Believe it or not, this series between Cincinnati and Miami-Ohio is the oldest non-conference rivalry in college football. Look for Miami-Ohio to slide inside the huge spread.
This Battle for the Victory Bell is currently the longest active non-conference rivalry in college football with the 120th renewal of a series that began in 1888 taking place on Saturday, and the huge home underdogs appear to offer value when the Cincinnati Bearcats (1-1, 0-2 ATS) of the AAC pay a visit to those Miami-Ohio RedHawks (1-1, 1-1 ATS) of the MAC at Fred Yager Stadium in Oxford, OH at 3:30 ET in a game available on ESPN3.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Miami-Ohio as an enormous home underdog for this contest with the current line at +20 with odds of -106.
RedHawks Covered Last Two Years
Both of these teams are off to 1-1 starts, although Cincinnati has yet to be the winning college football pick against the point spread at 0-2 ATS. The Bearcats opened up with a cupcake routing Alabama A&M of the FCS 52-10, although they failed to cover as 46-point favorites. They were then upset outright by Temple 34-26 as six-point favorites in their second straight game at Nippert Stadium and now hit the road for the first time in 2015.
Miami-Ohio opened with a covering confidence-building 26-7 win over Presbyterian of the FCS here at home before reality set in last week with a 58-0 thrashing absorbed at the hands of Wisconsin in Madison. Cincinnati has currently won nine straight games in this series, the longest winning streak by either team in this rivalry’s long history.
However, the RedHawks have made a case that records mean nothing when these teams get together by playing the Cats tough and covering each of the last two years despite being at a huge talent disadvantage, following up a 14-0 loss here in Oxford in 2013 as 24½-point underdogs by nearly pulling a stunner in Cincinnati last season, losing just 31-24 as 30-point dogs.
Running Game Key to Another Miami Cover
Believe it or not, there was one positive sign in the shellacking in Madison last week for Miami, at least for the game’s first 30 minutes, as the very experienced RedHawks defensive front seven that includes six returning starters including the entire defensive line actually held the Badgers to just 58 rushing yards in the first half before wearing down over the final 60 minutes.
Cincinnati is not as big as Wisconsin on either side of the ball, so Miami should be able to stop the run much longer in this game, and once Bearcats’ quarterback Gunner Kiel takes to the air, remember that the RedHawks intercepted him twice last season and the Miami secondary also had an interception in each of the first two games this year.
Another key for Miami here will be the ability to run the ball offensively, which it was absolutely unable to do vs. the Badgers after rushing for 205 yards on 5.1 yards per carry in the opener vs. an FCS defense. Cincinnati obviously has a better defense than Presbyterian but the Bearcats are also not in Wisconsin’s class. The RedHawks did rush for 102 yards when nearly shocking Cincinnati last year and rushing for around 100 again could enable an ATS cover here.
Kiel Has Been Mistake Prone
Now, Gunner Kiel has an appropriate first name as he has passed for 660 yards in two games including 427 yards in the loss at Temple. However, Kiel contributed to the eight-point loss to the Owls with his four interceptions (vs. two touchdown passes). Kiel is certainly a gunslinger with nice confidence in his arm, but his often unnecessary risks can be hazardous to your bankroll when giving almost three touchdowns as the Bearcats are doing here.
Also, remember what we said about Miami having a great chance to cover this humongous line if it can rush for at least 100 yards again as it did in last year’s renewal of this rivalry? Well, Cincinnati can aid the RedHawks in that quest if the run defense plays as poorly as it did in its first FBS matchup of the year last week when the Bearcats allowed Temple to run for 215 yards on a whopping 6.0 yards per carry!
A Homer Series
Finally, the home teams are still 8-3 ATS in the last 11 meetings in this rivalry even with Miami covering the spread in the near-upset at Cincinnati last season. Additionally, the Redhawks are 3-0-1 ATS in their last four games following a straight up loss, while Cincinnati is 0-5 ATS in its last five non-conference games.
Just like the last couple of meetings when Cincinnati had the obvious talent advantage, look for Miami-Ohio to once again give the Bearcats all that they can handle in this big rivalry game while covering as nearly three-touchdown underdogs at home in Oxford on Saturday.
College Football Pick: Miami-Ohio +20 (-106)