In one of the marquee games on this week’s slate, the 9th-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats are travelling to SMU to face off against the 16th-ranked Mustangs. Both teams are entering undefeated (Cincy 3-0, SMU 5-0) and have completely different approaches to their philosophies with the Bearcats with a dominant defense and the Mustangs with a prolific offense.
Junior quarterback Desmond Ridder is under center for the Bearcats and is coming off his worst game of the season against the USF Bulls, where he threw three interceptions in a winning effort. For the Mustangs, senior Shane Buechele is climbing up the Heisman voting odds with his strong play so far this season and will be facing off against his stiffest competition to date. Will one of the best defenses shut down one of the best offenses in the country or will it rise to the occasion?
(Late line movements and injury reports are updated as of Saturday afternoon.)
The line has shifted for this contest from the visitors being favored to the hosts in this showdown of AAC foes. Cincinnati opened as a 1.5-point favorite but as of Saturday afternoon, the Mustangs now sit as a 2.5-point favorite at home. 52 percent of the bets ATS are backing the Bearcats and taking the points in this contest as they look for a road victory.
The total has moved in a downward direction for this contest as the week has gone forward. When the lines opened, the total for this contest was set at 57 points but as of Friday afternoon, that number has moved down to 56.5. 56 percent of the picks on the total are backing this one going under the mark.
Game-time Weather: Temperature at kickoff is expected to be in the low-60s under clear skies for this contest. As the game continues, temperatures drop into the high-50s with the real-feel landing in the mid-50s. There is no precipitation in the forecast for this one so the weather shouldn’t impede either side. Winds are expected from the southeast at five miles an hour with the gusts staying under the 10 miles per hour mark.
Shutdown DefenseWhen you think of the Cincinnati Bearcats what do you think of? The answer should be their elite-level defense. This really came into effect a few seasons ago when the Bearcats hired Marcus Freeman as their Defensive Coordinator back in January 2017. Cincinnati has a suffocating defense that is extremely hard to move the ball on as they allow just 306.7 yards per game, which is the 11th-fewest out of any team to play multiple games this season. They had an extra week of preparation for this huge matchup due to postponing their game against Tulsa last week when there were positive COVID cases within the Bearcats program.
SMU has been clicking offensively this year as they average the fourth-most yards this year with 563.2 per game. This Cincinnati team doesn’t get to the quarterback often with just five sacks on the season, but instead has a disruptive secondary with 13 pass deflections and seven interceptions. Arguably the star of the defense is sophomore cornerback Ahmad Gardner, who has two interceptions and three pass deflections through three games. Opposing quarterbacks are looking at him like a prime Richard Sherman, not throwing the ball in his direction as he has recorded an interception in each of his last two games. This defense is scary when it’s clicking and there hasn’t been anyone that has stopped it yet, lowering its points allowed each game this season. The Mustangs are going to be in for a long day if they can’t figure out an answer for it.
Cincinnati Injury Report:
OUT: WR Alec Pierce
Questionable: LB Blake Bacevich, QB Ben Bryant, LB Wilson Huber, OL Vincent McConnell, OL Lorenz Metz, OL John Williams
Heisman Candidate in the Making?The passing game for the Mustangs has been a staple for the offense this season as they average the fifth-most passing yards per game this season at 359.2. The person who deserves a lot of the recognition for it is senior quarterback Shane Buechele. He is in the top ten in QBR with an 81.4 and has 1,710 yards in his five games this season. He has been extremely productive with 12 touchdowns to two interceptions as well. In an overtime victory against Tulane last week, Buechele went 23-of-37 with a pair of touchdown passes. He hasn’t thrown an interception since the first game of the season and has been really accurate with a 67.2 completion percentage so far.
Cincinnati has been an elite team against the pass, allowing the 11th-fewest passing yards with 171.7 yards through the air this season. This game will be a close battle between two undefeated ranked programs and having both strengths going mano a mano will be compelling. Which side of the ball will prevail?
OUT: CB Brandon Crossley, RB TJ McDaniel, WR Reggie Roberson Jr.
- SMU: 4-1 ATS in their last 5 home games
- SMU: 15-3 in their last 18 games
- Cincinnati: 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games after allowing less than 20 points in their previous game
- Cincinnati: 4-10-1 ATS in their last 15 games after allowing under 100 rushing yards in their previous game