College Football Pick: Rutgers -1½ over Cincinnati

LT Profits Sports Group

Thursday, November 14, 2013 5:00 AM GMT

Rutgers is coming off a bye and it expects to get its leading rusher Paul James back after missing four games Saturday vs. a Cincinnati club that has been feasting on lesser teams.

The visiting team is taking a step up in competition while going on the road and the home team is expecting its star running back to return from injury Saturday when the Cincinnati Bearcats (7-2, 2-2 away) pay a visit to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (5-3, 4-1 home) at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, NJ at 12:00 Noon ET in a game televised nationally on ESPNews.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Rutgers as a small home favorite for this contest with the current line at -1½ with odds of -106.

Rutgers running back Paul James was third in the country in rushing when he injured his leg in the fourth game of the season in a win over Arkansas, as he is stuck on 573 rushing yards on a whopping 7.3 yards per carry with six touchdowns in basically 3½ games while also adding 65 receiving yards on six receptions. He has now been upgraded to probable to return this game, which is a key reason this line has shifted from an opener of Cincinnati -2½.

The Bearcats are 7-2 overall and 4-1 in the AAC, and they have some gaudy stats on both sides of the ball, but they have been feasting on the easiest schedule of any AAC team with an SOS ranked 156th in the country according to the Sagarin Ratings, and they appear to be stepping up in competition here while going on the road, where they lost to probably the best team they have faced this year in an Illinois team ranked 77th by Sagarin, as well as a bad loss at South Florida.

The Scarlet Knights had lost two straight games without James before rallying to beat the Temple Owls 23-30 when they last played two weeks ago on a touchdown pass by Gary Nova with 35 seconds left. Nova has been inconsistent without the running of James to support him, but he was stellar vs. the Owls while completing 27-of-38 passes for 371 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.

Also, the running game was not totally helpless while James was out as Justin Goodwin did yeoman’s work filling in. Granted he ran for only 60 yards on 20 carries vs. Temple, but he is still now at 452 rushing yards on 4.9 yards per carry for the season with all but 44 of those yards coming after James went down. The Knights have a balanced offense when Nova is on top of hisgame, and thanks to a bye they have had two weeks to prepare for Cincinnati.

The Bearcats did play last week and they just nipped the SMU Mustangs 28-25, failing to cover the spread after closing as seven-point favorites. That dropped Cincinnati to 4-5 ATS this season, which is disconcerting considering their aforementioned easy schedule. Besides Illinois, the Cats have played just one other team currently ranked in the Sagarin Top 100 to this point, and that was only 95th ranked Memphis, which is 0-4 in the AAC.

The raw statistics say that Cincinnati is ranked 32nd in the country in total offense and an outstanding seventh in the land in total defense, but again, there is the schedule to consider. We feel that defense will finally be put to the test here by a Rutgers team that is averaging 30.9 points and 401.8 total yards per game vs. a better schedule, especially with James back.

Look for home standing Rutgers to prevail and hand Cincinnati its second conference loss of the season on Saturday.

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College Football Pick: Rutgers -1½ (-106)