Tonight in primetime the South Florida Bulls face No. 2 Cincinnati. Is USF ready for a statement win?

By Nick Raffoul

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The No. 5-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats will head on the road to Raymond James Stadium on Friday evening for an American Athletic Conference showdown against the South Florida Bulls.

Despite an undefeated 9-0 record, the Bearcats remain outside of the top four in the latest College Football Playoff rankings. While Cincinnati managed to avoid upsets on both occasions, the Bearcats seem to be punished for not blowing out Navy and Tulsa, winning by just one score on both occasions. On the other hand, South Florida is in the midst of a 2-7 campaign, which includes a 1-4 record in AAC play.

Can the Bearcats make a statement on the road with a convincing win over South Florida on Friday night?

South Florida seeks upset victory vs. No. 5-Cincinnati

South Florida couldn’t keep up with Houston in a 54-42 loss last weekend. Quarterback Timmy McClain completed 22-of-46 passes for 289 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for the Bulls in the loss. McClain also led the team with 46 rushing yards and a score on the ground. All in all, South Florida was outgained 646 to 399 in total yardage and was ultimately undone by two turnovers in the loss.

A true freshman, McClain has flashed improvement in recent weeks. He had his most efficient game as a passer against Temple before having his first multi-touchdown game through the air last week. For the season, McClain has completed 54.5 percent of his passes for 1,289 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions this season. He’s also scored a touchdown on the ground in two of the last three weeks. Meanwhile, Jaren Mangham leads the team in rushing with 507 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns.

On defense, the Bulls have surrendered 34.3 points per game, including 485 yards of total offense per contest, which ranks 125th in the nation. South Florida has also allowed a whopping 213.6 yards per game on the ground, good for 120th in the country.

Unfortunately for South Florida, Cincinnati desperately needs to make a statement with a blowout victory. After winning one-score games in two of the last three weeks, Cincinnati is losing its luster with the CFP committee, which has kept it out of the top four for the second consecutive week. The Bulls’ defense has struggled to get stops all season long and I don’t expect that to come to an end here. Look for the Bearcats to dominate both sides of the ball en route to covering the spread in this AAC battle on Friday night.

While it hasn’t always been pretty, Cincinnati remains undefeated

Cincinnati narrowly escaped with a 28-20 win over Tulsa last week. With under a minute remaining, the Bearcats’ defense forced a fumble while Tulsa’s Stephen Anderson was reaching for the goal line on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line to seal the win. Desmond Ridder completed 15-of-23 passes for 274 yards and added a team-high 43 yards and a touchdown on the ground in the win. Top target Alex Pierce caught five passes for 113 yards for Cincinnati, which put together a lackluster first half of the third consecutive week.

Despite throwing an interception in three consecutive games, Ridder remains among the top signal-callers in the country this season. The 6-foot-4 senior has completed 63.7 percent of his passes for 2,121 yards with 20 touchdowns and five interceptions in nine games. After rushing for at least 570 yards in each of his first three seasons under center, Ridder has been less effective with his legs this season. He’s gained just 214 yards on the ground while averaging a career-low 3.2 yards per carry. Running back Jerome Ford leads the team in rushing with 888 yards and 15 touchdowns this year.

On defense, the Bearcats come in allowing just 14.9 points per game, the third-lowest mark in the country. Cincinnati has given up just 312.6 yards of total offense per contest, 12th in the FBS, including only 155.4 passing yards per game, also third in the nation. However, the Bearcats will have their run defense tested this week. Cincinnati ranks 76th in the nation against the run, allowing 157 rushing yards per game.

Prediction: Cincinnati Bearcats -23.5

Written By Nick Raffoul , “Nick Raffoul”

Shortly after graduating with an Honors in Business Administration, Nick turned his attention from traditional stocks and bonds to investing in the performance of sports teams. He has been a very successful sports bettor over the years and has now brought his talents to us here at Winners & Whiners. Nick uses a combination of advanced stats and historical data to create sports investment models to identify value and generate consistent profits. Let Nick win for you.