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East Carolina vs. Cincinnati Odds & Picks: Bet Pirates to Cover Huge Spread on Friday Night

East Carolina vs. Cincinnati Odds & Picks: Bet Pirates to Cover Huge Spread on Friday Night article feature image

Joe Robbins/Getty Images. Pictured: Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder.

  • The East Carolina Pirates travel to Cincinnati, Ohio to take on the 7th-ranked Bearcats on Friday night.
  • Cincinnati is nearly a four-touchdown favorite, but Mike Calabrese cautions backing the Bearcats in a lookahead spot before facing UCF next weekend.
  • Below, find Calabrese's full betting analysis, including updated odds and his pick for tonight's game.

East Carolina vs. Cincinnati Odds

East Carolina Odds +27.5 [BET NOW]
Cincinnati Odds -27.5 [BET NOW]
Moneyline +1400 / -2899 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 55.5 [BET NOW]
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds updated Friday at 4:30 p.m. ET and via PointsBet.

The narrative surrounding Cincinnati this preseason was that Luke Fickell’s defense was College Football Playoff caliber, but the Desmond Ridder-led Bearcat offense was an anchor dragging it down.

Six games into Cincy’s 2020 campaign, it’s clear those preseason projections were only half right.

The Bearcats’ defensive Havoc rating has lived up to the hype, checking in at 16th nationally, which means it’s creating negative yardage plays or taking the ball away on 20 percent of its snaps. What is surprising is that Desmond Ridder has been a revelation as of late, with 13 total touchdowns in his last three games.

Sports books have been slow to adjust to Cincinnati’s new offensive attack, which explains why it’s been able to cover the spread by an average of 12.7 points per game (ninth in the country).

On the other side, East Carolina has plenty of experience as a large, double-digit underdog. Friday night’s game will be the third time this season the Pirates have been an underdog of 17 points or more.

Against UCF (+28), East Carolina starting quarterback Holton Ahlers orchestrated an 11-play, 77-yard touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter to secure a backdoor cover. A month later, Ahlers and the Pirates traveled to play the AAC’s most disruptive defense in Tulsa and nearly upset the Golden Hurricane on the road as 17-point underdogs.

Something has to give with Cincy running up huge blowout victories and East Carolina proving to be a live dog when catching three or more scores. In this AAC matchup, I’m more comfortable siding with the Pirates and their 60-minute, never-say-die, mentality.

Cincinnati Bearcats

As I mentioned above, Ridder has been a game-changer for Fickell and his staff. He entered the season with nearly 300 career carries, and it appeared that the book had been written on the tall, junior signal caller. Ridder was an improving game manager, with the ability to hurt defenses on the read option and could extend plays with relative ease moving outside the pocket.

This season, Ridder has expanded upon that skillset and added a breakaway touchdown-run element to his game. In his last three games, Ridder is averaging 16.2 yards per carry with eight rushing touchdowns.

An overmatched ECU defense hasn’t faced an opponent featuring a quarterback run game this heavy since last season, when it suffered a 45-20 loss to South Florida in Greenville, N.C. The Pirates surrendered 179 rushing yards on just 14 attempts to South Florida’s quarterbacks.

For all of the excitement around Ridder’s production on the ground, he’s still a work in progress through the air. Ridder has been picked off five times in his last four games, with his overall numbers (Y/A, pass yards, QB rating) inflated by the big play.

If East Carolina can limit Ridder’s explosive plays and force Cincinnati to string together long drives, the prospect of covering four touchdowns becomes a less daunting task. Unfortunately, hoping for such containment may be aspirational, as East Carolina ranks 105th and 88th in surrendering plays of 20+ and 30+ yards, respectively.

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East Carolina Pirates

Playing the Pirates in this spot comes down to head coach Mike Houston’s refusal to pack it in this season. East Carolina fought valiantly, both straight up and against the spread, throughout the season and have allowed Ahlers and the offense every chance to put more points on the board, even in blowouts.

That kind of information may seem anecdotal to some, but when it comes to anticipating backdoor covers, it’s vital.

Ahlers, a stout 6-3, 230-pounder, gives off a poor man’s Tim Tebow vibe. He entered his third season with 12 career touchdowns on the ground, but that power-rushing element has given way to more passing from the pocket.

Ahlers is on a 9 to 1 touchdown-to-interception run, putting together the best game of his career against a Tulsa defense that stymied Oklahoma State. Blake Proehl has also emerged as a serious receiving threat, coming off of a 13/182/2 performance, so it’s safe to say it’s not all on Ahlers’ shoulders.

Defensively, the Pirates are seemingly a mess across the board. However, one thing they can do is create turnovers. The Pirates have taken the ball away 11 times through six games. If they can avoid giveaways (13), they could actually use that defensive Havoc to hang around for a while.

Betting Analysis & Pick

I’ve successfully tailed East Carolina as a big underdog before, and when you toss in the lookahead factor (Cincinnti-UCF next week), I think the only play against the spread in this spot is the Pirates plus the points.

Grabbing East Carolina to win the first quarter is also a prop bet I will explore if I can find a book offering it at better than 5-1 odds.

Pick: East Carolina +27.5

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