Boston College Eagles vs. Cincinnati Bearcats Pick 1/2/20

by | Jan 2, 2020 | cfb

Boston College Eagles (6-6 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. Cincinnati Bearcats (10-3 SU, 8-5 ATS)
When: Thursday, Jan. 2, 3 p.m.
Where: Legion Field, Birmingham, Ala.
TV: ESPN

Point Spread: BC +7/CIN -7 (GTBets)
Total: O/U 55

Outlook

Cincinnati has to be excited to finally see someone not named Memphis, as the Bearcats have been facing the Tigers for the past two games, losing by a combined total of 15 points. Cincinnati got closer in the second game but still took its second and third losses in a season where its only other defeat was to Ohio State, which is no disgrace at all despite the 42-0 scoreline. A win would give Cincinnati back-to-back 11-win seasons, something that the program had only managed one other time in 2008 and 2009. That was when Brian Kelly took Cincinnati to the BCS as the Big East champions back when that league both existed and had an automatic bid to the most prestigious bowls. This time, Cincinnati had a shot at the Cotton Bowl, but lost out to Memphis and had to settle for Birmingham. For Boston College, there’s a real question of motivation. On one side, there’s the prospect of unfinished business for the Eagles after not getting to play its bowl game last year when storms ripped through Texas and caused the cancellation of its game against Boise State. On the other, the Eagles have lost both their coach and their unquestioned top offensive weapon, as Steve Addazio was fired after seven seasons at the helm in Chestnut Hill and running back A.J. Dillon has joined the rather irritating trend of players sitting out the bowl game to prepare for the NFL. With no Dillon and an interim coach, do the Eagles have any motivation to play with the Bearcats, who would love nothing more than to beat an ACC foe for the second straight year?

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How the Public is Betting the Boston College/Cincinnati Game

The line has moved down from 3.5 to 2.5 for the Hokies, with the total ticking up from 46.5.

Injury Concerns

Boston College: Running back A.J. Dillon is out to focus on the NFL Draft.

Cincinnati: Cincinnati reports no new injuries.

When Boston College Has the Ball

Well, what happens now for the Eagles? Over a third of their snaps were handoffs to Dillon, and he won’t be on the field in this game. That gives the job to David Bailey, who showed some flashes of strong running against Syracuse and N.C. State, combining for 353 rushing yards and four of his seven touchdowns against them. But Syracuse was the worst run defense in the ACC and N.C. State quit on the season after September and lost seven of its final eight games. Take away those two games, and Bailey’s solid 5.8 yards per carry drops to a barely serviceable 4.3. But it gets worse, as one of the ten remaining games was against FCS opponent Richmond. Without that game, Bailey’s total drops to a weak 3.85 yards per carry. Granted, it’s hard to get numbers when you’re the No. 2 back in an offense with a bell-cow back, but Bailey got at least ten carries in 10 games, and the only ones where he broke 50 yards were N.C. State, Syracuse, and Rutgers, the last of which was probably the worst Power 5 team in the nation and had a run defense every bit as bad as Syracuse.

It’s not like Boston College has a great passing attack to make up for losing Dillon, either, as Dennis Grosel hasn’t exactly set the world on fire since coming in for Anthony Brown after Brown’s season-ending knee injury against Louisville on Oct. 5. Grosel has just one game where he’s gone over 200 passing yards, and that was against Florida State and its anemic defense. There’s nothing to suggest the Eagles can move the ball on Cincinnati in their current state.

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When Cincinnati Has the Ball

Michael Warren doesn’t get the attention that Dillon does, but he should. He’s quietly put up consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and hit double digits in touchdowns as both a sophomore and a junior. Other than a game against Connecticut, where he didn’t need to run the ball much because it was clear early in the contest that the Huskies couldn’t stop anything, he’s either met or come one yard short of the century mark in each of the Bearcats’ final six games, scoring 10 of his 14 touchdowns along the way.

The knock on Warren is that he did it against lesser competition because he didn’t have success against Ohio State, Houston, or Marshall and piled up most of his yards against lesser defenses such as East Carolina and Memphis. But BC doesn’t have an elite defense, and even in that situation, quarterback Desmond Ridder has no problem finding the likes of Alec Pierce to move the chains or Josiah Deguara for a touchdown. This offense can do enough with both the run and the pass to make itself a threat in both areas.

Betting Trends

Underestimating the Eagles comes with its perils, as long as they’re playing against ACC competition. Get them outside of the ACC, however, and the Eagles become a very poor ATS squad. BC has covered as the underdog in 15 of its past 21 tries, but in nonconference games, the Eagles are a mere 1-5 ATS in their past six. They’ve also been a rather lousy bowl team. Throwing out last year’s no contest against Boise State, BC has covered in just two of its past nine trips to the postseason. However, Cincinnati is no better in postseason play. Not only have the Bearcats only covered once in their previous six bowls as a favorite, but they’ve managed to go 0-4 ATS in their past four bowls. That included their win over Virginia Tech last year when they were a heavy favorite over the Hokies and ended up escaping with a win that didn’t cover.

When these teams get into the postseason, points usually follow. Cincinnati has hit the over in five of its past seven bowls, and BC has done it in each of its previous four bowl games.

Weather Report

The Alabama moon won’t be shining here: it’s 55 and rain in the forecast for kickoff.

Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread

I don’t want to say that this seems too easy after getting burned by Ohio State’s basketball squad against West Virginia. But realistically, it’s difficult to see how Boston College can do much against Cincinnati in its current state. Bailey did not play well against quality defenses (or even halfway decent defenses), and Boston College’s defense is statistically the fourth-worst in the nation, making even the likes of Syracuse and Connecticut look decent in that area. There is no reason to expect the Eagles doing anything to slow down Cincinnati unless the Bearcats completely neglect to show up.

Really, that’s the only way I can see Boston College having a shot here. If Cincinnati acts like the Birmingham Bowl is beneath it after coming so close to the Cotton, Boston College can pull off the surprise and make this a tight game. If the Bearcats come out looking to make a statement by besting a Power 5 opponent, this one won’t be close.

I’m going to say Cincinnati cares about winning 11 games and has enough pride in itself to play a great game. That means give me the Bearcats.