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Cincinnati vs. UCF Odds & Pick: Target This AAC Over/Under on Saturday Afternoon

Credit:

Joe Robbins/Getty Images. Pictured: Desmond Ridder.

  • Desmond Ridder and the Cincinnati Bearcats will take on Dillon Gabriel and the UCF Knights in an important Group of Five game on Saturday.
  • The Bearcats have looked dominant in recent weeks, but the Knights pose a challenge that they haven't quite seen yet.
  • Check out Darin Gardner's full betting preview complete with a pick below.

Cincinnati vs. UCF Odds

Cincinnati Odds -4 [BET NOW]
UCF Odds +4 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -180 / +140 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 65.5 [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.

This Cincinnati vs. UCF matchup is going to be very interesting. The game features an elite Knight offense going against one of the best defenses in the country in the Bearcats.

Despite an average point differential of +15.3, UCF comes into the matchup with two losses under its belt. It will definitely need a win here to keep its AAC Championship aspirations alive.

On the other hand, the Bearcats are currently undefeated and have their eyes on the playoff. A Group of Five team has never made it in, and Cincinnati will look for a convincing win here to add to its playoff resume.

Will UCF’s prolific offense be able to move the ball at will, or will Cincinnati’s elite defense keep the Knights in check?

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Cincinnati Bearcats

Offense

Cincinnati is known for its defense — and deservedly so. But, the offense has improved by leaps and bounds since the 2019 season. After the Bearcats ranked 87th in Offensive Success Rate a season ago, their 2020 Success Rate now sits at 26th in FBS.

In addition to that greatly improved ranking in Success Rate, the Cincinnati offense also ranks 21st in Explosive Play Rate, 28th in Points Per Drive, and seventh in Finishing Drives (points per trip past the opponent 40-yard line).

Quarterback Desmond Ridder’s improvement has been a big reason why the offense has performed so well this season. Ridder ranks 12th nationally in Expected points Added (EPA) per play among quarterbacks with at least 100 snaps. The Bearcats have also done a great job keeping Ridder clean, ranking 21st in Sack Rate.

Defense

Cincinnati’s defense has absolutely shut down every team it has faced this season. Funnily enough, Cincinnati’s highest point total allowed in a single game this season was 20 points to Austin Peay in its first game. Since then, the Bearcats have not allowed more than 17 points in any contest.

In almost any defensive metric you look at, Cincinnati ranks near the top. The Bearcats are currently third in EPA per play, third in Success Rate, and 14th in Explosive Play Rate.

One area where the defense could improve is rushing the quarterback, as they rank 43rd in Sack Rate. With Cincinnati usually playing in a positive game script due to large leads, you would think it would be able to get to the quarterback more often, because the offenses are in obvious passing situations.

In what figures to be a close game against UCF, it will be interesting to see whether or not the Bearcats can pressure Dillon Gabriel.

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UCF Knights

Offense

UCF’s offense is one of the most prolific in the country. Its combination of pace and efficiency has it leading the nation in yards per game.

Even after a blowout win against Temple in which it only ran 63 offensive plays, the Knights still rank first in the nation in plays per game at 86.6. To put that in context, the average plays per game in college football is slightly under 70.

Not to turn this into a math lesson, but UCF’s pace is almost three standard deviations higher than the national average. It can be really tough to prepare for an offense that tries to go as fast as the Knights.

The thing that makes the UCF offense so exciting is its staggering efficiency while maintaining such a high tempo. The Knights rank 11th in EPA per play, 18th in Success Rate, and 12th in Available Yards Gained. UCF is also tremendously explosive and gains at least 20 yards on 11.2% of its plays. That rate is the highest in the nation among teams that have played at least three games.

Leading the offense is sophomore quarterback Dillon Gabriel, who ranks fourth in Pro Football Focus grade among all Group of Five quarterbacks. He also ranks seventh nationally in EPA per play among quarterbacks with at least 100 snaps.

Defense

The UCF defense has been tough to get a good read on all year, and I guess the best way to describe it is “inconsistent.” It performs well in some areas, but there are other areas in where it leaves a lot to be desired.

In terms of EPA per play, the Knights have performed very well, ranking 32nd on the defensive side of the ball. However, this is influenced by UCF’s ability to generate turnovers: The Knights rank third in takeaways per game.

UCF ranks highly in EPA, but if you go deeper into the numbers, the Knights do not perform quite as well as that ranking would suggest. The defense ranks 51st in Success Rate Allowed, 73rd in Explosive Play Rate Allowed, and 75th in First Down Rate Allowed.

There are two areas where UCF could really struggle against Cincinnati: Finishing Drives and pressuring Ridder. The Knights rank 89th in Finishing Drives on defense and are facing an offense that ranks seventh in that category. Additionally, UCF’s defense, which ranks 69th in Sack Rate, will be facing a Cincinnati offensive line that ranks 21st in Sack Rate Allowed.

Betting Analysis & Pick

This is going to be a big test for both teams. Cincinnati has obviously dominated on defense this season, but facing UCF’s offense is a whole different animal.

In terms of how I am betting this game, I think we should reasonably expect both teams to reach the 30s. Given the matchup’s combined pace and explosiveness from each offense, it’s tough to make a good case for the under.

I know every square bettor in the world takes the UCF over every week, but I still see value on a total I project at 70.3.

Pick: Over 63.5.

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

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