No. 8 Cincinnati Bearcats (5-0, 2-2 ATS) at No. 21 South Florida (5-0, 3-1 ATS)
Raymond James Stadium Thursday October 15th, 7:30PM Eastern
By Jay Horne of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Cincinnati -3.5/South Florida +3.5
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The Big East host a big battle between the two tops teams in the conference this Thursday night when the No. 8 Cincinnati Bearcats travel south to take on the No. 21 South Florida Bulls. The Bearcats are the favorites to win the conference this season, but face a South Florida team that has steam rolled the competition and reach a Top 25 ranking. The Bulls strong early season run has lifted their hopes of a conference title and they get their big chance to prove they are worthy for the opportunity when they host the Bearcats on Thursday night.
The Bearcats have found success in their star quarterback Tony Pike who has entered the Heisman talk. Pike has been sensational behind center for the Bearcats leading the number 6 passing attack in the country averaging 329 passing yards per game. Pike has racked up 1,493 yards and 13 touchdowns already in just 5 games with just 3 picks on the season. The Bearcats quarterback also holds a strong completion percentage at 67% and there have not been any defenses that have been able to stop Pike and the Bearcats receivers thus far this season.
Senior WR Marshwan Gilyard is just as big a threat as their start quarterback. Gilyard ranks 2nd individually in the Big East with 517 receiving yards on the season and has also added 7 scores on the season. The air assault now meets up with one of the best pass defenses in America, but they look to prove to the nation that they can not be stopped. If Gilyard can help make some plays early in the game, it can helps keep the secondary spread out and allow Pike to get some more receivers involved and have another big day. Also, keep an eye on the Bearcats duo of tailbacks between Jacob Ramsey and Isaiah Pead. Both guys are averaging over 6 yards per carry in limited action this season, but they have been very effective when getting touches. Look for a few big plays from these running backs if the linebackers stop dropping back to help the secondary.
South Florida rolls in fresh off a two touchdown victory over Syracuse 34-20. The Bulls secondary ranks 9th in the nation holding teams to just 159 passing yards per game, but those numbers may be a bit misleading. South Florida has given up 269 yards of passing each of the last two games from Florida State and Syracuse. The Bulls took advantage of a few Division II teams earlier this year which helped the defensive numbers. However, the secondary not looked as impressive over the past two weeks and now will battle with the best quarterback they have seen all season. The key will be for South Florida to limit the big plays in the secondary and keep the ball in front of them. If they can prevent the big plays, they can limit the Bearcats opportunities with the ball.
On offense the Bulls have strived behind freshman quarterback B.J Daniels. Daniels stepped in for Matt Grothe who was lost for the season and has done a good job. The dual threat behind center has thrown for 602 yards and rushed for an additional 291 through 3 starts this season. Daniels style of play helps keep defenses on their toes forcing respect from both the pass and run defense from the Bearcats. Daniels will also be looking for a big time receiver in Carlton Mitchell. Mitchell has 377 yards in 3 scores and played excellent last week against Syracuse racking up 139 yards. The Bulls may tend to put more focus on the ground game this week even though they will still take chances down the field. However, if they can keep the chains moving it will keep the dangerous Cincinnati offense off the field. The Bulls are on a strong run winning 3 straight against the books and they will attempt to capture a huge win at home this Thursday night.
Jay’s Pick – South Florida keeps surprising people and their defense is going to present challenges for Pike. The home crowd should keep South Florida in the game and I believe that should allow the Bulls to stay within the points. Take USF +3.5.