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Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) looks to pass. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire)
November 30th, 2021
On Saturday afternoon, two College Football Playoff candidates will meet in the SEC Championship Game for conference bragging rights and playoff seeding.
Kicking off a half-hour later will be a team that absolutely still needs to win to earn its spot in the final four.
That team is the Cincinnati Bearcats, who welcome the Houston Cougars into town for the American Athletic Conference championship game.
Let’s take a closer look at the game.
The Bearcats are an impressive 12-0 straight up on the season, one of only two teams in all of football to achieve such a record. They are 7-5 against the spread, having covered their last two games to bring them above .500 on the year.
They are 10.5-point favorites against the visiting Cougars, who are 11-1 straight up and 7-5 against the spread. The total for the game is 53.5. Kickoff is 4 p.m. ET.
The Bearcats can obviously score points, but the strength of the team has been the defense.
Head coach Luke Fickell is a defensive-minded leader, having began his football career with 50 straight starts at nose tackle for the Ohio State Buckeyes in the mid-90s. He went on to be a defensive coach at Ohio State before arriving at Cincinnati. Now with the Bearcats, he has successfully implemented a stout defense that shuts down most opponents and forces three-and-outs.
#Bearcats win. No. 4 Cincinnati defeats ECU 35-13 to complete a perfect 12-0 regular season.The Bearcats will host Houston in the AAC Championship game at Nippert Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 4 at 4 p.m.— Justin Williams (@Williams_Justin) November 27, 2021
#Bearcats win. No. 4 Cincinnati defeats ECU 35-13 to complete a perfect 12-0 regular season.The Bearcats will host Houston in the AAC Championship game at Nippert Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 4 at 4 p.m.
The Bearcats were fourth in all of football in points allowed per play, and it was their passing defense that led the way.
Cincinnati was third in passing yards allowed per game and second in passing yards allowed per attempt, behind only the FBS-leading Georgia Bulldogs.
At home, the Bearcats were first in the country, allowing just 4.4 yards per pass attempt.
The secondary is led by a couple of stingy cornerbacks from Cleveland. Senior Coby Bryant leads the team with 11 passes deflected, while fellow cornerback, junior Arquon Bush, has six.
Both will need to play as well as they have all year to shut down a high-powered Houston offense.
The Bearcats are a team on a mission this year. They have a veteran leader in quarterback Desmond Ridder and have played the entire season with a chip on their shoulder.
Their defense is one of the best in the country, and they are defending the pass at home in a way that no other team can claim.
Houston attempts more than 32 passes per game and doesn't have a 1,000-yard rusher on the season.
In this matchup, the Cougars will face a roadblock and will likely find themselves frustrated offensively.
The Bearcats have owned this matchup with Houston of late. We’ve seen the best of Cincinnati against its toughest opponents, as the Bearcats are undefeated against the spread against teams with a winning record.
This team continues to rise to the occasion and will do so on Saturday to convincingly earn its spot in the playoff.
Score prediction: Cincinnati 33, Houston 20.
Our predictive engine is calling for Cincinnati to win outright and the score to go Under the projected total.
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