Cincinnati (8-0 SU, 5-3 ATS) has averaged a 26-point margin of victory this year, but that apparently hasn’t been enough to impress the national playoff committee. The Bearcats can put an exclamation mark on their dominant campaign when they host Tulsa (5-1, 5-1) with the American Athletic Conference crown on the line.
Sportsbook Odds Analysis
Early bettors pounded the Bearcats in this spot, moving the line up to -15.5 by the time of writing Sunday night. Cincinnati was favored by 16 points when the teams met last year in Cincy. Underdogs have covered the last four meetings.
Tulsa News & Notes
The Golden Hurricane are playing for a championship for the first time since 2012, clinching a berth in the AAC title match with a 19-6 win over Navy earlier this month. Tulsa’s victory snapped a five-game losing streak to the Midshipmen as the Hurricane allowed just 153 yards and a couple of field goals, the first time they hadn’t given up a touchdown in a game in nine years.
Linebacker Zaven Collins anchors a defense that ranks inside the top 20 in the nation in total yards and pass yards allowed. Collins has already been named a finalist for national defensive player of the year after recording 51 tackles, 11.5 tackles for a loss, four sacks, four interceptions and two defensive touchdowns during the regular season. However, the NFL prospect may be hobbled by a foot injury that sidelined him for all but one play in the second half of the win over Navy.
Cincinnati News & Notes
This will be Cincy’s first game in nearly a month after the Bearcats’ final two games of the season were canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. Cincinnati is used to long layoffs, however, having gone 21 days between games earlier this season when the pandemic wreaked havoc on its schedule as well.
The Bearcats whipped then-No. 16 Southern Methodist 42-13 as 1-point underdogs following that layoff, jumping out to an early 14-0 lead and outgaining the Mustangs 439-290 in yards.
Cincinnati is also playing with a chip on its shoulder after getting disrespected in the national rankings earlier this month. Despite going 8-0 SU and outscoring their opponents by a margin of 327-120, the Bearcats dropped to eighth behind 8-2 Iowa State earlier this month, essentially ending their chances of qualifying for the national College Football Playoff.
“It’s indefensible,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco told the Cincinnati Enquirer of the committee’s decision to downgrade the Bearcats, who own a pair of victories over ranked opponents this season.
Although junior quarterback Desmond Ridder has thrown for more than 300 yards in each of Cincinnati’s last two games, most of the Bearcats’ success has been due to their defense. Cincinnati led its conference this season in total defense, pass defense, rush defense and scoring defense, and its streak of 18 consecutive games with at least one forced turnover is the longest current streak in the FBS.
Betting Pick: Cincinnati -15.5
Anything under three touchdowns looks like a bargain on the Bearcats, who have won six of their eight games this season by that margin. Cincy has also averaged a 22.4-point margin of victory during its 18-game winning streak at home.