The Cincinnati Bearcats aren’t all that. Sharp bettors would rather put the UCF Knights in Saturday’s college football picks.
UCF Knights vs. Cincinnati Bearcats
Saturday, October 16, 2021 - 12:00 PM EDT at Nippert Stadium
Pretty much every year in college football, there’s an undefeated team from outside the Power 5 conferences that captures everyone’s attention. Then that team doesn’t get invited to the College Football Playoff. It happened to the UCF Knights in 2017 and 2018, and it happened to the Cincinnati Bearcats last year. Get used to disappointment.
Of course, the powers that be in the Power 5 are in no hurry to share their wealth with the lowly American Athletic Conference – aside from plucking away their teams in realignment.
But there’s another reason these teams don’t get invited to the CFP: They’re not good enough. The Bearcats (5-0 SU, 4-1 ATS) may be No. 3 in the polls heading into Saturday’s matchup with Central Florida (3-2 SU, 1-4 ATS), but that undefeated record was built on sand. We’d rather build our college football picks on the rock, thank you kindly.
The sharps agree. The early consensus reports of NCAAF odds show 81 percent of bettors on UCF. It’s a classic contrarian bet.
Here’s that sand we talking about: The updated SP+ rankings at ESPN have Cincinnati ranked No. 13 overall (No. 37 offense, No. 9 defense, No. 111 special teams), way below where the ‘Cats sit in the polls. It’s all about strength of schedule.
Cincinnati has been favored in every game thus far, including three other contests where they were laying three touchdowns or more. Beating Notre Dame (+2.5) and Indiana (+4.5) on the road was commendable, but hardly the stuff of legends.
Do these Knights have what it takes to get the job done for us? They’re in the first year of the Gus Malzahn regime, having lost both head coach Josh Heupel and athletic director Danny White to Tennessee in January.
Gus Malzahn the head coach of the UCF Knights. Andy Lyons/Getty Images/AFP.
Malzahn was praised for the way he turned around the Auburn football program when he arrived in 2013, but he was shown the door at the end of the 2020 campaign. Making the Citrus Bowl just wasn’t good enough for Auburn fans.
Malzahn has some work to do in Orange County. He inherited a team that was already rebuilding, and the Knights lost as road favorites to Louisville (+7) and Navy (+14.5) before scraping past East Carolina 20-16 last week as 10-point home faves.
This sets up a potential “buy low” situation for UCF at the best online sportsbooks. They’re only No. 53 (No. 22 offense, No. 88 defense, No. 18 special teams) on the SP+ charts, but the Knights are better than Cincinnati at the things they do well, and their defense will come around in time – hopefully soon enough to make our NCAAF picks seem prescient here at the ranch.
NCAAF Pick: UCF +21 (–108)
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.