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Cincinnati vs. Houston Odds & Picks: Betting Value with the Bearcats on Saturday Afternoon (Nov. 7)

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Justin Casterline/Getty Images. Pictured: Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder.

  • The Houston Cougars make the journey north to face the Cincinnati Bearcats on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET.
  • The Bearcats, currently 13-point favorites, have put themselves in New Year's Six bowl chatter.
  • Reed Wallach breaks down game odds and explains why he likes Cincinnati to cover the number.

Houston at Cincinnati Odds

Houston Odds +13 [BET NOW]
Cincinnati Odds -13 [BET NOW]
Moneyline +410 / -625 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 52 [BET NOW]
Time 3:30 p.m. ET
TV ESPN
Odds updated Saturday afternoon and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today.

As the college football landscape begins taking shape, the Cincinnati Bearcats have become the Group of Five dark horse to make a push for the College Football Playoff.

Luke Fickell’s undefeated Bearcats will look to keep that momentum rolling into November, starting with a home showdown against Dana Holgorsen and his Houston Cougars.

Houston enters this game following a lackluster 44-31 home loss to Central Florida in which it failed to cover as a 3-point home underdog. Now, the Cougars are faced with the task of trying to score on this ferocious Cincinnati defense.

Las Vegas is wise to Cincinnati’s success, installing it as 13.5-point favorites ahead of this meeting. Will it take care of business come Saturday?

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Houston Cougars

The Cougars came into this season projected to be a run-and-gun, touchdown-scoring offense. However, that hasn’t been the case. While Houston is averaging more than 33 points per game through four contests, its offense has not been as strong as it would appear.

Houston’s offense has been hamstrung behind shaky offensive line play and poor running game. Despite a veteran presence in senior running back Kyle Porter, the Cougars’ backfield is posting a 42% Success Rate on all rushing plays and averaging 3.46 yards per carry.

Cincinnati’s defense has very few holes in it, but its rush defense is one of its best assets. The Bearcats allow 2.68 yards per carry and 4.22 yards per play, more than a full yard less than the national average. That said, this might not be the afternoon Porter has a breakout game.

The big news heading into this game is that Houston is going to be down its more explosive wide receiver Marquez Stevenson, who’s nursing an ankle injury. Stevenson’s presence is going to be sorely missed from what has been an offense that has performed below Holgorsen’s expectations.

Houston is losing four catches a game for 17 yards per reception and four all-purpose touchdowns (three receiving and one kick return), with Stevenson out.

Houston’s path to victory is going to have to come from explosive plays. Stevenson is the biggest deep threat, but quarterback Clayton Tune will still have a trio of wide receivers that can rip off chunk plays in Tre’von Bradley, Nathaniel Dell and Keith Corbin.

With that in mind, this has to be the point of attack for the Cougars. Teams can’t methodically drive down the field on Cincinnati, but they can hit on big plays. Memphis’ lone touchdown last weekend was a 92-yard touchdown pass.

On the other side of the ball, the defense has faced some explosive offenses and struggled to contain them. Brigham Young and UCF were both able to drop 40 points on the Houston defense with relative ease. That said, there is no reason why the in-form Desmond Ridder can’t put up a big number.

The defense’s main issue is that it struggles to limit the big play. Houston ranks in the bottom 10 in the country in defensive pass explosiveness. Even if Houston’s can hit on a few big plays, the defense may not hold its end of the bargain against the multi-dimensional Cincinnati offense.

Cincinnati Bearcats

While Fickell’s defense is as strong as ever, Ridder’s play at quarterback has been the biggest development for the Bearcats and their pursuit of a New Year’s Six bowl and outside shot at the CFP. His numbers are up across the board in his third season under center. As a passer, he is completing over 64% of his passes, but his legs have also helped him turn the corner.

The 6’4 junior is averaging nearly nine yards per carry this season, with five touchdowns that have already tied his career-high. Ridder’s ability to take off outside the pocket has opened up passing lanes but has also given the offense a new look. The offense’s explosiveness is up 26% from 2019 to 2020, according to CollegeFootballData.

We can’t discuss Cincinnati without mentioning its defense a little bit more. While I previously mentioned the Bearcats’ incredible rush defense, the entire unit is a brick wall, which is especially evident in scoring situations. The Bearcats’ defense is allowing one touchdown on 23% of opponent’s drives inside the red zone, the best mark of teams to play more than three games.

This defense doesn’t bend much with its staggering yards per play mark but also doesn’t break very often either. Up against a Houston offense that struggles to generate efficient plays, I foresee Cincinnati making life difficult for Tune and the Houston offense.


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Betting Analysis & Pick

With a more worthy competitor in UCF waiting next weekend, this could be a tricky spot for Cincinnati now that it’s in the national spotlight. On top of that, it just knocked off a Memphis team that had its New Year’s Six bowl game aspirations spoiled last weekend.

That said, is this a sell high spot for Cincinnati? I say no.

Factoring in the loss of Stevenson and the general inefficiency of the Houston offense, the Bearcats should be able to win this one-handedly. The Cougars’ defense does not generate enough turnovers to really flip the field on Ridder, and the unit is 89th in turnovers gained in 2020.

The Bearcats should be able to control this one on both sides and take care of business in a résumé-padding game. I’d play Cincinnati up to -16.5 points.

Pick: Cincinnati -13.5 (play up to -16.5)

[Bet Cincinnati now at DraftKings and get a $1,000 bonus, including a $500 risk-free bet]
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