The Cincinnati Bearcats are on a quest to become the first program from outside a power conference to force its way into the College Football Playoff. Standing in their way this week is perhaps the program that had the best shot to do so in recent memory, the UCF Knights. Undefeated Cincinnati heads to Orlando for the game of the week in the Group of 5. A win on the road against the Knights will clinch a spot in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game for Cincinnati, and could just about eliminate UCF from the running entirely.
Can Cincinnati keep their playoff dreams alive, or will UCF burst the Bearcats' bubble?
No. 7 Cincinnati at UCF
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 21 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Cincinnati -6
When Cincinnati Has the Ball
Cincinnati's offense has been on relative cruise control over the past four games. Cincy has put up at least 40 points in three of their last four games, including a 55-point outburst against East Carolina last weekend. But Cincinnati has also out-paced offensively talented programs like SMU and Memphis. Quarterback Desmond Ridder has two three-touchdown games in the last two, and he may need another big day in the box score to lead Cincinnati to a win. UCF's defense has tightened things up a bit since giving up far too many big plays against Tulsa and Memphis earlier in the season, but giving up 13 points to Temple probably isn't the biggest piece of evidence to suggest UCF's defense is ready for Cincinnati.
When UCF Has the Ball
UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel has improved his passing accuracy this season, and the results are reflecting in the stats. After throwing 29 touchdowns with seven interceptions last season, Gabriel's 2020 season totals are up to 23 touchdown passes and just two interceptions this season. His last interception came on Oct. 3 in a loss to Tulsa. Cincinnati's defense will be the best UCF has faced though. The Bearcat defense leads the AAC with 12 interceptions this season, with senior Coby Bryant and sophomore Ahmad Gardner with three each.
Cincinnati's defense is what has been separating the Bearcats from their opposition this season, and that should once again prove to be the difference against UCF. When these teams met last season, Cincinnati held UCF to just 24 points, a far cry from the kind of offensive numbers the Knights have been known for in recent seasons. But UCF had the advantage in offensive yardage and was far more successful on third downs than Cincinnati. The difference in the game was UCF turning the football over four times to Cincinnati's one. The Bearcats scored 14 points off turnovers against the Knights a year ago. If Cincinnati can win the turnover battle on the road, their College Football Playoff hopes live to see another week.
Prediction: Cincinnati 30, UCF 26
Podcast: Week 12 Preview and Predictions