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AAC Championship Odds, Picks, Predictions: How to Bet Houston vs. Cincinnati in College Football

AAC Championship Odds, Picks, Predictions: How to Bet Houston vs. Cincinnati in College Football article feature image
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Dylan Buell/Getty Images. Pictured: Bryan Cook.

  • The No. 4 Cincinnati Bearcats look to keep their undefeated season alive as they play No. 21 Houston in the AAC Championship.
  • The Bearcats have beaten their opponents by double digits in every game since nearly being shocked by Tulsa.
  • Brad Cunningham breaks down the matchup and offers up a best bet.

Houston vs. Cincinnati Odds

Saturday, Dec. 4
4 p.m. ET
ABC
Houston Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
+10.5
-110
52.5
-110o / -110u
+340
Cincinnati Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
-10.5
-110
52.5
-110o / -110u
-450
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

Cincinnati looks to finish the regular season undefeated and potentially secure its spot in the College Football Playoff when it plays host to Houston in the AAC Championship.

Houston is red-hot, going undefeated since its opening weekend loss to Texas Tech. The Cougars have one of the best defensive units in the country and will be a nightmare for Cincinnati, which hasn’t faced a defense even close to this level since its win in over Notre Dame in South Bend.

Cincinnati has passed every test so far this season, but the Bearcats haven’t been impressive enough in the committee’s eyes, considering they are barely holding onto the fourth spot. The good news is the window for them to get into the College Football Playoff will open up if Georgia beats Alabama.

The question is, can Cincinnati pass its final and potentially toughest test to end the regular season undefeated for the second straight year?


Houston Cougars

Houston Offense

Houston’s offense has struggled at times this season, as it’s 61st in Success Rate and 46th in EPA/Play, which is not that great considering the Cougars’ strength of schedule was 119th this season.

In fact, Houston did not face a defense that ranks inside the top 40 in EPA/Play allowed.

Most of Houston’s issues offensively have come on the ground, where the Cougars gain only 4.1 yards per carry. Houston is also 85th in Rushing Success Rate and 113th in Offensive Line Yards but 26th in rushing explosiveness.

Unfortunately, playing terrible run defenses all season long has inflated Houston’s rushing explosiveness ranking and it will be facing a Cincinnati defense that sits 24th in rushing explosiveness allowed, so I don’t know how the Cougars are going to run the ball consistently.

Most of Houston’s success has come through the air with Clayton Tune, who is having a fantastic season. Tune is averaging 8.5 yards per attempt and has a 91.7 PFF passing grade with 29 big-time throws and only 12 turnover-worthy plays.

However, only three of his 12 opponents rank inside the top 75 in terms of coverage grade, so dealing with the second-best coverage unit in college football is going to be a massive step up in competition.

Houston Defense

Houston’s defense has been dominating opponents all season long. The Cougars are only allowing 4.6 yards per play, rank fourth in success rate allowed and fifth in EPA/Play allowed.

The strength of Houston’s defense lies in its front seven, where PFF has the unit graded as the best pass-rushing group in all of college football. That will be huge in this matchup because Cincinnati has struggled in pass protection this season, ranking 82nd in pass-blocking grade.

Are you kidding, D’Anthony Jones#CFB
pic.twitter.com/eOloAhJkpQ

— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) October 8, 2021

Houston has also been incredibly stout versus the run, ranking 12th in Rushing Success Rate Allowed, seventh in Defensive Line Yards and 12th in EPA/Rush allowed. So, it’ll be able to slow down Cincinnati’s prolific rushing attack.

The Houston secondary has been just as good, if not better, than the front seven, but it does help when the opposing quarterback is constantly under pressure.

The Cougars are allowing only 6.5 yards per pass attempt, rank second in Passing Success Rate Allowed and have the eighth-best coverage grade, per PFF. They should find a way to limit Desmond Ridder even if they can’t stop him outright.

