You wouldn't think a 10-1 team would need so many dominoes to fall just right in order to claim a share of its conference title. But that's exactly the situation the Louisville Cardinals find themselves in heading into the regular season finale on the road against the Cincinnati Bearcats.
Louisville, heavily favored to win the AAC before the season, rolled out as 6.5 point chalk in the very early spread released Sunday. But SBR's live college football odds now list the Cardinals at -3.5 following early wagering on the Bearcats. A total has yet to be released on the game.
This will be the 53rd meeting on the gridiron between the two schools, and marks the fourth different league Louisville and Cincinnati have collided as conference foes. The clash for the Keg of Nails dates back to 1929, with Thursday's tilt the 17th straight year they've met.
Cincinnati leads the series 30-21-1, but the Cardinals have won six of the last 10, and five of the most recent seven visits to Nippert Stadium in Porkopolis. The visitors have covered the past three years, Louisville winning the contest 34-31 in 2012 but missing the 3.5 point margin the sportsbooks had set.
In Case Of A Tie...
Like other conferences without a championship game to crown their champs, the American Athletic Conference will leave it up to the BCS Standings to sort things out should there be a tie. That scenario may never come about if Central Florida beats SMU, but playing a dangerous Mustangs team in Dallas makes that anything but a certainty after the Knights barely staved off a 2-9 South Florida team at home last week.
Should Southern Methodist pull off the upset, the winner between the Cardinals and Bearcats will share the first AAC crown with UCF, and leave it up to writers, coaches and computers to decide who heads to a big payday in a BCS contest. With the other AAC tie-ins being contests like the Belk Bowl, New Era Pinstripe Bowl and Beef 'O' Brady Bowl, there will be a huge drop-off in the size of the checks for the bridesmaid in this conference.
Louisville (10-1 straight up, 4-7 against the spread) suffered its only loss of the season to UCF back in October, a game in which Charlie Strong's squad closed as a 2-touchdown favorite. The Cardinals are 19th in the latest BCS Standings, three rungs below the Knights, and should be able to jump ahead with a win over Cincy coupled with a Central Florida loss to SMU.
Cincinnati (9-2 SU, 6-5 ATS) might not be able to climb over Central Florida, even with a win over the Ville and a Knights loss at SMU. Tommy Tuberville has done a nifty job in his first year with the Bearcats, but they don't crack the latest BCS top 25, making it very difficult for Cincinnati to push its way into the top-tier bowl picture.
Cards Have DB Injury Concerns; 'Cats Come In Healthy
The only way to have made money on Louisville this season was to play the 'under' which has cashed nine times, including six of the last seven while the Cardinals went 1-6 ATS in that span. They've been asked to cover some sizable numbers, like a month ago at UConn where Louisville was favored by 28 and won by 21, and could be short a couple of key defensive backs for this one.
Corner Charles Gaines, originally recruited to Louisville as a receiver, is questionable with a knee injury, while safety Calvin Pryor's status is unclear after he missed last week's win over Memphis for what was described as "non-injury related."
College football bettors will definitely want to check the forecast for Cincinnati where a 60% rain is currently listed for Thursday evening. The thermometer will be around 40º at kickoff with light NNW breeze.
Cincinnati has been impressive at home (5-0, 2-3 ATS) and is riding a 6-game win streak, but I like the Cardinals minus the points for my free college football pick.
My pick: Louisville -3.5 at Bet365