With Oregon’s loss to Utah, Friday’s game at the East Carolina Pirates suddenly has added significance for the visiting Cincinnati Bearcats. If Cincinnati can beat a much-improved East Carolina and then win against Houston in the American Athletic Conference championship, it could be hard to keep the fourth-ranked Bearcats out of the four-team College Football Playoff.
The natural tendency when thinking about a Cincinnati game against East Carolina would be to expect a Bearcats’ blowout.
East Carolina was last in the American Athletic Conference in scoring defense just four years ago, allowing 45 points per game, and it has been six years since the Pirates finished better than 10th in the conference in scoring defense. The Pirates are currently third in that department, allowing 25.5 points, a 10-point drop from last season. The most impressive part of the defensive improvement is that 16 of the 23 Pirates with at least 10 tackles are freshmen or sophomores.
Cincinnati has covered against the college football spreads in just one of its last five American Athletic Conference road games.
There are still five teams with better odds than Cincinnati (+5000) to win the national championship.
The Cincinnati Bearcats, listed as 27½-point favorites against the college football odds while facing the East Carolina Pirates in their final home game of the 2020 season, were only ahead by 11 with 5:25 left in the second quarter.
Desmond Ridder threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as the Bearcats scored the next 28 points to go up 49-10. Cincinnati won 55-17 to win for the ninth time in the last 10 meetings with the Pirates.
It was the fourth consecutive game between the teams to go over as Cincinnati nearly topped the 55½-point total by itself.
Next game: vs. Houston in American Athletic Conference championship game.
The Cincinnati Bearcats were listed as a 9½-point favorite by the sportsbook against the Southern Methodist Mustangs, marking the first time in the last seven games that Cincinnati was favored by fewer than 10 points according to the scores and odds.
Playing a contest that had the potential to be its toughest conference game of the season against one of the nation’s best offensive teams, Cincinnati scored the game’s first 48 points.
Southern Methodist did score a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter but the Bearcats covered easily with the 48-14 win. The Bearcats had failed to cover in the previous four outings.
The game went under the 65½-point total, the fourth time in the last five games that the total went under.
Receiver Michael Young missed the last game and is questionable. Defensive lineman Malik Vann, who missed two of the last three games, is questionable. Offensive lineman Jake Renfro is questionable and running back Jerome Ford returned in last week’s game.
Cincinnati Bearcats RB Jerome Ford and C Jake Renfro will play today and are expected to start.
— Keith Jenkins (@MrKeithJenkins) November 20, 2021
East Carolina Pirates
Next game: to be announced
The visiting East Carolina Pirates were 3½-point favorites against the Navy Midshipmen.
East Carolina led by seven points twice early on in the game but trailed by eight midway through the fourth quarter. Holton Ahlers had a touchdown pass and two-point conversion pass with 5:01 left to tie the game. The Pirates won the game with a field goal on the final play of the game for the 38-35 victory.
East Carolina failed to cover for the first time in seven games. The two teams nearly hit the 46½-point total by halftime.
Defensive backs D.J. Ford and Juan Powell, who have missed the last three games, are questionable. Offensive lineman Bailey Malovic is out for the season. Offensive lineman Jaquaez Powell is questionable.
Betting on the Game
The Cincinnati Bearcats don’t have a championship-level defense in some areas, but the Bearcats do lead the American Athletic Conference with 16 interceptions and are tied for second in tackles for loss.
Turnovers can be an issue for East Carolina. The Pirates and Tulane are the only AAC teams with at least 10 fumbles lost and 10 interceptions thrown. The Pirates also rank near the bottom of the conference in tackles for loss allowed, so there are some matchup issues that could come into play for those who bet online to consider when looking at the 13½-point line.
Cincinnati is 8-3 against the scores and odds in its last 11 games against East Carolina.
East Carolina is 4-2 against the spread in its last six games playing Cincinnati at home.