The Cincinnati Bearcats will kick off their schedule against UCLA for a second year in a row when they host the Bruins on Thursday as narrow 3-point favorites on the college football betting odds.
Cincinnati returns to action after recording their most successful season since joining the American Athletic Conference in 2013, compiling an 11-2 overall record, and they have posted outright victories in seven straight contests on home turf going into Thursday night’s matchup at Nippert Stadium.
The Bearcats were dominant at home last season, averaging 44.5 points per game while going 6-0 straight up, and holding opponents to seven or fewer points in three of those contests. But despite enjoying a major turnaround from a dismal 4-8 campaign in 2017, the Bearcats’ 6-2 SU record in conference play proved only good enough for a third-place finish in the AAC East Division, trailing both the UCF Knights and Temple Owls.
The team also finds itself outside the AP Top 25 rankings after closing out 2018 at No. 24, lagging behind Central Florida as a +325 wager to win the AAC East on the NCAA football odds, and trailing both the Knights and Memphis Tigers at a lengthy +550 on the AAC championship odds.
Despite those tempered expectations, the Bearcats are once again positioned to be an offensive force this season. Cincinnati will once again count on an effective rushing game that averaged a respectable 239.5 yards per game last season while racking up 38 touchdown runs, ranking the team eighth in the nation.
Running back Michael Warren II returns for his junior season after enjoying a breakthrough campaign in 2018, rushing for 1,329 yards and 19 scores, capped by a 166-yard, two-score performance in the Bearcats’ 35-31 win over Virginia Tech as 5.5-point chalk in the Military Bowl. Cincinnati should also benefit from the return of 2017 rushing leader Gerrid Doaks, who missed all of 2018 due to injury, as well as passer Desmond Ridder, who ran for five touchdowns and tossed 20 scoring passes in his freshman campaign in 2018.
Bearcats OVER Team at Home Last Season
Not surprisingly, the high-powered Bearcats regularly rewarded bettors taking the OVER when they played at home last season. The point total finished OVER in NCAA football betting in five of the team’s six home games last season. However, the total is set at 60.0 in Thursday’s contest on the college football odds, a number that has been topped in just three of Cincinnati’s past nine home matchups.
Last year’s season-opening clash between these two teams also proved to be a relatively low scoring affair, with the Bearcats topping UCLA 26-17 as 14.5-point road underdogs in their first-ever meeting with the Bruins.
Things subsequently went from bad to worse for the Bruins, who posted SU losses in each of their first five outings on their way to a 3-9 finish that marked their worst season since going 2-7-1 back in 1971. UCLA particularly struggled in non-conference action, going 0-3, and has now dropped SU decisions in five straight non-conference clashes.
The Bruins have also been a dismal road team in recent years, losing SU in 14 of their past 15 contests away from the Rose Bowl, and surrendering 42 or more points in seven of their past 11 road dates.
And while the Bruins are expected to improve on a dismal defensive performance last season that saw them surrender a stunning 445 total yards per game, ranking them a distant 105th in the nation, they have a long way to go to return to College Football Playoff contention. That is reflected on UCLA’s odds to win the national championship, which sit at a distant +30000 going into Thursday night’s action.
*Odds as of August 28th, 2019