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Cincinnati vs. East Carolina Football Prediction and Preview

Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati Bearcats Football

Desmond Ridder and the Bearcats look to finish the regular season undefeated when they take on the surging Pirates on Friday

Black Friday is thought of as the biggest shopping day of the year.

However, it is a day full of college football action, including a massive game in Greenville, North Carolina.

No. 4-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats (11-0, 7-0 AAC) will travel to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium to play the East Carolina Pirates (7-4, 5-2) on Friday afternoon. After weeks of waiting, the Bearcats were finally ranked in the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings — a first for a Group of 5 team.

If Cincinnati wins out, it will likely be one of the four teams to qualify for this year's playoff. However, the Pirates will have something to say about this.

ECU has won four consecutive games, including a 38-35 victory over Navy last weekend. It was the Pirates' first win against Navy since 2011.

Friday will be the 25th meeting between Cincinnati and ECU, and the Pirates hold a 13-11 advantage in the series. However, the Bearcats have won the last three games in the series.

No. 4 Cincinnati at East Carolina

Kickoff: Friday, Nov. 26 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: ABC
Spread: Cincinnati -14

When Cincinnati Has the Ball

Cincinnati finally looked like a team worthy of its ranking last weekend in the win again SMU. Desmond Ridder threw for three touchdowns and ran for a score, along with catching one also in the 48-14 rout over the Mustangs.

Ridder continues to make his case for the AAC Player of the Year as he has thrown for 2,699 yards, 25 touchdowns, and only six interceptions. But it isn't just about Ridder; the Bearcats have a potent offense, including running back Jerome Ford and wide receiver Alec Pierce.

Ford has rushed for 966 yards and 16 touchdowns in 10 games. Pierce recorded a couple of touchdowns in the win against SMU.

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ECU's defense will have its hands full as the Pirates enter this game No. 76 in total defense (388.9 yards per game). They are particularly vulnerable against the run, where their 163.4 rushing yards allowed per game rank 85th nationally.

When East Carolina Has the Ball

As of late, the Pirates offense has also been rolling by the direction of Holton Ahlers, who passed for 405 yards and three touchdowns against Navy. This season, Ahlers has thrown for 2,901 yards, 17 touchdowns, and seven interceptions.

ECU ranks 26th in total offense as the Pirates are averaging 446.9 yards per game. The team is also averaging 31.2 points per game this season. However, recently, ECU has been averaging 35.5 during its four-game winning streak.

Running back Keaton Mitchell leads the AAC with 1,077 rushing yards, and wide receiver Tyler Snead ranks fifth with 738 receiving yards. Tight end Ryan Jones has been a red zone threat with five touchdowns over his 32 receptions for 372 yards.

The Pirates will be facing one of the better defenses in the country. Cincinnati is seventh in total defense as the Bearcats are allowing 305.2 yards per game.

Final Analysis

Many people have automatically given Cincinnati the win against ECU, including ESPN's Rece Davis, when he failed to mention the Pirates were left on the Bearcats schedule. But as another personality from the same network always says, "not so fast, my friend."

ECU has all the tools to create chaos in the College Football Playoff. The Pirates are playing their best football and will need to continue that if they have a chance at the upset.

In the end, the Bearcats seem to find a way to escape with the win even when the odds are against them. On the road in a hostile environment, they will likely find a way to do it again.

Prediction: Cincinnati 38, East Carolina 34

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— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.