Cincinnati vs. East Carolina Odds, Picks, Predictions: Why to Fade the Bearcats in Friday’s AAC Showdown (Nov. 26)

Cincinnati vs. East Carolina Odds, Picks, Predictions: Why to Fade the Bearcats in Friday’s AAC Showdown (Nov. 26) article feature image

James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Coby Bryant.

Cincinnati vs. East Carolina Odds

Friday, Nov. 26
3:30 p.m. ET
Cincinnati Odds
-115o / -105u
East Carolina Odds
-115o / -105u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

Cincinnati looks to end the regular season undefeated when it travels to Greenville to take on East Carolina.

For the first time this season, the College Football Playoff committee has put Cincinnati inside the top four. However, the Bearcats have a huge game in the AAC Championship against one-loss Houston, so this game on Friday is a massive look-ahead spot against a good East Carolina team.

The Pirates escaped Annapolis with a three-point win over Navy last weekend to move to 7-4 on the season.

East Carolina comes into this game red hot on a four-game win streak. In fact, its last loss came on Oct. 23 in overtime at Houston, Cincinnati's opponent in the AAC Championship game.

So, Holton Ahlers and Company will be ready for the Bearcats on Saturday.

Cincinnati Bearcats

Bearcats Offense

Cincinnati's offense came alive against SMU last Saturday, tallying 544 yards and 48 points.

The Bearcats offense has been very efficient this season, especially on the ground. Starting running back Jerome Ford has been incredible this season, averaging 6.0 yards per carry with 16 touchdowns.

Ford and the Cincinnati rushing attack ranks 13th in Rushing Success Rate, 36th in Offensive Line Yards, and second in EPA/Rush.

Jerome Ford made a few cuts and hit the pay dirt ⚡️

— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) October 9, 2021

The good news for Cincinnati is that the ground game is how teams should attack the East Carolina defense, which has been below average against the run this season.

Desmond Ridder wasn't playing at the level we expected for most of the season, but he has been on fire the last three games.

Against Tulsa, USF, and SMU, Ridder has put up a PFF passing grade above 82 with six big-time throws and zero turnover-worthy plays. However, overall, the Cincinnati passing attack hasn't been that effective, ranking 43rd in Success Rate and 56th in EPA/Pass.

East Carolina has one of the best secondaries in the AAC, so it will be ready for the challenge on Saturday.

Bearcats Defense

Cincinnati's defense has been outstanding all season and really is the reason it's still undefeated.

The Bearcats are allowing only 4.3 yards per play, which is the fourth-best mark in the country. The Bearcats are also one of only four teams in college football to rank inside the top 10 in both EPA/Rush allowed and EPA/Pass allowed.

The way to beat Cincinnati is to run the ball consistently. The Bearcats are 38th in Rushing Success Rate Allowed, 38th in Defensive Line Yards, and 68th in Stuff Rate.

Next, opponents have to be able to break off explosive plays. Cincinnati has only faced two offenses inside the top 25 in terms of explosiveness. East Carolina ranks 18th in offensive explosiveness, so it may be able to break a few big plays against the Bearcats.

The problem with facing Cincinnati is that teams can't throw on its secondary. The Bearcats are allowing only 5.3 yards per attempt, rank fifth in EPA/Pass, sixth in Passing Success Rate Allowed, and own the second-best coverage grade in the country, per PFF.

East Carolina Pirates

Pirates Offense

The success of the Pirates revolves around quarterback Ahlers. Ahlers and the East Carolina offense are gaining 5.7 yards per play and rank 57th in EPA/Play this season.

Ahlers has posted 7.7 yards per attempt and had his best game of the season against Navy this past weekend, averaging 12.7 yards per attempt with three touchdowns and a 94.1 passing grade.

The biggest thing for Ahlers over his career has been holding onto the ball. Ahlers has 15 turnover-worthy plays so far this season, which is a problem since he will be facing a Cincinnati front seven that has the fourth-best pass-rushing grade in college football.

To combat that, Ahlers will have to beat the Bearcats in the short passing game, which he has been very successful with this season. Ahlers has an 80% completion percentage on passes between 0-10 yards and averages 7.0 yards per attempt.

However, where Ahlers really excels is throwing the deep ball, considering his PFF passing grade is 90.3 on passes over 20+ yards in the air.

Holton Ahlers drops a dime to Audie Omotosho for the East Carolina TD. Ahlers is 17/23 for 132 passing yards.

USF 14

— CFB Blitz (@BlitzCfb) October 29, 2021

Those deep balls will be key against a Cincinnati secondary that sits 71st in explosive passing allowed.

The East Carolina rushing attack has struggled from a Success Rate standpoint, ranking 77th in Rushing Success Rate and 111th in Offensive Line Yards. However, East Carolina is 23rd in rushing explosiveness, so there are a lot of backdoor opportunities with this offense.

Pirates Defense

The East Carolina front seven has been pretty average against the run this season, allowing 5.0 yards per carry and ranking 66th in Rushing Success Rate Allowed.

The Pirates are also 117th in rushing explosiveness allowed and 83rd in EPA/Rush allowed, so they're going to have a tough time stopping Cincinnati's rushing attack.

The East Carolina secondary has been really solid this season, ranking 19th in Passing Success Rate Allowed and 24th in EPA/Pass allowed while owning the 27th best coverage grade, per PFF.

So, this unit should be able slow down Ridder and the Cincinnati passing attack, which hasn't been explosive at all, ranking 105th in passing explosiveness this season.

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Cincinnati vs. East Carolina Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Cincinnati and East Carolina match up statistically:

Cincinnati Offense vs. East Carolina Defense
Rush Success1366
Line Yards3669
Pass Success4319
Pass Blocking**85109
Big Play6694
Finishing Drives863
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

East Carolina Offense vs. Cincinnati Defense
Rush Success7738
Line Yards11138
Pass Success476
Pass Blocking**1184
Big Play8314
Finishing Drives945
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling574
Middle 81134
SP+ Special Teams7421
Plays per Minute6966
Rush Rate53.6% (76)53.2% (80)

Data via College Football Data, FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF and SportSource Analytics.

Cincinnati vs. East Carolina Betting Pick

This is a big-time look-ahead spot for Cincinnati with Houston on deck in the AAC Championship next weekend. Facing an offense as explosive as East Carolina opens a ton of backdoor possibilities.

I only have Cincinnati projected at -8.40, so I think there's some value on the Pirates to cover at +14 and would play it down to +13.

Pick: East Carolina +14 (Play to +13)

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