This Saturday the Cats face the Houston Cougars at noon on ESPN at Paul Brown Stadium. This will be the season closer for UC and the last game the Bearcats play at Paul Brown before the renovations are finished at Nippert Stadium for next year. Cincinnati is favored by 6.5 points in Vegas.
Houston is 7-4 on the season and 5-2 in the American. The Cougars did beat Memphis (UC’s lone loss in the AAC), and narrowly lost to both UCF and BYU.
Houston relies primarily on their D. As for points allowed, Houston has the 10th stingiest defense in the country, but they have statistically speaking played a very favorable schedule. On average, they allow just 17.8 points, 319.5 yards, and have racked up 22 sacks and 30 turnovers.
Offensively the Cougars are very weak. Sophomore quarterback Greg Ward Jr. completes nearly 70% of his passes, but has only thrown seven TDs compared to six picks on the year. He also averages a paltry seven yards a completion. The offense splits carries between Kenneth Farrow and Ryan Jackson, whom average 5.5 yards a carry, and combine for over 1,300 yards on the season. The Houston offense has not shown big play potential.
We look for the Bearcats defense to continue to improve and force Houston’s QB to throw another interception. The Cats D shut out UConn, and held Temple to a pair of field goals, in their last two games.
The key to the game will be to prevent turnovers and limit Houston’s steady rushing attack. Gunner Kiel has 11 interceptions on the year, but he has limited his turnovers recently, and is much healthier now. In his last two games he has four TDs to one interception.
We also look for one of his many pass options to step up for a big day, whether it’s Shaq Washington, Mekale McKay, Chris Moore, or Johnny Holton. On the year, Cincinnati has 27 pass plays of 25 or more yards.
The Cougars are 0-4 in their last 4 meetings in Cincinnati and 1-5 in their last 6 meetings overall. We look for the Bearcats to close out the season on a seven game win streak, and clinch a share of the American championship.
Final prediction: Bearcats 35, Cougars 20.