No. 21 Cincinnati at SMU betting preview: Bearcats, Mustangs vie for first place in AAC

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Cincinnati Bearcats running back Myles Montgomery, center, celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kennesaw State, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean)

The No. 21 Cincinnati Bearcats are coming off of a bye week and hitting the road for an early Saturday meeting with the SMU Mustangs at Gerald J. Ford Stadium.

Cincinnati (5-1) has had a week to recover from a tough 28-24 win over a feisty South Florida team. The Bearcats actually trailed in the fourth quarter until Charles McClelland ripped off a 35-yard touchdown run with 9:24 remaining. McClelland finished with 179 yards and two touchdowns.

Quarterback Ben Bryant threw for two touchdowns but also had two interceptions. He left the game with an injury, which was later determined to be a concussion. He has returned to practice, but it’s uncertain if he’s been cleared for Saturday. UC coach Luke Fickell said Tuesday he was hopeful Bryant would play.

SMU (3-3) ended a three-game losing skid with a 40-34 win over Navy last Saturday. The Mustangs led by as many as 20 points in the fourth quarter before Navy staged a late comeback. Quarterback Tanner Mordecai threw for 336 yards and three touchdowns. 

Caesars Sportsbook lists Cincinnati as a 3.5-point favorite with an over/under of 58.5.

Let’s take a closer look at the odds and trends:

Cincinnati Bearcats at SMU Mustangs

Time/TV: Noon ET Saturday, ESPN

Point spread (from Caesars Sportsbook): Cincinnati -3.5

Money line: Cincinnati -165; SMU +140

Over/under: 58.5

Analysis: This line has stayed between -3 and 3.5 for most of the week. The big issue is the health of Bryant. If he can play, it feels more like a comfortable road win for Cincinnati. If Bryant can’t play, then everything is a little more shaky. The fact that Bryant is back practicing says he’s likely to be cleared to play Saturday.

SMU is giving up a lot of yardage. The Mustangs allowed 484 yards against UCF and 510 against Navy, which included 372 yards rushing. Cincinnati should do enough for the win with or without Bryant. The past six SMU-Cincinnati games have gone under the point total line, so lean toward that for any total bets.

Prediction: Cincinnati 31, SMU 23

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