#5 CINCINNATI (-20.5) 42 Illinois 16
Cincinnati is unbeaten, but the Bearcats need to impress the voters if they have any chance of playing for the National Championship. Running up the score on Illinois shouldn't be much of a problem given how poor the Illini defense is and how good Cincinnati's attack is. The Bearcats have averaged 7.6 yards per play this season (against teams that would allow 5.4 yppl to an average team) and they only two times they were held below 7.0 yppl was against good defensive teams Oregon State and South Florida.
Illinois is a bad defensive team that has surrendered 6.0 yppl this season to teams that would combine to average 5.5 yppl against an average defense and the Illini haven't faced team that is even close to as good as Cincinnati's offense this season. Cincinnati has faced 4 worse than average defensive teams this season (Fresno State, Miami-Ohio, Louisville, and Connecticut) and the Bearcats have averaged an incredible 8.5 yppl in those 4 games while rating at 2.6 yppl better than average (those 4 teams would combine to allow 5.9 yppl to an average team).
Illinois' defense is the same as the average of the 4 worse than average defensive teams that Cincy has faced and my math model projects 8.1 yppl for the Bearcats in this game, which should lead to more than 40 points.
Cincinnati also has a solid defense that has yielded 4.9 yppl to teams that would combine to average 5.4 yppl against an average team. Illinois is slightly worse than average offensively (5.1 yppl against teams that would allow 5.2 yppl) and are the same regardless of whether Juice Williams is at quarterback or not (he's expected to start this game after missing the last game).
Illinois has averaged only 17 points per game in 9 games against Division 1A opponents and while Cincinnati has held 8 of their 9 1A opponents to 21 points or less and they've given up an average of just 18.4 points per game. The only teams to score 17 points or more against Cincinnati are good offensive teams Oregon State (18 points), Fresno State (20), South Florida (17), Connecticut (45), and West Virginia (21), so I don't see how a mediocre Illinois offense averaging just 17.4 points (against 1A teams) is going to score more than that. In fact, Illinois has only scored more than 17 points against a bad Michigan defense and a mediocre Minnesota defense.
Illinois has only faced two really good teams (Ohio State and Penn State) and they lost those games by an average of 24 points. The Illini also lost by an average of 19 points to the only other two better than average teams that they've faced (Missouri and Michigan State). Cincinnati is better than any team Illinois has faced this season and this game is at Cincy, so a loss of 21 points or more seems likely.
My math model give Cincinnati a profitable 55.6% chance of covering at -20 1/2 points even after downgrading the Bearcats' offense for reinserting Tony Pike as the starting quarterback (Pike is very good, but Collaros was incredible in his place), so the value is still on the side of Cincy even after the early week line move from -17 1/2 to -20 1/2 points. I'll consider Cincinnati a Strong Opinion at -21 points or less and I'd take the Bearcats in a 2-Star Best Bet at -19 or less.
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