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  • Great through the air and on the ground, frequently picking up big gains and converting over 50% of third downs, the UCF offense is diverse enough to break through Cincinnati's elite defense.
By Sam Chase
November 14, 2018

Cincinnati Bearcats at University of Central Florida Golden Knights (-7)

Sat. 11/16, 8:00 p.m. ET

Three things to know before betting on Cincinnati-UCF:

1. While the College Football Playoff selection committee doesn't seem like it's going to open the gates for a Group of 5 team anytime soon, this weekend's matchup between Cincinnati and UCF has enormous stakes nonetheless. College GameDay is in town, the Golden Knights and Bearcats have the spotlight of the ABC Saturday night primetime slot, and the winning team will have the inside track on earning a spot in a New Year's Six Bowl.

Despite losing head coach Scott Frost after last year's banner campaign, UCF hasn't slowed down. The Golden Knights' winning streak is now at 22 games, and they're 9-0 straight up and 6-3 against the spread. That extends UCF's record of coming through for bettors. Since 2016, only a handful of teams rank above UCF's 22-12-1 ATS mark.

Cincinnati enters this weekend's game with a 9-1 record (6-4 ATS). Its lone loss was a 24-17 defeat at Temple on October 20. The Bearcats have won three straight games since then. To take down UCF, though, Cincinnati will have to reverse its results from the last couple of seasons—the Golden Knights have won and covered against the Bearcats in each of the past two years, beating the spread by an average margin of 11.75 points in those games.

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2. While not as spectacular as its offense, UCF's defense is solid and getting better. Last season, the Knights ranked 74th in the nation in yards per play allowed (5.74). This year, UCF is 47th (5.35). The Knights have allowed an opponent to score 30 points only twice this season and have the nation's 28th-ranked scoring defense (21.2 points allowed per game).

For a Cincinnati team that has faced a schedule full of amateur-hour defenses like UConn and Navy, it will be the toughest test the Bearcats have seen since Temple. In the Temple game, Cincinnati's lone loss, the Bearcats averaged just 3.84 yards per play. And despite facing such weak defenses overall, the Bearcats rank only 54th in the country in averaging 5.99 yards per play.

3. The Bearcats defense, however, is fantastic. Allowing opposing offenses only 4.36 yards per play (seventh in FBS), Cincinnati has consistently locked down teams on the ground and through the air. The Bearcats defense is one of only three units in the country to have allowed five rushing touchdowns or fewer and has held quarterbacks to the second-lowest completion percentage nationally (48.0).

This will be a strength-on-strength matchup, with UCF's excellent offense lining up on the other side of the ball. Knights quarterback McKenzie Milton has been nearly unstoppable, throwing for 9.1 yards per attempt (eighth in FBS) and sporting a TD-INT ratio of 21-5. With a deep core of running backs, UCF's running game is just as potent, averaging 5.99 yards per carry (eighth in FBS). Four running backs have at least 40 carries for the Knights, and all but workhorse Adrian Killins Jr. (114 carries) are averaging at least 5.7 YPC. UCF's rushers are prone to breaking off big plays, gaining 20-plus yards on 10.9% of snaps (10th nationally), and convert on 50.6% of third downs (sixth). Cincinnati will give the Knights a fight, but their offense is too well-rounded to be held down all game.

Pick: UCF -7

Confidence Level: Moderate (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)

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