Fourth-ranked Cincinnati finally has itself in a position to make the College Football Playoff. It must take care of business over the next two weeks, though, starting with a regular-season finale at East Carolina on Friday afternoon. The Pirates have rattled off four consecutive victories since getting off to a 3-4 start this season.
Bearcats trying to take care of businessFourth-ranked Cincinnati has finally been able to achieve something that no other Group of 5 team has ever achieved—cracking the top four in the rankings. The Bearcats made the jump from No. 5 to No. 4 in Tuesday’s updated rankings, which means they are currently sitting in a playoff position. They will close the regular season with this game on Friday afternoon before facing Houston in the AAC title game next week. Cincinnati is projected to be a seven-point favorite in that game. The Bearcats have won all 11 of their games this season, including a 48-14 blowout over SMU last week.
They have won four of their five road games by double digits, beating South Florida by 17 points two weeks ago. Cincinnati’s offense ranks No. 43, averaging 430.9 yards per game. Quarterback Desmond Ridder has completed 66.5% of his passes for 2,699 yards and 25 touchdowns, only throwing six interceptions on 310 attempts. Running back Jerome Ford has rushed for 970 yards and 16 touchdowns on 162 carries, averaging 6.0 yards per touch. Wide receiver Alec Pierce has caught 40 passes for 666 yards, but he is questionable for this one. Cincinnati will be facing an East Carolina defense that is No. 76, allowing 389.9 yards per game.
Pirates looking to play spoilerEast Carolina opened the season with a pair of losses against Appalachian State and South Carolina, but it bounced back with three straight wins. The Pirates’ other two losses came in October when they came up short in road games at UCF and Houston. Outside of a 14-point loss against Appalachian State, all of East Carolina’s losses have come by one possession. The Pirates did not let those setbacks dictate their season, as they have bounced back with four consecutive wins. They are coming off back-to-back road wins against Memphis and Navy—they were 4-point underdogs against the Tigers.
Who else is ready for Black Friday? 🏴☠️ pic.twitter.com/i88dcoiA1w— ECU Football (@ECUPiratesFB) November 24, 2021
East Carolina has been a strong offensive team, ranked No. 26 in yards per game (446.9). Quarterback Holton Ahlers has completed 63.0% of his passes for 2,898 yards and 17 touchdowns. His top target has been wide receiver Tyler Snead, who has caught 61 passes for 764 yards and four scores. Wide receiver C.J. Johnson has added 35 receptions for 520 yards and one touchdown. Running back Keaton Mitchell leads a strong rushing attack with 157 carries for 1,077 yards and nine touchdowns. He will be facing a Cincinnati defense that ranks seventh in total defense, allowing 305.2 yards per game.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
This is the mother of all letdown spots. Cincinnati is not only chasing a perfect regular season, but it has finally achieved what mid-major schools have been unable to achieve to this point. The Bearcats also have a massive game looming against Houston in the conference championship. East Carolina has been underrated during the second half of the season. It continues to win games, relying on a strong rushing attack and solid defense. The Pirates are going to be fired up for an opportunity to spoil Cincinnati’s playoff hopes on Friday afternoon.
Full-Game Total Pick
This is an extremely high total for a game that features Cincinnati’s defense. The Bearcats have one of the best defenses in college football and they are going to be fully motivated in this game. They are facing an East Carolina offense that is predicated on its rushing attack, so I expect the clock to be moving for most of the game. Cincinnati also likes to run the ball at a high clip, which means this game will be sped up. The total has gone under in four of the Bearcats’ last five games.