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It's official, UCF will likely win the American Conference... as long as something crazy doesn't happen. Louisville travels to Cincinnati in what was supposed to be the decider in the conference, but that came a couple months ago when UCF topped the Cardinals. This game still has some slight implications and Louisville comes in as -3.5 point favorites on the road at sportsbook.com.
The betting trends at sportsbook.com also show that the early money as of Monday afternoon is on the Cards with 79% of the wagers taken so far coming in on Louisville.
Louisville was a team of destiny, set to roll to an undefeated record and a BCS bowl. With their incredibly easy schedule, everyone suspected that would happen for Teddy Bridgewater in what is probably his final year. However, the Cardinals lost at home back in October to UCF and their hopes were dashed. Now they are just playing for a better bowl game and second place in the conference.
Meanwhile, the Bearcats have reeled off six straight wins in the conference since losing an unfortunate game at South Florida 26-20. The Bulls are only 2-9, hence the loss being unfortunate. A win for Cincinnati would give them an outside shot of reaching a BCS bowl as they could clinch a share of the conference if UCF loses at SMU on Saturday.
Junior QB Teddy Bridgewater has carved through American Conference opponents all season with a gaudy TD-INT ratio of 25-3. He actually hasn't been playing that well as of late with only two touchdowns and an interception in his last three games. In fact, the Cardinals had trouble beating both Houston and Memphis the last two weeks at home. Dominique Brown has slowly taken over the running game from Senorise Perry, but they each will see plenty of touches in this game. Brown is averaging more than one yard per carry than Perry and is the bigger threat. Wide receiver DeVante Parker isn't the team's leading receiver, but is a TD magnet with nine on the year.
Cincy is usually known for its defense and are once again this year. However, the competition has been minimal for the Bearcats. The toughest offense they've played all season has been Illinois and they lost that game 45-17 if that says anything. If Bridgewater can get into rhythm, it wouldn't be surprising to see Louisville move the ball on the Bearcats.
The Bearcats have been better on the offensive end this year and that's because of quarterback Brendon Kay, who didn't start the season as a starter, but has taken the role in stride. Kay has tossed for at least 299 yards in five straight games to go with 13 TDs and five INTs. WR Chris Moore is the player to watch out for in the red zone (five TDs in last three games), but Anthony McClung and Shaq Washington will get the most targets as both have hit 100 yards in two straight games. Because of the passing, the run game has been pretty stagnant. Hosey Williams has led the team in recent weeks, averaging close to 6.5 yards per carry in the last three.
The Cardinals weren't known for defense at the beginning of the season, but that has changed now as they allow just 11.4 points per game. Like Cincy, it may be a question of the schedule as in its toughest game, Louisville allowed 38 points to UCF.
Louisville probably is better on both ends of the football, but will that matter on the road? The Cardinals won in this matchup last year in a close 34-31 game at home. A similar, albeit lower scoring game should be expected here.
The Cardinals are 12-3 ATS in their last 15 road games vs. a team with a winning home record, but just 1-6 ATS in their last seven games overall. The Bearcats are 4-1 ATS in their last five games and 9-4 ATS in their last 13 home games. The Cardinals have covered in six of the last seven meetings between these schools in Cincinnati.
If we were to take the entire season into account, we'd give the nod to Louisville as they have the better overall numbers. But taking into account recent play, Cinci is on a bit of a roll and comes up as plenty capable here at home. Plus, we really haven't been high on Louisville all year. They were, at most times, vastly overrated. Cinci +3
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