SMU quarterback Shane Buechele leads an offense averaging 596 yards a game. Photo from @SMU_Football (Twitter)
- #9 Cincinnati is a 2.5-point underdog as they visit #16 SMU at 9:00 PM EST Saturday night in Dallas
- SMU is second in the nation in total offense and Cincinnati is sixth in total defense
- An analysis of the matchup can be found below along with the spread, over/under, and moneyline
The American Athletic Conference’s two ranked teams meet Saturday when #9 Cincinnati visits #16 SMU for a 9:00 PM EST kickoff at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas.
It is a matchup of unbeaten teams. Cincinnati is 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the ACC while SMU is 5-0, 2-0.
Oddsmakers are expecting a game befitting of the teams’ records as SMU is a 2.5-point favorite.
#9 Cincinnati vs #16 SMU Odds
|#9 Cincinnati||+108||+2.5 (-114)||Over 56.5 (-110)|
|#16 SMU||-132||-2.5 (-106)||Under 56.5 (-110)|
Odds taken Oct. 21 from FanDuel
Cincinnati’s Long Layoff
Cincinnati has not played since Oct. 3 when they beat South Florida 28-7 at home.
The Bearcats had an open date on their schedule two weeks ago. Last week, their scheduled game at Tulsa was postponed because an undisclosed number of Cincinnati players tested positive for COVID-19.
Gerrid Doaks led the way against South Florida with a season-high 102 rushing yards.
Cincinnati also got big efforts from their special teams and defense.
Tre Tucker ran back a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown, the Bearcats’ first TD on a kick return since 2011. Cincinnati intercepted five passes. Cornerback Coby Bryant having two of the picks.
SMU Overcomes Key Injury
SMU is coming off a 37-34 overtime win on the road at Tulane last Friday.
Chris Naggar kicked the game-winning 34-yard field goal in the second overtime. That came after Brandon Crossley intercepted a Tulane pass to end the first OT.
Shane Buechele continued his outstanding season as he completed 23-of 37-passes for 384 yards and two touchdowns.
The Mustangs were able to win in their first game without star wide receiver Reggie Roberson, who sustained a season-ending knee injury on Oct. 3 in a win over Memphis.
Rashee Rice had seven receptions for 139 yards and a touchdown against Tulane. Danny Gray added five catches for 133 yards and a score.
Strength Against Strength
The most interesting matchup in this game figures to be SMU’s high-powered offense against Cincinnati’s staunch defense.
The Mustangs are averaging 596.0 yards a game, the second-best mark in the FBS, with 406.0 passing, and 190.0 rushing. They also rank ninth in points with a 40.2 average.
Buechele, the son of former major league third baseman Steve Buechele, has thrown for 1,710 yards, and 12 touchdowns this season. He also has a 67.6 completion percentage and just two interceptions in 176 attempts.
Great pass by Shane Buechele, Even better catch by Danny Gray. pic.twitter.com/JuHdejHlAa
— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) October 16, 2020
Meanwhile, Cincinnati is second in the nation in scoring defense as it is allowing just 8.5 points a game and sixth in total defense (283.5 ypg).
What should also give the Bearcats hope they can slow down Buechele is that they lead the nation in opponents’ yards per pass (4.9) and interceptions thrown percentage (9.68).
Weakness Against Weakness
Despite having a pair of veteran playmakers in Doaks and quarterback Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati’s offense is not nearly at the caliber of SMU’s.
Despite his 102-yard performance against South Florida, Doaks has just 145 yards through three games on 42 carries. That is an average of just 3.5 yards an attempt.
Ridder has completed just 60.3 percent of his passes for 597 yards and has also been intercepted four times. He has thrown six touchdown passes.
Ian Book’s AY/A is 7.7 yards.
Mac Jones AY/A is 14.5 yards.
Trevor Lawrence AY/A is 12.2 yards.
Kyle Trask AY/A is 12.0 yards.
Shane Illingworth AY/A is 10.1 yards.
Kellen Mond AY/A is 8.3 yards.
Stetson Bennett AY/A is 7.8 yards.
Desmond Ridder AY/A is 6.9 yards.
— NDFanatics (@FanaticsNd) October 20, 2020
Perhaps a game against SMU will help perk up the Bearcats’ offense. The Mustangs have needed to outscore opponents as they are giving up 30.0 points and 455.2 total yards a game.
Making The Call
The initial inclination is to take the points with a strong defensive team.
However, this being college football during a pandemic in 2020, offense is ruling the day. Also factor in Cincinnati’s long break and it is hard to buck high-flying SMU.
The pick: SMU -2.5 (-106)
John Perrotto has been covering and writing about sports for various outlets for over 40 years. His work has appeared in the likes of USA TODAY, ESPN.com, SI.com, Forbes.com, The Associated Press, Baseball Digest, and more. John is based out of Beaver Falls, PA.