No. 14 South Florida Bulls (6-2), -2.5, o/u 51 @ Cincinnati Bearcats (5-2), +2.5, o/u 51, Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio, Thursday, 7:45 p.m. Eastern
By Oracle of Predictem.com
Both South Florida and Cincinnati played in big, key match ups last week against Big East opponents. Both teams lost.
So the question to ponder for fans and bettors alike is, which team is going to bounce back after tough losses on just a few days rest?
South Florida is beat up beyond belief right now, with 11 players on the injury report, so the short week doesn’t help them whatsoever. Meanwhile, Cincinnati isn’t as beat up, but their quarterback situation is a mess.
Tony Pike got the start in the loss against Connecticut on Saturday. Pike led Cincy to a 3-1 mark before breaking his left forearm in a game on September 27th. He obviously wasn’t himself in his return on Saturday, completing just 10 of 27 passes and throwing a pick. In fact, Pike sat out the entire second half because of numbness in his left hand.
The injury aspect will make this game interesting for bettors who want to gamble on this contest. The Bulls, who are ranked 14th even after their loss to Louisville on Saturday, are favorites on the road right now, -2.5. The over/under is at a total of 51 to open according to most online sportsbooks.
These two teams have battled to the end in years past, but Cincinnati has gotten the better of the Bulls the last two meetings, including a 38-33 victory last season.
If Pike can’t go for the Bearcats, Chazz Anderson is more than likely the next in line. It’s rare to see a team have three quarterbacks with at least 500 yards at this point in a season, but it’s a sad fact for Cincinnati. Dustin Grutza (520 yards, 2 touchdowns, 61% completion) is the other QB who has actually put up better numbers than Anderson (514, 4, 70%), but he broke his leg in September and is also questionable.
As of now though, Pike and Grutza are questionable and haven’t been ruled out of Thursday’s contest.
The Bearcats keep winning even with their quarterback carousel, mainly because of their defense. Before giving up 150 yards to the nation’s leading rusher in Donald Brown of UConn, they hadn’t let up a 100-yard rusher all season long.
Their rushing defense is 16th in the nation and they give up 331 yards a game, good enough for 41st overall in the country.
That stout Cincy defense will have to deal with a balanced South Florida offense. But sophomore running back Mike Ford, who leads the Bulls with five touchdowns, is also question in this game with an ankle injury.
South Florida’s main weapon is quarterback Matt Grothe, who can do it through the air and on the ground. He leads USF with over 300 yards rushing and has also thrown for nearly 1,900 yards and 14 touchdowns.
It’ll be tough for Cincy to focus on one area of South Florida, as Grothe spreads the ball around nicely to guys like Taurus Johnson (28 catches, 386 yards, 4 touchdowns), Jessie Hester Jr. (34, 350, 3) and A.J. Love (25, 307, 2).
USF will need to establish their run game against Cincy, as they garnered only 8 yards of rushing against Louisville in their heartbreaking 24-20 loss.
Coming into this contest, the betting trends seem to favor Cincinnati, as USF is 0-8 ATS in their last eight games against a team with a winning record.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati comes back nicely from straight up losses, going 6-1-1 against the spread in their last eight games following. They also seemingly love playing on Thursday’s as of late, going 4-1 ATS in their last five.
Both teams have above average offenses to speak of, but the under is a nice trend for bettors in this one. Although the two teams combined to score 71 a year ago, the under is 5-1 in Cincinnati’s last six home games. The under is also 4-1-1 for USF in their last six games on turf.
This conflict won’t necessarily be man vs. man in this showdown, but man vs. self. Both teams are coming off heartbreaking Big East losses, they’re on short rest, and both squads are banged up beyond belief. So who steps up and ultimately conquers?
Oracle’s Pick: Look for Cinci to upset a seriously beat up USF team at home!