Game time: 6 p.m. ET, November 12, 2021
Venue: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Where to watch: ESPN2
Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks
DraftKings: Cincinnati -23.5
BetMGM: Cincinnati -23.5
Caesars: Cincinnati -23.5
No. 6 Cincinnati: 9-0 (5-0 AAC)
South Florida: 2-7 (1-4 AAC)
*College Football Playoff rankings
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Cincinnati - South Florida preview and analysis
Cincinnati: won 28-20 vs. Tulsa
USF: lost 54-42 vs. Houston
The Cincinnati Bearcats are not making things easy on themselves as they try to push toward a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Alas, Cincy is still undefeated and will try to move to 10-0 on Friday when they visit the South Florida Bulls in Tampa.
The Bearcats are still plugging away as they try to move into the top 4 of the CFP rankings. Still currently at No. 6, Cincinnati is coming off an 8-point victory against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane at home on Saturday.
But it was by a razor-thin margin.
Tulsa running back Steven Anderson fumbled at the goal line while trying to tie the game, moments after Cincinnati fumbled inside their own 5-yard line trying to run down the clock.
Big picture: Cincy is still undefeated with a chance to finish this season a perfect 12-0. But in the short term, there’s got to be some uneasiness with the Bearcats right now. For the second time in three weeks, the Bearcats have found themselves in a defensive struggle against a team they should’ve put away sooner than later.
While the Navy Midshipmen have been a thorn in some teams for the bulk of this season, Cincinnati still shouldn’t have only won by seven. Tulane was a team that the Cats should have scored more than 31 points against. And if not for the luckiest of fumbles, who knows what would’ve been made from that Tulsa game?
Desmond Ridder threw for 274 yards and two touchdowns, and the quarterback also led the Bearcats with 43 rushing yards and a touchdown. The offense was once again carried by the Cincinnati defense. Which given their hopes of making a deep run, that can only get you so far.
This isn’t me saying the committee shouldn’t put Cincinnati in the final four. The committee loves what it does, and that’s possibly a two-loss Alabama or two-loss Ohio State in the mix over what could be an undefeated team when bowl games roll out for the new year. The College Football Playoff Committee, by hook or crook, needs a better display on both sides of the ball from Cincinnati.
And that could possibly come this weekend when the Bulls come in losing four of their past five games. USF lost 54-42 to the Houston Cougars, also vying for a AAC championship and could be in line should Cincy falter at some point.
USF led 28-26 at halftime, but as has been the case numerous times, Houston found a way to bounce back in the second half outsourcing USF 28-14. Terry McClain threw for 289 yards and two touchdowns but also completed less than 50 percent of his passes. McClain also ran for 46 yards and a touchdown.
The Bulls' offense wasn’t the issue. Defensively, USF couldn’t stop Houston quarterback Clayton Tune and his 385 yards to go with three touchdowns. Houston outgained USF 646-399, which is about what you’d expect from a two-win club. Houston missed the cover by 1.5.
Cincinnati opens as 23.5-point favorites and that number scares me. The books clearly think the Bearcats are much better than what the on-field performance has shown over the last few weeks, and that can only go on for so long. But what works in Cincy’s favor is that the Cats will not be in position to overlook South Florida for the showdown against SMU next week. Considering how average the Cats have been as of late, they can’t afford to overlook USF after putting up 42 against Houston. If there was ever a time for the complete performance needed from Cincinnati, now’s the time. Cincinnati by 24
Cincinnati is 5-4 ATS this season.
Cincinnati is 2-2 ATS on the road this season.
South Florida is 3-0 ATS as a home dog this season.
South Florida is 1-21 straight up as an underdog over the last three seasons.
Passing: Desmond Ridder -- 2,121 yards, 20 TD, 5 INT
Rushing: Jerome Ford -- 888 yards, 15 TD
Receiving: Alec Pierce -- 603 yards, 4 TD
Defense: Joel Dublanko -- 84 tackles, 2 sacks
Passing: Timmy McClain -- 1,289 yards, 4 TD, 4 INT
Rushing: Jaren Mangham -- 507 yards, 13 TD
Receiving: Xavier Weaver -- 576 yards, 2 TD
Defense: Antonio Grier -- 58 tackles, 3 sacks
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