This Saturday the No. 18 Memphis Tigers will host the No. 19 Cincinnati Bearcats in the 2019 American Athletic Conference Championship Game. Kickoff is set for 3:30 EST at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium and will be televised nationally on ABC.
Oddsmakers opened up this line at Memphis -10, but early money on the Bearcats has the Tigers down to anywhere from -9.5 to -8.5 depending on where you shop. The total opened at 57.5 and it’s still sitting on that number at most books.
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Vegas Betting Preview & Game Odds: Memphis vs Cincinnati
Cincinnati Bearcats (10-2 SU, 7-5 ATS)
The Bearcats come in off a 24-34 loss at Memphis last week, but did manage to cover as a 14-point dog. The loss was the first of the season for Cincinnati in AAC play and snapped the Bearcats 9-game winning streak. Their only other loss on the season was a 42-0 setback at Ohio State.
Their 10-2 record secures back-to-back double-digit win seasons for Cincinnati under 3rd year head coach Luke Fickell. Last year they posted the same 10-2 mark in the regular-season, but their 6-2 conference record was only good enough for 3rd in the AAC East.
Not only is a conference title on the line, but a win here and a Boise State loss in the MWC Championship would likely get them into a New Year’s Six bowl.
Memphis Tigers (11-1 SU, 8-4 ATS)
The Tigers earned a spot in the AAC title game with last week’s home win over the Bearcats, as they actually finished tied on top the AAC West with Navy at 7-1 (won head-to-head tiebreaker). The win not only snapped Cincinnati’s winning streak, it extended Memphis’ winning streak to 6 games.
Playing in the AAC Championship Game is nothing new to Memphis, as this will be their third straight year representing the East in the title game. Getting to the game is great, but the Tigers want to win. Something they failed to do the previous two years, losing 55-62 in OT to UCF in 2017 and 41-56 to UCF last year.
While Cincinnati likely needs a win and Boise State loss, Memphis should get a New Year’s Bowl bid simply with a win in this matchup.
It’s always interesting handicapping a matchup where two teams close out the regular-season against each other and then meet against the next week in the conference title game. It’s really difficult to not favor the team that just won, especially when the game is being played in the exact same venue.
As for as the numbers were concerned, it was a more evenly matched game than the final score might indicate. Memphis had a mere 432-407 edge in total yards and had just one more first down (21-20). The big difference in the game was turnovers, as Cincinnati turned it over 3 times, while the Tigers only gave it away once.
NCAA Football Betting Predictions & Free Pick: Cincinnati +9.5
My early lean here would be to take the points with the Bearcats and it’s really not a debate for me. The biggest thing you got to take into account with last week’s matchup between these two teams is that game meant everything to Memphis and next to nothing for Cincinnati. The Tigers had to win that game to clinch the AAC West, while the Bearcats already had their spot in the title game locked up.
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Sure, Cincinnati put up a fight and wound up covering the spread, but there’s no doubt in my mind they held some things back that they are going to use in this game. They also used that game to give red-shirt freshman Ben Bryant his first start. Bryant did throw two picks in his debut, but he also had his moments. Bryant completed 63% (20-32) of his attempts for 229 yards and threw a 4-yard TD pass. He also rushed for a 12-yard score.
They gave Bryant the start to let starter Desmond Ridder rest his ailing shoulder, but it was such an encouraging performance that they are going with him again. Keep in mind that Ridder had not played well in the Bearcats previous two games, as he was just 18 of 43 (42%) for 140 yards in games against Temple and USF. Ridder had also not thrown for more than 172 yards in 5 straight games.
Giving up 34 points and 432 yards might not look all that great, but that was the Tigers lowest offensive output in total yards in their last 8 games. Memphis also benefited from running the opening kick by 94 yards. I expect Fickell to have an even better defensive gameplan in the rematch and I think we see a little more urgency out of the Bearcats defenders. Give me Cincinnati +9.5!