Cincinnati vs. SMU Prediction, Pick Against the Spread, and Latest Odds
Cincinnati Bearcats vs. SMU Mustangs
Spread: Cincinnati -12
Game time: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Where to Watch: ESPN
Cincinnati vs. SMU Prediction
The Cincinnati Bearcats are off to their second 10-0 start in school history and continue to be the biggest debate when it comes to the College Football Playoff. They have already secured the highest CFP ranking ever by a Group of Five team, but Luke Fickell’s squad will not be content until they are firmly cemented as one of the four playoff teams. The SMU Mustangs present as their most challenging opponent left on the regular-season schedule. Will SMU make Cincinnati the 23rd top-ten team to lose this year, or will the Bearcats continue to keep their name relevant in the playoff committee’s eyes?
SMU had spent time in the top 25 earlier this month, but back-to-back losses at Houston and Memphis means they are eliminated from contention for the AAC Championship game with a loss at Cincinnati this week. The Mustangs are 5-0 ATS at home this season but have covered the spread in just one of their five road games. When SMU wins, it is usually because of an explosive offensive effort. They have scored 41 or more points in four of their last five wins but were held to an average of 31 points in their two losses.
Cincinnati has been ridiculed for the last month for their schedule and not dominating those inferior opponents. Cincinnati’s last four opponents (Navy, Tulane, Tulsa, USF) are a combined 9-30 this year, and the Bearcats defeated them by an average of 12.8 PPG. The Bearcats are 5-5 ATS but have not covered any of their last four games. The College Football Playoff committee keeps laying a tough standard for Cincinnati, telling them not only do they have to be undefeated, but they have to be dominant. Last week, the Bearcats entered No. 10 in the FPI, No. 4 SOR, and were ranked fifth in total efficiency. However, they are still on the outside looking in of the CFP as of this week.
While Cincinnati has been ridiculed lately for not “winning big enough,” bettors should be reminded that three of their last four games were on the road. The Bearcats have outscored opponents 227-65 at home this season, and there will be a different energy in the stadium this week as the team honors its seniors.
One of those seniors is quarterback Desmond Ridder, who broke the Cincinnati school record with his 79th touchdown pass last week. The coaching staff put more on Ridder’s shoulders as the team played without their best running back, Jerome Ford, who suffered a leg injury in their previous game against Tulsa. They did not seem to miss Ford’s 888 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns much against USF, as they ran for 202 yards and 5.6 yards per carry. If they get Ford back this week, it would only be an added plus.
Seeing as SMU’s offense has been held down by the conference’s better defenses in their two road losses, we look for them to struggle at Cincinnati this week. The Bearcats were dominant on the defensive side of the ball in the first half last week, holding USF to 39 total yards. Head coach Luke Fickell will certainly preach putting a full 60 minutes together this week, as they need all the style points they can get. Cornerback Ahmad Gardner will take away half of the field, as he has allowed zero passing touchdowns in his career, and his 27.6 opponent passer rating entering last week ranked third-lowest in FBS. His skill-set will be a significant asset against SMU’s pass-happy attack.
The under has cashed in the last five meetings between these teams and is 14-6 in Cincinnati’s last 20 games following an ATS loss. The Bearcats defense entered last week allowing 4.42 yards per play, fifth in FBS. So while we are tempted to lay the big point spread with the Bearcats, the under is the more trusted play.
Cincinnati vs. SMU Pick
- PICK: UNDER 65.5 (-110)