Cincinnati at SMU Betting Odds & Pick: Back Bearcats in Dallas (Oct. 24)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images. Pictured: Desmond Ridder
- Cincinnati takes on SMU in Dallas in a game between unbeaten Group of Five teams.
- Despite being a top-10 team, the Bearcats find themselves as the underdogs.
- Mike Bainbridge breaks down the game and shares a betting pick below.
Cincinnati at SMU Odds
|Cincinnati Odds||+1 [BET NOW]|
|SMU Odds||-1 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||+100/-121 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||57 [BET NOW]|
|Time||Saturday, 9 p.m. ET|
We have a battle of unbeatens in this Saturday night matchup between two AAC title contenders: the Cincinnati Bearcats (3-0) and SMU Mustangs (5-0).
Cincinnati will be coming off a three-week layoff entering this weekend, having not played since a comfortable 28-7 win over South Florida in Week 5. The Bearcats really have not been tested — their average margin of victory through three contests is 23 points.
SMU is fresh off a thrilling three-point overtime victory over Tulane in which the offense racked up nearly 600 total yards despite missing key contributors on that side of the ball. The Mustangs enter Saturday’s matchup on an eight-game home winning streak and are 15-3 overall with quarterback Shane Buechele as the starter.
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Does rust come into play for the Bearcats, who are playing their first game since Oct. 3?
Defensively, Cincy is still the class of the AAC, ranking first in the conference in both total and scoring defense while allowing just 12.3 points per game. One could argue that competition (or lack thereof) plays a factor in those results — South Florida, Army and Austin Peay aren’t exactly offensive juggernauts — but this defense is littered with elite talents at all three levels, including defensive linemen Elijah Ponder, Myjai Sanders and safety James Wiggins.
In years past, the Bearcats could rely on a strong rushing attack to pair with average quarterback play. And while they haven’t been bad in that department this season — averaging 178 yards per game on the ground — they’ve not been up to par with the past two seasons when they ranked in the top 25 in 2018 and 2019.
The offensive line is ranked 27th out of 77 in run-blocking, according to Pro Football Focus and 46th in Stuff Rate according to Football Outsiders. Despite the inconsistencies up front, Cincinnati should still find some level of success against an SMU defense that’s allowed an opposing rusher to top at least 98 yards in four of its five games.
One piece of good news for the Cincy offense is that top wide receiver Alec Pierce is expected back after missing the first three games with a knee injury.
This is not the same SMU offense without star receiver Reggie Roberson and starting running back TJ McDaniel, but the Mustangs showed last week they are still plenty explosive with quarterback Buechele as the maestro.
Buechele threw for 384 yards against Tulane, averaging more than 10 yards per attempt — he ranks 11th nationally in said category. With Roberson out of the lineup, head coach Sonny Dykes shifted slot receiver Danny Gray outside, and the move worked to perfection as the former junior college transfer posted a breakout performance with 133 receiving yards and one touchdown, adding another score with a 32-yard touchdown run.
Gray wasn’t the only receiver who had a big day, as the Mustangs had three — Gray, Tyler Page and Rashee Rice — all top 100 yards receiving.
While McDaniel’s injury has allowed for more opportunities for redshirt freshman running back Ulysses Bentley IV, the SMU running game has struggled over the past two games, averaging 2.3 yards per carry against Memphis and just 3.3 yards per carry against Tulane. Dykes alluded to the fact that McDaniel made a bigger impact in the ground game than what the box score says, and we’re seeing the repercussions of his injury.
If Bentley isn’t breaking off long runs (6.84 yards per carry), this SMU rushing attack will struggle against a Cincinnati defense that ranks 12th in Line Yards and 11th in Rushing Success Rate.
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Betting Analysis & Pick
SMU has been dominant at home with Buechele at quarterback and are 2-0 at home against the spread in 2020. If the last two meetings between these two teams are any indication, we’re in for a close contest. Both of the previous matchups have gone to overtime with the road team pulling out a victory.
But you have to wonder if the Mustangs are on borrowed time with two last-second wins against a rusty Memphis team coming off a long layoff and an average Tulane squad that ranks 73rd in SP+. The Mustangs found success last week with the combination of Rice and Gray, but this is a different animal against the Bearcats and their press man coverage.
Pick: Cincinnati +2.5