College Football Week 3 Cincinnati vs. Indiana Betting Odds & Pick: Why to Ride the Under
Joe Robbins/Getty Images. Pictured: Desmond Ridder.
Cincinnati vs. Indiana Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Cincinnati heads on the road for their first big test as a top ten team to battle Indiana in Bloomington.
The next three weeks will be a big test for the Bearcats. They've got Indiana this week, and play at Notre Dame on Oct. 2 following a bye week.
The stakes are incredibly high for the Bearcats on Saturday.
With both Clemson and Ohio State already having one loss on the season, it opens the window ever so slightly for Cincinnati to get into the College Football Playoff if it goes undefeated. We can at least talk about the possibility.
Luke Fickell has the Bearcats playing well through their first two games, blowing out Miami (Ohio) and Murray State. However, Indiana's defense is going to provide a much stiffer test on Saturday.
So, it will be interesting to see if Desmond Ridder and the Bearcats are ready for the hostile environment at Memorial Stadium.
Cincinnati's offense revolves around their star quarterback Desmond Ridder. Ridder has been really effective through his first two games of 2021, throwing for 11.4 yards per attempt and six touchdowns against Miami Ohio and Murray State.
However, Ridder has historically had one big weakness in his game and it's his downfield passing. Last season he had a 33.3% adjusted completion percentage on 20+ yard throws, which was tied for the 11th-worst mark in FBS, per PFF. In fact, Ridder only had 14 big-time throws last year compared to 11 turnover-worthy plays, per PFF. This year, he's been better in a small sample against worse competition. So this week will tell us a lot.
Ridder is very valuable as a runner, as last season he had a whopping 61 rushes of over 10+ yards and averaged 6.0 yards per carry with 12 touchdowns.
— Cincinnati Football (@GoBearcatsFB) October 25, 2020
The rushing attack is also led by Jerome Ford, who finally gets to be the lead back and has shined so far this season, rushing for 7.8 yards per carry, which is a carryover from last season, when he led the team averaging 6.6 yards per carry.
Ridder gets two of his top-three pass-catchers back in the receiving corps, but will be going up against one of the best secondaries in the Big Ten on Saturday. If Ridder can't beat Indiana with the deep ball, it will force Cincinnati to beat Indiana's defense with long sustained drives.
Cincinnati has potentially the best defense of the Group of Five and it was one of the main reasons the Bearcats went to the Peach Bowl last season.
They ranked inside the top five in offensive success rate allowed, No. 1 in passing success allowed and third in coverage, per PFF.
The secondary is still the strength of this Cincinnati defense because it has potentially the nation's best starting cornerback combination in Ahmad Gardner and Coby Bryant.
Gardner is one of the best corners in the entire country, as he's yet to allow a touchdown against him in his college career and opposing quarterbacks have a 35.3 passer rating on throws at him in coverage, per PFF. So, he essentially takes away one side of the field, which is going to be a problem for Indiana QB Michael Penix.
Ahmad Gardner career coverage stats:
🔒598 coverage snaps
🔒0 TDs allowed
🔒35.3 passer rating when targeted pic.twitter.com/wjk29Lb55A
— PFF College (@PFF_College) February 17, 2021
The front seven is no joke either. There's not much to glean from their first two games against Miami Ohio and Murray State, but they did only allow 3.19 yards per carry. Last season, Cincinnati was very good against the run ranking inside the top 35 in defensive line yards and rushing success rate allowed.
The defensive line also is stacked this season the return of Myjai Sanders and Curtis Brooks, who know how to get to the quarterback. Last season, they ranked inside the top five in the AAC in terms of pass-rushing grade, per PFF, and combined for 9.5 sacks.
This season, although it's only two games versus inferior opponents, Cincinnati received the highest pass-rushing grade, per PFF. So, it's going to be a long day for Penix.
Indiana got things back on track last weekend, beating FCS foe Idaho 56-14. The opening weekend 34-6 loss to Iowa was not how Tom Allen wanted to start the 2021 season when there was so much hype and positive momentum in the program.
However, beating a top 10 Cincinnati team that has its eyes on the College Football Playoff in Bloomington could be a program-defining win for the Hoosiers on Saturday.
Indiana revolves around quarterback Penix He really struggled in the opener against Iowa, going 14-31 for 156 yards at three interceptions.
While a couple of those interceptions were not his fault, the performance was a telling sign of how Penix stacks up against elite secondaries in college football. Now, he has to face another elite one on Saturday with potentially the best cornerback in college football.
If Penix is on top of his game (and healthy after a season-ending ACL tear in November), he's one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten. Last season his PFF graded numbers were off the charts, with a 10.3% big-time throw rate (third in FBS), 68.4 passing grade versus pressure (seventh in FBS) and 80.3 true dropback passing grade (21st in FBS).
What was interesting about the Idaho game this past Saturday is Indiana really focused on running the ball. Penix only attempted 16 passes and had only 68 total passing yards, but did throw two touchdowns.
I'm sure they didn't want to show anything on film to Cincinnati, but Penix is going to be forced to throw the ball quite a bit, given the struggles of Indiana's rushing attack, which ranked 98th in Rushing Success, 119th in rushing explosiveness, and 62nd in Offensive Line Yards a season ago.
The Hoosiers were completely unsuccessful rushing against Iowa's front seven on opening weekend, gaining only 2.5 yards per carry and against Idaho, they only ran the ball for 3.8 yards per carry. So, I have a hard time seeing how they are going to consistently move the ball on potentially the best group of five defense in the country.
Despite the final score reading 34-6 against Iowa, the Indiana defense played pretty well. They only allowed the Hawks to gain 4.73 yards per play and if you take out Tyler Goodson's 56-yard touchdown run, Iowa only gained 2.91 yards per rush.
The linebacking corps and secondary is where Indiana is going to cause Cincinnati a ton of problems. It boasts one of the best pass-rushing linebackers in the country back in Micah McFadden who blitzed over 44% of the time in 2020 and earned a 90.8 pass-rushing grade, per PFF.
Ridder was a top-20 quarterback versus the blitz last season, so Indiana better be careful when bringing pressure.
The secondary is by far the biggest strength for Indiana, and it has two of the best corners in the Big Ten in Reese Taylor and Jaylin Williams. Williams actually led all of Power Five last season with 10 passing stops and three interceptions when playing out of zone.
Spencer Petras and Idaho's quarterback Mike Beaudry both only averaged 5.4 yards per attempt against Indiana's secondary, so this will be a massive step up in competition for Ridder.
Cincinnati vs. Indiana Matchup Analysis
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Cincinnati Offense vs. Indiana Defense
Indiana Offense vs. Cincinnati Defense
Pace of Play / Other
Cincinnati vs. Indiana Betting Pick
I think this game has defensive slugfest written all over it, similar to how the Iowa/Indiana game went in Week 1.
With two elite secondaries going up against two elite quarterbacks, it's going to put an emphasis on the run game for two offenses that already play at a very slow pace, ranking outside the top 70 in plays per minute this season.
Even though the emphasis is going to be on the run game, I'm not sure either rushing attack will be able to have much success given Indiana's struggles dating back to last season, along with their improved performance against the run against Iowa.
The total is steadily dropping for this game, as it opened at 51 and is down to 49.5 at most sportsbooks, as 56% of the money is on the Under right now. I only have 41.67 points projected for this game, given the slow pace, so I think there is some value on the under, which is still at 50 currently at BetMGM.