College Football Odds, Picks, Predictions for SMU vs. Cincinnati: Could Mustangs Shock Bearcats?
George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Rashee Rice (left), Danny Gray (center), and Reggie Roberson (right).
- No. 5 Cincinnati looks to continue its undefeated season as it hosts SMU in a critical AAC clash.
- The Mustangs have lost two of their last three games, but still have a high-powered offense that can keep up with the Bearcats.
- Darin Gardner previews the matchup and explains why he's backing the Mustangs.
SMU vs. Cincinnati Odds
-105o / -115u
-105o / -115u
SMU’s two-game slide in Weeks 9 and 10 has taken away some of the hype from this matchup, but it will still be a very good test for playoff-hopeful Cincinnati.
On the season, SMU sits at 8-2, with its two losses coming by a combined 10 points, and enters with an average point differential of +12.2 against FBS opponents, good for 16th in the nation.
Its conference title hopes are over, but regardless, this is still one of the top teams in the Group of Five.
On the other side, there’s been plenty of discussion about Cincinnati this year, which enters this game with an undefeated record and is currently ranked fifth in the College Football Playoff rankings.
Cincy has had some close calls over recent weeks with teams that it should have handled easily, but the Bearcats are still beating their opponents by an average of more than 21 points per game.
Cincinnati has an opportunity to make a statement to the College Football Playoff Committee over the next three games, with SMU coming to town on Saturday and then facing 9-1 Houston in the AAC Championship. Will its undefeated record remain intact heading into its final regular-season game?
SMU brought in Oklahoma transfer quarterback Tanner Mordecai to take over for Shane Buechele, and Mordecai has proven to be one of the most valuable transfers in the country this season.
He’s currently ranked ninth in the nation in PFF passing grade, with 8.6 yards per attempt and a ratio of 20 big-time throws to only 11 turnover-worthy plays. Overall, he’s run a passing game that ranks second in Success Rate.
SMU’s pass -atchers have been a major plus as well, with four different players totaling more than 400 receiving yards to date. At receiver, SMU’s trio of Danny Gray, Rashee Rice and Reggie Roberson all rank in the top 10 in receiving yards among AAC receivers, with tight end Grant Calcaterra ranking second among tight ends in the conference.
In terms of passer rating generated when targeted, both Gray and Rice rank in the top 20 nationally. Gray is questionable to suit up in this contest, but there are still plenty of weapons outside of him in this offense.
Running back Ulysses Bentley has battled injuries at times this season but has been very efficient when on the field, ranking fifth in PFF rushing grade among running backs with at least 50 carries. He’s averaging 7.2 yards per carry, with 4.97 coming after contact, per PFF.
Overall, the Mustangs rank ninth in points per drive this season.
The highlight of this defense has been the front seven, which has excelled in pass rushing and run defense.
Starting with the pass rush, the Mustangs rank seventh in PFF pass-rushing grade, with defensive tackle DeVere Levelston and Turner Coxe ranking first and second, respectively, in sacks among all AAC defenders.
Against the run, SMU ranks seventh in rushing success rate allowed and ninth in yards before contact per attempt. The top performer there has been defensive tackle Elijah Chatman, whose 92.0 PFF run-defense grade ranks first in the nation at his position.
The coverage unit has been the weak link for this team, as it has the Mustangs ranked 76th in Passing Success Rate Allowed.
The pass rush has an advantageous matchup against Cincinnati’s offensive line, but the back end will need to hold up its end of the bargain in order for the guys up front to get home.
Cincinnati has fielded a very efficient ground game this year, which ranks third in Expected Points Added (EPA) per carry. Running back Jerome Ford has led the way, ranking in the top 15 in PFF rushing grade and yards per carry among running backs with at least 100 attempts.
He missed last game against USF and it’s unclear if he will go in this one, but Cincinnati’s running back by committee approach combined for 143 yards on 22 carries in his absence last week against a weak Bulls defense.
Desmond Ridder has been efficient in his fourth year as starting quarterback, ranking 17th in PFF passing grade.
However, the overall passing game hasn’t been as reliable as Cincinnati would probably like, ranking just 52nd in Passing Success Rate. Receiver Alec Pierce has been productive, but there haven’t been a ton of real difference-makers in this passing game outside of him.
The offensive line hasn’t helped there either, ranking 93rd in PFF pass-blocking grade. That could be a key matchup in this contest against SMU’s productive pass rush.
The Bearcats have lived up to the lofty expectations on this side of the ball, ranking fifth in EPA per play. The pass defense has been elite, considering its top ten rankings in yards allowed per pass attempt, pressure rate and passing success rate allowed.
In coverage, Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner has made a good case for the best in the nation at the cornerback position. Per PFF, he’s played 337 coverage snaps this season and has only been targeted 27 times, allowing 13 receptions for 94 yards. He’s only allowed one play of 15+ yards all season, and his 0.28 yards allowed per coverage snap ranks second among cornerbacks with at least 200 snaps played.
The run defense has been strong as well, ranking in the top 30 in terms of Success Rate and EPA.
There’s no question that the schedule of opposing offenses for Cincinnati has been soft, but other than that, it’s hard to poke any holes in this defense.
SMU vs. Cincinnati Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how SMU and Cincinnati match up statistically:
SMU Offense vs. Cincinnati Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Cincinnati Offense vs. SMU Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Pace of Play / Other
|SP+ Special Teams||80||77|
|Plays per Minute||20||65|
|Rush Rate||47.3% (114)||53.1% (79)|
Data via College Football Data, FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF and SportSource Analytics.
SMU vs. Cincinnati Betting Pick
Per my numbers, Cincinnati’s defense has played the 109th-ranked strength of schedule of opposing offenses, so the Mustangs will be a big step up from the mediocre units it has been feasting on.
Additionally, SMU’s pass rush could create a lot of Havoc against Cincinnati’s pass protection, and the run defense has been very solid as well.
SMU was briefly available at +13 on the opener, but that now sits at 10.5 or 11 depending on where you look. Personally, I project this one at just 8.1 in favor of Cincinnati and really like the Mustangs to keep this close throughout.
Get the best price you can, but I’d play this down to 10.5 for the underdog.
Pick: SMU +11 (Play to +10.5)
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