Cincinnati beat UCF last week and has its eyes set on the AAC title. Of course, it has a long way to go and winning at Houston is far from easy no matter who is at quarterback. The Bearcats were still decent -7.5 point road favorites with an over/under of 51.5 early in the week.
No one knows what to make of Houston. It surprised most people after beating North Texas as an 8-point underdog in the first game without D’Eriq King, who is sitting out the rest of the season. The Cougars are still a talented team and have what it takes to put up a fight in this matchup, similar to the game against Washington State last month.
The good thing for Houston is that new quarterback Clayton Tune got a few starts last season because of King’s injury issues. Tune played his role well in his first start, rushing for 100 yards and not turning the ball over on 20 pass attempts.
He may not be King, but he’s plenty mobile and adds another element to the offense. While running back Kyle Porter is questionable, Patrick Carr leads the team with 6.6 yards per carry and Mulbah Car has experience, as well.
However, this game will be a bit harder than the win against North Texas. Outside of the loss to Ohio State, Cincinnati’s defense has been stout and that’s how it beat UCF 27-24. If the Bearcats can limit Tune and Carr from getting big plays, they’ll have the edge because it remains to be seen what Tune can do with his arm.
Houston may also have a problem on the other side of the ball as it’s allowing almost 500 yards and 32 points per game. Some of that has to do with Oklahoma, but it also gave up 38 points to Tulane. Even under new head coach Dana Holgorsen, the defense remains an issue.
But while Cincinnati can be potent, it’s still an inconsistent group. The Wildcats struggled to move the ball in the opener against a bad UCLA defense, but then did what they wanted against Marshall and did enough against UCF.
Quarterback Desmond Ridder has OK numbers, completing 62.0% of his passes on 7.5 yards per attempt, but he has an interception in all but one game.
That being the case, they’ll likely try and lean on Michael Warren and Tavion Thomas as much as possible. Both are averaging above 4.5 yards per carry and should find plenty of holes against this defense.
Cincinnati has the better defense, but Houston may have the better offense. With this being on the road, it won’t be easy betting on Ridder and company for more than a touchdown.
Cincinnati is 5-1 ATS against a team with a losing record, but 1-5 ATS in their last six on the road. Houston has failed to cover its last four following an ATS win, while the over is 6-1 in its last seven conference games.
The Bearcats are 3-1-1 ATS in the last five meetings between these schools, but one of those covers was in 2002.
Our Pick – Houston +7.5