AAC Championship Odds, Predictions for Houston vs. Cincinnati: Our Staff’s Consensus Best Bets (Saturday, Dec. 4)
Williams Paul/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images and Dylan Buell/Getty Images. Pictured from left: Jeremy Singleton (13) of the Houston Cougars and Ahmad Gardner (1) of the Cincinnati Bearcats.
- The Houston Cougars (+10.5) and Cincinnati Bearcats will play for the American Athletic Conference Championship today at 4 p.m. ET.
- Cincinnati's College Football Playoff hopes rely on a victory, but the underdog Cougars won't go down easily. Accordingly, the point spread has moved from Houston +11.5 at open to +10.5 as of writing, reflecting the betting market's faith in Houston to cover on Saturday.
- Our college football betting staff weighs in on the AAC Championship point spread and over/under. Read on for updated odds and our staff's consensus picks for Houston vs. Cincinnati.
Houston vs. Cincinnati Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Houston vs. Cincinnati
The Group of 5’s best gets one more chance to make a closing statement in the Conference USA championship game.
Luke Fickell’s Cincinnati Bearcats have been perfect. While they haven’t been as consistently dominant as the likes of Georgia, the Bearcats have passed every single test so far in 2021.
Standing in the way of potential history, though, is a red-hot Houston team. Head coach Dana Holgorsen has apparently finally found his footing with the mid-major program. He led the Cougars to 11 straight wins entering Saturday’s highly-anticipated AAC title game, which features two schools that finished the regular season in the top-10 nationally in average scoring margin.
Here are our thoughts on the spread, total and a handful of notable player props.
Houston vs. Cincinnati Spread
By Doug Ziefel
This is a matchup of formidable winning streaks. Cincinnati has won all 12 of its games this season and certainly earned all the praise it has been given. Houston, though, hasn’t lost since its season opener and has 11 straight wins.
Overall records may matter to the College Football Playoff Committee, but to us, the only record that matters is against the spread. From that perspective, this game is a wash since both went 7-5 this season.
Cincinnati finished the season as strongly as it could. The Bearcats blew out their final opponents 83-27, which shows their dominance and how they deserve to be in the College Football Playoff.
But which Cincinnati team will we get in this one? The lockdown defense combined with a Heisman-level quarterback on offense, or will we see a flat Bearcats team that failed to put away teams like Tulsa and Navy?
There is no questioning this Bearcats defense, which is truly one of the best in the country, but it cannot overlook this Houston offense. The Cougars present a balanced attack that can be very explosive and ranks seventh nationally in points per play.
On the other side of the ball, it is much more of the same story. This Houston team matches up with the Bearcats much better than the spread may tell you. Defensively, the Cougars rank seventh in opponent yards per game and fourth in opponent’s third-down conversion rate.
The Houston defense also appears to have an answer for the Bearcats, regardless of how they will try to attack them. If Cincinnati goes to the air with Desmond Ridder, the Cougars rank 12th in opponent completion percentage and 20th in yards per pass allowed. If the Bearcats stay on the ground with Jerome Ford, Houston held opposing rushers to just 3.2 yards per carry, which is 10th nationally.
Our staff here at the Action Network is largely backing the Cougars to keep it close in the AAC Championship game. The numbers say that the Cougars will give the Bearcats all they can handle and that certainly creates value on the 10.5-point spread.
Staff Pick: Houston +10.5
Houston vs. Cincinnati Over/Under
The Bearcats defense has been the star of the show this season but matches up here against a Houston offense that has thrived through the passing attack behind the arm of Clayton Tune. He has thrown for 26 touchdowns and over 3,000 yards while completing 69% of his passes.
That will play into the strength of the Cincinnati defense, though, since the Bearcats hold opponents to 5.4 yards per pass attempt, which is second best in the country. The Bearcats defensive front has 37 sacks on the season, and the secondary has 14 interceptions.
Against FBS competition, the Bearcats have allowed 4.2 yards per play which ranks fourth in the nation. They have been just as good against the run, allowing a measly 3.6 yards per carry.
Houston’s defense has been its unsung hero this season, holding opponents to less than 20 points per game. The Cougars have been just as dominant against the run ranking 10th in yards per rush at 3.2. They will be able to stabilize the run game and force Desmond Ridder to beat them with his arm.
Cincinnati will be playing this game at Nippert Stadium, where the Bearcats have won 26 straight games. In six home games this season, the Cincinnati defense has held opponents to 13 points and fewer than 130 passing yards per game.
Five of the last six games have gone under for Cincinnati, and I anticipate the defense to have its best outing of the season against Houston. I’m playing under 53 in this matchup between two of the top defenses in the AAC.
Staff Pick: Under 53
Houston vs. Cincinnati Player Props
Singleton plays almost exclusively on the outside, which will have him lined up against Cincinnati’s dominant outside cornerback duo of Ahmad Gardner and Coby Bryant. There aren’t many better players at the position than those two, who are the driving forces behind Cincinnati’s No. 2 ranking in yards allowed per pass attempt.
Starting with Gardner, it seems as though teams have made a conscious effort to avoid the potential first-round pick, and with good reason. He’s only been targeted 36 times this season on 409 coverage snaps, per Pro Football Focus, and has allowed just 17 catches for 134 yards. That’s resulted in a yards per target figure of just 3.7 and a passer rating allowed of 22.2. If a Houston receiver catches a touchdown on Gardner, it will be the first time that’s happened against him in 2021.
Then there’s Bryant, who ranks 12th nationally in PFF’s coverage grade among cornerbacks, with Gardner ranking 13th. Bryant has been targeted much more than Gardner (64 times, to be exact), but he’s allowed just 27 of those to be caught for a 42% completion percentage and 5.4 yards per target.
Going back to Singleton, he’s averaging 47 yards per game in his 10 games played this season, hitting the 100-yard mark for the first time last week against UConn. He’s only seeing 11.5% of the targets in Houston’s passing offense and has surpassed three catches in just three of his games. The volume just hasn’t been consistent, and his matchup against this Cincinnati secondary is just about as tough as it gets with the Bearcats’ elite cornerback tandem and press-heavy scheme.
Pick: Jeremy Singleton Under 61.5 Receiving Yards
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