- Cincinnati looks to win the AAC championship on Saturday as 13.5-point favorites over Tulsa (8 p.m. EST, ABC)
- Bearcats QB Desmond Ridder has been one of the country’s most dynamic playmakers and could give Tulsa’s defense fits
- Read below for complete analysis, odds and a pick on the game
Figuring out what to do with this weekend’s AAC championship game between Cincinnati and Tulsa might have been easier had they played their regular season finale against each other last week.
Actually, the two were supposed to play each other earlier in the fall, but the game was rescheduled due to COVID-19 cases within the Bearcats program. Cincinnati had another outbreak following its most recent game at UCF, and have now had two stretches this season where they have gone without playing a game for close to a month.
Time off the field hasn’t slowed enthusiasm for Cincinnati, who returns as a 13.5-point favorite against the Golden Hurricane. This weekend’s game is just the second time these two programs have played against each other with their current head coaches. The last matchup took place in 2019, where Tulsa covered as a 16-point underdog in a 24-13 loss.
Cincinnati vs Tulsa AAC Championship Game Odds
|#23 Tulsa||+13.5 (-106)||+490||O 45.5 (-110)|
|#9 Cincinnati||-13.5 (-114)||-750||U 45.5 (-110)|
Odds taken from FanDuel on Dec. 16th
Back From Hiatus
The last time the Bearcats were kept off the playing field, they missed two weekends in the middle of October and came back with a dominant win over SMU, which was ranked No. 16 in the AP Top 25 at the time. They followed that 42-13 win over the Mustangs with a 49-10 dismantling of Memphis, a 28-point win over Houston, and 55-17 drubbing of East Carolina. Cincinnati narrowly beat UCF, but Cincinnati is 30-5 across all games going back to 2018.
From the SMU game to this point, Cincinnati has rushed for 1,340 yards. Tulsa has been good enough against the run this season, but in its last three outings, has allowed more than 20-yards per game on the ground over its season average. On its own, that may not be overly consequential, but it speaks to the form of the defensive front as it prepares to go up against one of the nation’s best rushing offenses.
Desmond Ridder with a DIME for 6! pic.twitter.com/APMkXVRNP3
— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 14, 2020
In Cincinnati’s last two games, junior quarterback Desmond Ridder has thrown for more than 300 yards, and over his last five games, he’s thrown ten touchdown passes to just two interceptions. Ridder is also the team’s second-leading rusher, so Tulsa head coach Philip Montgomery needs his top defender, linebacker Zaven Collins, to be healthy. Collins has had injury problems all season long and hurt his leg in Tulsa’s last game against Navy.
Tulsa’s QB Quandary
The Golden Hurricane doesn’t have a dynamic talent like Ridder running running its offense. Zach Smith has been Tulsa’s quarterback for most of the season, but he’s been wildly inconsistent despite the team’s success.
After picking up an injury against Tulane, Tulsa used two other quarterbacks to mount a comeback, the first of which, Seth Boomer, hurt his knee and was lost for the season shortly thereafter.
What a pass by Zach Smith into QUADRUPLE COVERAGE for the go-ahead touchdown!
Now, I’d argue that was more luck than skill, but regardless, Tulsa is up 13-6 late in the 3rd quarter. #ReignCane pic.twitter.com/5Y7y0t5SJK
— Tyler Wiederhoeft (@TDWiederhoeft) December 5, 2020
Davis Brin finished the game against the Green Wave, and there were calls to start him over a healthy Smith against Navy, but it was Smith that helped Tulsa slog to another victory against the Midshipmen. For the season, Smith has completed just 57-percent of his passes for 11 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Who Looks Best?
If Tulsa’s showing against Tulane was any indication, the Hurricane is in for a tough one this week on the road. The Green Wave are a comparable matchup to Cincinnati, but Tulane managed to choke away a win against Tulsa. The Bearcats are a more disciplined side with a better-suited QB to run read-options and extend plays than the Wave’s Michael Pratt. Cinci has cut up opponents by running the ball well, turning underneath routes into big gains and hitting the big play once it draws the defense in all season, and should be able to do so here.
Tulsa has an aggressive defensive front and big, long corners, but the Bearcats are built to counter those strengths within their offensive scheme. Smith has managed to find magic at the right times this season, but hasn’t had to do so against a team as talented as Cincinnati since Tulsa’s first few games this year. The Bearcats still have an outside chance to advance to the College Football Playoff if things break the right way, but they’ll need to win convincingly here and should do so by two touchdowns.
The Pick: Cincinnati -13.5 (-114)