#21 S. FLORIDA 26 #8 Cincinnati (-2.0) 25
Cincinnati is one of the best teams in the nation so far this season, as the Bearcats have been very good on both sides of the ball while out-gaining their 4 Division 1A opponents 7.5 yards per play to 4.4 yppl. Those stats were posted against a decent schedule of teams that would combine to both average 5.3 yppl and allow 5.3 yppl to an average team. As good as the Bearcats have been this game figures to be a battle against a good South Florida team with a better than average offense and a very good defense. South Florida is not as good offensively as their 6.9 yppl average would indicate, as the 5 teams that they've faced would combine to allow 6.6 yppl to an average team.
Dynamic freshman quarterback B.J. Daniels has been fantastic in 2 starts since taking over for injured senior veteran Matt Grothe, as Daniels has led the offense to 6.4 yppl in games against Florida State and Syracuse, who would combine to allow 5.8 yppl to an average team. Cincinnati's defense appears to have an advantage, but running quarterbacks like Daniels, who has 321 yards on 44 rushing plays, can create problems for even the best defensive teams.
If South Florida is to win this game it will be All-American DE George Selvie and the defense that will have to win the battle against Tony Pike and the potent Cincinnati attack. South Florida hasn't faced an offense as good as Cincy's, but the Bulls did limit a very good Florida State attack to just 4.5 yppl in a 17-7 road win a couple of weeks ago and the Bulls are in a very good situation tonight.
Cincinnati applies to a negative 34-85-2 ATS road letdown situation and 5-0 teams are just 94-151-2 ATS in their 6th game as a favorite of 2 points or more (1-2 last week with Auburn, Iowa, and Alabama). USF, meanwhile, applies to an 80-31-2 ATS home underdog momentum situation. The situations give South Florida a solid 55% chance of covering at a fair line and my math model says that the line is close to fair (it favors Cincy by 3 points).
I will resist making USF a Strong Opinion here because Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly has a tendency to win competitive games. In fact, Kelly is 12-1 ATS in his coaching career in regular season games when the line is less than 7 points (dog or favorite), including wins this season at Rutgers and Oregon State. I would still rather have the home dog here.
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