on Cincinnati again here when the Bearcats welcome the #18 Central Florida Knights to Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. To set the stage here let’s go back to last season, Cincinnati was 9-1 with a shot at jumping UCF in the East Division standings with a win but left Orlando with an ugly 38-13 loss. It was a big game in prime time and a home game for a UCF team working on an undefeated season, it was a big moment and the Knights were up to the task. Fast forward to this year and UCF is 4-1 with an upset loss at the hands of Pittsburgh. What that means is no undefeated season, possibly no top tier bowl game and quite frankly winning the AAC is “old hat” to UCF at this point. This game falls on a Friday night on the road right before the first bye week of the season for UCF so you have a team that has been grinding day in and day out for a couple months, has already been deflated a bit by the Pitt loss and it’s just hard to see a max effort from UCF on the road here knowing they finally have a break from football coming up. For Cincinnati this is their Super Bowl, it’s by far the biggest home game on the schedule for the Bearcats and if they can win here they will have a legitimate shot to win the East Division and finally get to an AAC Championship game. Cincinnati only has one loss as well but they were always going to lose at Ohio State, the win over UCLA is looking that much better as UCLA continues to win games so Cincinnati has won the games they should win so far this season and should be ecstatic about a game of this magnitude, at home, in a big national TV spot. Let’s start the matchup analysis with the UCF offense, they have put up some huge numbers this season but all against teams that have proved to be terrible defensively so we see this unit way overrated entering this game here. Florida A&M is an FCS team, Florida Atlantic is one of the worst defensive teams in the country and Stanford isn’t the “Stanford” we have been accustomed to over the past decade. Pitt struggles defensively against good teams and UCONN is one of the worst teams in the FBS in any conference so the UCF offense might be rolling but they also really haven’t played anyone yet. If we go back to the Pitt game that UCF lost they did nothing on offense in the first half and finished with a season low 34 points and it would not be at all surprising to see something similar here. UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel is good but he’s still a freshman in what will be the most hostile road environment he’s been in to date. Cincinnati’s defense is not only above average it’s elite and most of what they have given up this season came in that 42-0 loss to Ohio State which can basically be thrown out as Ohio State is one of the 3 or 4 best teams in the country. Take away that game and Cincinnati has yet to give up more than 14 points in a game this season and while UCF might be better offensively than the likes of UCLA, Marshall and Miami (OH), they aren’t a better offense than Ohio State and will probably fall somewhere in between. Cincinnati has an outstanding secondary allowing just 167 passing yards per game and they also have an excellent pass rush led by one of the best pass rushers in the AAC in Michael Pitts which means not only will this be a tough environment for Gabriel he will likely be under more pressure here than at any other point this season. UCF still had McKenzie Milton at quarterback when these two teams met last year so this will be the first time Gabriel is seeing a Cincinnati defense that covers extremely well and it’s just a really tough matchup for a freshman who, to this point, has had it rather easy. Cincinnati isn’t going to wow anyone with their offense but they are still capable and their offensive numbers are skewed by being shut out by Ohio State which, again, is one of the elite teams in the country. Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ritter can make plays with his feet and the Bearcats have a solid running game led by Michael Warren II who gives the Bearcats a nice balanced attack. The way Pitt was able to upset UCF was by playing tough defense and weathering the storm to avoid the onslaught and Cincinnati is probably built even better for this than Pitt is. Cincinnati has a better defense and they control the clock when they possess the football so the Bearcats could turn this one into a grinder that they likely cover either way. We like Cincinnati to be able to move the ball and get stops here, it will take a hard-nosed effort for UCF to win this one on the road and we just don’t see it out of a team who, mentally, is probably already on their bye week. Cincinnati will be disappointed with anything less than a win here, if UCF heads home with a victory it’s a tight one that they squeak out and we will back the Bearcats as they get this one done outright. Play on Cincinnati +4 for 6 units
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