Cincinnati vs South Florida
Betting Line Favors Bearcats by 2.5
There are a lot of questions surrounding both Cincinnati and South Florida coming into this Game. South Florida is off to a great 5-0 start, but suffered a tough setback when their veteran QB Matt Grothe suffered a season ending injury in their 3rd Game of the season. After Grothe went down hopes of a run at the Big East title was all but lost, but then B.J. Daniels took over. Daniels in 2 ½ Games under center has completed 32/56 of his passes for 600 yards and 6 TD, and has carried the ball 48 times for 291 yards and 3 TD.
Throw in the #1 ranked defense in the Big East, and this South Florida team has their fans thinking Big East title, but they have a big roadblock ahead with this Cincinnati team. Cincinnati has fought their way all the way to a #8 ranking in the country. QB Tony Pike has been nothing short of great this season, and he has found a favorite target in WR Mardy Gilyard. Pike has thrown 13 TDs on the year, and 7 of those were caught by Gilyard. This Cincinnati offense has been putting up some big numbers, but they are going to face their toughest test yet with this South Florida defense.
In this matchup we have the Big Easts #1 ranked offense against the #1 ranked defense, so there is no big secret what the primetime matchup will be here. Cincinnatis offense has really found their leader at QB with Tony Pike. He is finally 100% healthy and it shows. In just 5 Games Pike has already thrown for just shy of 1500 yards and 13 TDs with just 3 INTs.
Cincinnati is ranked 11th in the nation in total offense averaging 468 yards per Game and 7th in the nation in passing yards with 333 yards per Game. Tony Pike is completing passes at will and a lot of those completions are thrown in the direction of his favorite target WR Mardy Gilyard. Gilyard has hauled in 38 receptions for 517 yards and 7 TD. Expect Pike to look to find Gilyard early and often in this Game. When Pike finds himself in trouble he trusts Gilyard to come down with the ball if he throws the ball up in the air.
This South Florida defense is too good to be one dimensional so the Bearcats are going to have to be able to run the ball to keep this defense honest. The Bearcats like to run the ball with their two RBs Jacob Ramsey and Isaiah Pead. Cincinnati is never going to be a team that is going to consistently run the ball, but they run the ball enough to keep a defense on their toes, because if they dont this South Florida defense will give this passing attack problems.
The Bulls defense is ranked #1 in the Big East in total defense allowing just 263 yards per Game, and is ranked #1 in scoring defense allowing just 9 points per Game. The strength of this defense is their pass defense allowing just 158 yards per Game through the air, and they will need to be at their best to slow down this Bearcat passing attack. South Florida is going to have to be dedicated to getting pressure on Tony Pike. Tony Pike has only been sacked 3 times all year, so Pike has never really been pressured this year. Expect South Florida to throw some different looks at Pike and his offensive line with different blitz packages, and try to put him into bad situations.
THE FINAL VERDICT
The winner of this contest is going to be in the drivers seat for a Big East title so expect both teams to throw the kitchen sink at each other. QB Tony Pike is going to have to have the same kind of effectiveness he has had all year to have success against this South Florida defense. The key to this Game is going to be if Tony Pike can find his rhythm early on in the Game and get things going. This South Florida defense is going to be determined to get after Pike early, so this Bearcat offensive line is going to have to play as good as they have all year to make sure he has enough time to go through his reads. If he is able to do that he is going to find the open receiver.
The ingredients for an upset are no doubt here. You have quite a few motivational factors that favor South Florida. For one, revenge multiplied by 3, as Cinci has beaten USF 3 straight. Also, anytime you have two ranked teams, with the visitor being ranked much higher, look out. Cincinnati is ranked #8 in the land. South Florida, at #21, knows a win here catapults them up in the rankings. Their home fans know that as well. They all also know that beating the higher ranked team under the National spotlight of an ESPN Thursday Night Game goes a long way as well.
We expect Cincinnati to keep this South Florida defense honest, and make the safeties have to respect the run, which will open the field up for QB Tony Pike and WR Mardy Gilyard to have another one of their big Games. Throw in the fact that Coach Brian Kelley is one of the best big Game coaches in the country, and that is just too much for this South Florida team to overcome. Cincinnati -2.5