The biggest thing for Houston defensively is that it’s 15th in Finishing Drives, which is huge against a Cincinnati offense that is very efficient at putting the ball in the end zone once it crosses the 40-yard line.

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Cincinnati Bearcats

Cincinnati Offense

This will be a huge test for a Cincinnati offense that hasn’t faced the stiffest of competition this season.

The Bearcats are 13th in Success Rate and 20th in EPA/Play, but Notre Dame is the only team they’ve faced that’s inside in the top 40 in EPA/Play allowed.

The Bearcats have been running the ball effectively with starting running back Jerome Ford having an incredible season. He’s averaging 5.8 yards per carry with 16 touchdowns.

Ford and the Cincinnati rushing attack rank 13th in Rushing Success Rate, 46th in Offensive Line Yards and second in EPA/Rush.

Jerome Ford is pretty fast. #CFB pic.twitter.com/9n5TFULiBE

— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) October 16, 2021

However, this is the best rush defense Cincinnati has seen all season long. In fact, Cincinnati averaged only 4.0 yards per carry last Friday against an East Carolina front seven that ranks 67th in EPA/Rush allowed.

Ridder has been playing better over the past four games and now has an 88.4 PFF passing grade on the season with 23 big-time throws and only nine turnover-worthy plays. The most important aspect of the offense for Cincinnati will be how Ridder can withstand pressure.

Ridder has a passing grade that drops to 67.6 when pressured — which he will be a lot — so I’m not sure he’s going to be as impactful against a top-10 pass rush and secondary in college football.

Cincinnati Defense

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

The Bearcats allow only 4.2 yards per play, which is the fourth-best mark in the country. Cincy is 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 30th in Rushing Success Rate Allowed, 27th in Defensive Line Yards and 29th in Stuff Rate. However, Houston has one of the worst rushing attacks in the AAC, so that area shouldn’t be exploited on Saturday.

Next, opponents have to be able to break off explosive plays. The Bearcats are 14th in the country in big plays allowed, which is huge against this Houston offense, which has the ninth-most big plays this season.

The problem with facing Cincinnati is that teams can’t throw on its secondary. The Bearcats are allowing only 5.4 yards per attempt, rank fifth in EPA/Pass, seventh in Passing Success Rate Allowed, and own the second-best coverage grade in the country, per PFF.

Cincinnati has one of the best cornerbacks in college football in Sauce Gardner, who has only been targeted 34 times in 815 plays and has yet to allow a touchdown.

List of players to score a TD on Sauce Gardner

▪️
▪️
▪️

pic.twitter.com/Qr7jdWZfRy

— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) November 13, 2021

Add in Coby Bryant on the other side, and it’s clear that Tune and the Houston offense will have a really difficult time moving the ball through the air.


Houston vs. Cincinnati Matchup Analysis

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

Houston Offense vs. Cincinnati Defense
Offense
Defense
Edge
Rush Success 85 30
Line Yards 113 27
Pass Success 17 7
Pass Blocking** 18 4
Big Play 9 14
Havoc 97 19
Finishing Drives 16 5
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Cincinnati Offense vs. Houston Defense
Offense
Defense
Edge
Rush Success 19 12
Line Yards 46 7
Pass Success 45 2
Pass Blocking** 82 1
Big Play 61 13
Havoc 14 4
Finishing Drives 12 15
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling 72 3
Coverage 8 2
Middle 8 42 11
SP+ Special Teams 75 72
Plays per Minute 112 70
Rush Rate 53.1% (78) 53.8% (73)

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


Houston vs. Cincinnati Betting Pick

With two of the best defenses in the Group of Five that both rank top-20 in Finishing Drives going up against two offenses that haven’t seen an opposing defense like their opponent, this will be a low-scoring affair.

Houston ranks 112th in plays per minute, while Cincinnati is 70th in that same category. So, the pace of this game is also going to be slow.

I have only 50.19 points projected for this game, so I like the under of 53.5 points.

Pick: Under 53.5

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