Cincinnati vs UCF Odds & Picks: How to Bet the Knights in AAC Clash
Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: John Rhys Plumlee (UCF)
Cincinnati vs UCF Odds
After going 12-0 last season, the Cincinnati Bearcats became the first Group of Five team to earn a College Football Playoff berth.
Despite setting a Group of Five record with nine players drafted to the NFL, the Bearcats have kept on rolling this season.
Cincinnati lost the season opener on the road at Arkansas, but has won its past six games and is ranked No. 20 in the AP Poll, sitting in prime position for another New Year’s Six bowl appearance.
But now the Bearcats have a trip to Orlando for a date with UCF.
Gus Malzahn’s team is 5-2 with losses to Louisville and East Carolina.
These two teams are tied for the most New Year’s Six appearances by Group of Five teams.
The winner of this game has the inside track to a berth in the American Athletic Conference title game, potentially against Tulane. Cincinnati has won 17 straight conference games, but if you exclude the 2020 season, UCF has won 18 straight conference games at home.
Something’s got to give here.
While the defense got all the headlines, the Bearcats also had to replace four-year starter quarterback Desmond Ridder. Fifth-year senior Ben Bryant took over after three seasons as Ridder’s backup and a brief stint at Eastern Michigan.
The loss of Jerome Ford at running back has resulted in a 94th-ranked Rushing Success Rate. Charles McClelland has been gone lately, but the step back in the run game has resulted in Bryant averaging over 31 passing attempts per game.
Despite the uptick in pass attempts, Bryant is just seventh in the conference with 251.6 passing yards per game. He’s also thrown 15 touchdowns and six interceptions.
In his past three games, he has just four touchdowns and three interceptions.
Cincinnati has been better in the passing game, but is still just 51st in Success Rate.
Even with the star power losses on defense, the Bearcats have still been elite this year. The 4.03 yards per play allowed is the third-best in the country, and they have the eighth-best Success Rate in the FBS.
A large reason for that has been the play of linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. After leading the MAC in tackles last year, Pace transferred from Miami (OH) and has been an absolute monster, averaging more than 10 tackles per game this season.
Pace has racked up 15.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks on the year, which are both the most in the entire country.
The one area of weakness has been trying to replace star cornerbacks Sauce Gardner and Coby Bryant. Cincinnati has really struggled in coverage and has given up a bunch of big plays, ranking 109th in defending Passing Explosiveness.
UCF had to replace its quarterback as well, as Dillon Gabriel transferred to Oklahoma after missing most of last season with a broken collarbone.
In came John Rhys Plumlee, who transferred from Ole Miss to give Malzahn the dual-threat quarterback he wants in his offense.
Plumlee has been more dangerous with his legs this season, averaging 72.3 rushing yards. Only two quarterbacks in the country have averaged more rushing yards, and he has also been able to pick up 35 first downs with his legs, the second-most among any quarterback.
And let’s not forget that he also has seven rushing touchdowns on the year.
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) September 18, 2022
The Knights also have three good running backs in Isaiah Bowser, RJ Harvey and Johnny Richardson, who have combined to help UCF rack up the sixth-most rushing yards this season.
UCF is averaging 242.4 yards per game on the ground.
When they do throw the ball, the Knights have depth at receiver, with Javon Baker, Ryan O’Keefe and Kobe Hudson each averaging over 50 yards per game.
Plumlee has looked better throwing the ball of late, averaging 328 yards per game through the air over the past three weeks.
JOHN RHYS PLUMLEE IS HAVING A NIGHT!
He finds Kobe Hudson for his 7️⃣ th total TD 😱 pic.twitter.com/5ziYq32pEy
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) October 14, 2022
Last season, UCF’s defense was really strong against the pass, but got torched against the run at times. This year, the unit has flipped the script — the Knights’ defense has been really leaky against the pass, but has looked dominant against the run.
Linebacker Jason Johnson is their leading tackler, and their cornerbacks are also great tacklers. UCF ranks 11th in Success Rate against the run.
While teams have been able to move the ball through the air, the Knights have allowed just five passing touchdowns all year — only four teams have allowed fewer.
That has been the recipe for UCF this season. Even when teams are able to move the ball a little bit, the Knights build a moat around the end zone and don’t let them score.
They have the best red-zone defense in the country, allowing just 15 scores (touchdowns or field goals) on 26 total trips for opponents.
Cincinnati vs UCF Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Cincinnati and UCF match up statistically:
Cincinnati Offense vs. UCF Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
UCF Offense vs. Cincinnati Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Pace of Play / Other
|SP+ Special Teams||73||86|
|Seconds per Play||26.3 (68)||24.8 (32)|
|Rush Rate||51.2% (80)||59.2% (25)|
Data via CollegeFootballData.com (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.
Cincinnati vs UCF Betting Pick
If UCF is going to win this game, it is going to do it in the red zone. Cincinnati has struggled to find success on the ground, and that is the Knights’ strength.
UCF should be able to shut down the run game and force Cincinnati to throw the ball down the field.
When they do throw, the Bearcats have had success and should be able to move the ball against this UCF secondary. But once they get into scoring range, it gets extremely difficult.
Scott and Tucker are both good receivers for the Bearcats, but they are both undersized and not big red zone threats. Cincinnati ranks just 88th in the nation in Finishing Drives. UCF has the best red-zone defense and will make it hard for the Bearcats to punch it in.
Plumlee and this offense have done a great job all season and have a balanced attack that could give Cincinnati issues.
The Bearcats have had issues against the two mobile quarterbacks they have faced this season. Arkansas rushed for 224 yards, with 62 yards and a touchdown coming from KJ Jefferson. South Florida ran for 224 yards, 117 of which were courtesy of Gerry Bohanon.
Despite Cincinnati’s AAC winning streak, the Bearcats have not shown the dominance we typically expect. They are just 2-5 against the spread this year and have failed to cover in three straight.
They beat Tulsa by 10, only beat South Florida by four and needed a failed two-point conversion to beat SMU and its backup quarterback last week.
UCF has won 18 straight conference games at the Bounce House, excluding the 2020 season. Cincinnati is just 1-2 at UCF, with the lone win coming by three points during the 2020 season when UCF had just 10,668 people in attendance (24% of total capacity).
In the two other games in Orlando, UCF out-scored Cincinnati by a combined score of 62-16.
This weekend is homecoming for the Knights, so the Bounce House is going to be absolutely rocking.
UCF is going to pick up a big win against the Bearcats.