SMU travels to No. 5 Cincinnati on Saturday in a key American Athletic Conference showdown.
Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati. The game will be televised on ESPN.
SMU (8-2) broke a two-game losing streak with a 55-28 victory against Memphis in Week 11, and the Mustangs have an offense that averages 41.6 points per game. Quarterback Tanner Mordecai ranks second in the FBS with 37 TD passes.
Cincinnati (10-0) continues to be on the outside looking in when it comes to the top four spots in the College Football Playoff. The Bearcats have failed to cover large spreads the last four weeks, but coach Luke Fickell still has an unbeaten team.
The Bearcats can clinch a date with Houston in the AAC championship game with a victory. With that in mind, here is all you need to know about betting on the Mustangs-Bearcats matchup:
SMU vs. Cincinnati odds
Three trends to know
— The Bearcats have failed to cover as a heavy favorite the last four weeks, but it’s worth knowing they are 3-0 ATS when favored by 21 points or less this season.
— Cincinnati owns a 25-game win streak at home. The Bearcats are 15-10 ATS in those games.
— The Mustangs are 4-9 S/U as an away underdog since Sonny Dykes took over as head coach in 2017. SMU is 7-6 ATS in those games, however.
Three things to watch
— SMU WRs vs. UC defensive backs. Mordecai’s favorite target in the passing game is Danny Gray, a 6-1 sophomore with 803 receiving yards and nine TDs this season. Gray had four catches for 130 yards in the victory against TCU earlier this season. Gray is questionable for Saturday after getting hurt against Memphis, but freshman Dylan Goffney came off the bench and had 10 catches for 88 yards. Cincinnati might have the best cornerback tandem in the FBS with Ahmad Gardner and Coby Bryant. Both have better than a 80.0 grade on Pro Football Focus. Rashee Rice (599 yards, 8 TDs) and Reggie Roberson Jr. (451 yards, 4 TDs) also have been viable targets for SMU.
— Mordecai’s efficiency. Mordecai, an Oklahoma transfer, has been brilliant for the Mustangs. He has multiple TD passes in every game with a 69.9% completion percentage. Can he be that efficient against a Cincinnati defense that has allowed more than 250 yards passing in just one game? That was in the victory against Notre Dame. The Bearcats have allowed just five passing TDs all season.
— Jerome Ford’s status. Ford, Cincinnati’s leading rusher with 888 yards and 15 TDs, missed last week’s game against South Florida with a leg injury. Ryan Montgomery, Ethan Wright and Charles McClelland formed a committee in his absence, and Montgomery had 72 yards and a pair of TDs. SMU does rank second in the AAC in rush defense at 126.8 yards per game. Defensive ends Elijah Chatman and DeVere Levelston have combined for 20.5 tackles for loss.
Stat that matters
Desmond Ridder is behind that home winning streak, and it has come with remarkable play. He’s had a passer rating of 178.9 or better in four of five home starts, and he has 12 TDs and two interceptions in those games. Ridder has averaged 13 carries for 51 rushing yards the last three weeks and should log double-digit carries again. SMU cannot let Ridder control the game.
SMU vs. Cincinnati prediction
SMU poses a challenge for the Bearcats with that prolific pass offense, and two of the last three meetings have been one-score games. Ridder had 179 yards rushing last year’s game, and the Bearcats dominated in the second half in a 42-13 victory. Mordecai will keep the Mustangs around a little longer if he doesn’t turn the ball over, but Cincinnati will maintain control at home. Will another double-digit victory register with the CFP committee?
Final score: Cincinnati 38, SMU 28
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