The No. 16 Central Florida Knights will try and lock up the first-ever American Athletic Conference title this Saturday afternoon with a trip to Gerald Ford Stadium to play the SMU Mustangs. Kickoff for this AAC season finale for both teams is set for noon ET, and the game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.
The Knights come into this matchup a perfect 7-0 straight up in conference play after squeaking by South Florida 23-20 last Friday as prohibitive 27.5-point home favorites. They are now 10-1 straight up on the year with a 7-4 record against the spread. The total has stayed “under” in three of their last four games.
SMU needs a SU victory in this game to become bowl eligible after going 5-6 SU in its first 11 contests. The Mustangs are also 5-6 ATS, with the total going “over” in seven of the games.
Last Friday, they were hammered 34-0 by Houston as 8.5-point road underdogs. The total stayed under the 63.5-point line.
Central Florida at SMU Betting Storylines
Louisville was expected to be the toast of the newly formed AAC this season, but the Knights quickly vaulted to the head of the conference with a midseason upset of the Cardinals, and they have not looked back ever since. Their only SU loss of the season was to South Carolina, and, despite a couple of close calls along the way, they have not only established themselves as the top team in the AAC but as one of the best teams in the country.
It has been a balanced attack on offense, with 283.5 passing yards complementing another 157.1 yards on the ground. The result has been an average of 34.6 points a game.
Blake Bortles has thrown for 3,038 yards and 22 touchdowns, and Storm Johnson leads the team in rushing with 978 yards and 11 scores on 182 carries.
The Knights’ defense has been rock-solid all season long and is currently ranked 17th in the nation in points allowed, giving up an average of 20.2 points a game.
The Mustangs have beaten the teams they were supposed to this season but came up short against the better teams they have faced.
Last Friday’s loss was a bitter disappointment after rallying their season with four SU victories in their previous five games. It was the first time they failed to find the end zone after averaging 28 points a game.
A big part of that loss can be attributed to the fact that quarterback Garrett Gilbert sat this game out after spraining his knee two weeks ago against South Florida. He remains “questionable” for Saturday’s game, but head coach June Jones remains optimistic that he will be ready.
If he can’t go, look for Neal Burcham to once again get the call. He completed 51.9 percent of his 52 passes last Friday for 212 yards and was picked off three times. The Mustangs have lived and died with their passing game all season long, with an average of 351.1 yards in light of the fact that the rushing attack has almost been nonexistent with just 95.2 yards a game. SMU also has issues on defense and comes into this season finale ranked 104th in Division IA in points allowed (34.8).
Central Florida at SMU Betting Odds and Trends by Bookmaker
Point Spread: Central Florida -10
Total Line: 60
The Knights are 4-1 ATS in their last five games following an ATS loss but just 1-6 ATS in their last seven road games against a team that has a losing record at home. The total has gone over in 12 of their last 17 games on the road.
The Mustangs are 9-2 ATS in their last 11 games following a SU loss and 8-3 ATS in their last 11 home games. The total has stayed under in their last five games at home.
Head-to-head in this renewal of an old Conference USA rivalry, the favorite is 4-0-1 ATS in the last five meetings, and the total has gone over in the last two games. UCF is 3-1-1 ATS in the last five meetings between the two.
College Football Picks: Central Florida at SMU Betting Predictions
As mentioned, Central Florida has had a couple of close calls this season as a heavy favorite, but it has always responded with a much better performance the following week. With so much on the line for the Knights in this game, look for them to take care of business on the road by winning this game by at least two touchdowns regardless of whether Gilbert plays or not.
Take: #115 Central Florida (-10) over SMU