East Carolina and Cincinnati both will try to stay alive in the race for the American Athletic Conference championship when they meet at Nippert Stadium on Friday night.
The Pirates (6-3, 3-2) have had a week to rest up after earning a last-second road victory over BYU on Oct. 28. Running back Kealon Mitchell ran for 176 yards and a touchdown to pace the East Carolina offense, and Andrew Conrad nailed a 33-yard field goal as time expired to clinch the 27-24 win.
Cincinnati (7-2, 4-1) bounced back from its first conference loss in over two seasons, to UCF, and defeated Navy 20-10. Quarterback Ben Bryant threw for 299 yards and two scores. His top target, Tyler Scott, caught both touchdowns and had 10 receptions for 139 yards.
Caesars Sportsbook lists Cincinnati as a 5-point favorite with an over/under of 52.5
Let’s take a closer look at the odds and trends: East Carolina Pirates at Cincinnati Bearcats
Time/TV: 8 p.m. ET Friday, ESPN2
Point spread (from Caesars Sportsbook): Cincinnati -5
Money line: East Carolina +175; Cincinnati -210
Analysis: The line opened at Cincinnati -6 and has dropped slightly. The Bearcats’ run defense was put to the test last weekend against Navy, and they gave up just 176 yards — far less than the 300-plus yards that the Midshipmen average per game.
Mitchell is going to be another tough challenge, and Cincinnati is going to key in on him early and force quarterback Holton Ahlers to win with the passing game.
On defense, East Carolina did a good job at keeping BYU from hitting the big play through the game. The Pirates gave up 244 yards rushing to the Cougars, but Cincinnati hasn’t been able to establish the run with consistent success this season.
East Carolina is improving, but the home field is going to be the difference for Cincinnati
Prediction: Cincinnati 30, East Carolina 21