Line: Louisville -2
Cincinnati vs Louisville Breakdown and Betting Odds
The Cincinnati Bearcats (9-3) and Louisville Cardinals (7-5) are squaring off in the Fenway Bowl Saturday at 11:00 a.m. ET. The Cardinals are 2-point favorites. The over/under is set at 40 points.
This is a rivalry renewed as Cincinnati and Louisville have not played since 2013. The Bearcats and Cardinals have fought for the Keg of Nails 53 times with Cincinnati winning 30 times, Louisville winning 22 times, and one tie occurring in 1977. Since Louisville moved to the ACC, the rivalry has been put on hold. Louisville won the last two matchups, knocking off Cincinnati 34-31 at home in 2012 and 31-24 in Cincinnati in 2013.
Perhaps the strangest narrative of the game revolves around Cincinnati’s new coach Scott Satterfield. While Luke Fickell departed for Wisconsin, the Bearcats opted to hire Satterfield and his nine years of experience. Notably, he coached at Louisville this season. Louisville’s interim head coach is former NFL wide receiver Deion Branch.
Coming off an undefeated regular season and a berth in the College Football Playoff, Cincinnati opened the season as the No. 23 team in the land. However, they lost many key pieces to the 2022 NFL Draft including superstar cornerback Sauce Gardner and quarterback Desmond Ridder. Cincinnati lost their opener to a ranked Arkansas and did not return to the polls until winning their next four games. After a six-game win streak, UCF stunned Cincinnati, again knocking them out of the polls. They won their next three games to make the AAC title game, but Tulane delivered the final blow. Tulane gets a date with USC in the Cotton Bowl while the Bearcats get one of the earliest bowls.
The Bearcats took a sizable dip offensively, falling from the 11th-ranked scoring offense in college football in 2021 to the 46th in 2022. Ben Bryant has been a capable quarterback for Cincinnati with 21 passing touchdowns and seven interceptions, but he is not Ridder. On the ground, the Bearcats are led by Charles McClelland’s 140 carries for 834 yards and seven touchdowns. Corey Kiner and Ryan Montgomery have also pitched in five touchdowns each. In the receiving game, Tyler Scott and Tre Tucker lead the line. Scott has 54 catches for 899 yards and nine touchdowns. Tucker has 52 catches for 672 yards and three touchdowns.
After losing multiple NFL-caliber players, the defense remained one of the stouter units in college football, only allowing 20.3 points per game. The key is All-American Ivan Pace. The Miami (OH) transfer leads Cincinnati in tackles (119), tackles for loss (18.5), and sacks (8.0). He won AAC Defensive Player of the Year, leading the conference in tackles and finishing third in sacks. Aside from Pace, Jaquan Sheppard has had a strong season on the backend, swatting away 10 passes. An incredible 11 Bearcats have four or more sacks including Pace and Sheppard. The Bearcats have been strong against the pass (54.9% completion) and the run (3.4 yards per attempt).
Cincinnati is 3-8-1 ATS this season. They began the year with a 2-2-1 stretch, but they lost five consecutive games ATS before finally beating Temple. In games as underdogs, the Bearcats are 0-3, failing to cover in any game. The over is 6-6, but the under has hit in six of the last eight games including a five-game streak that overlapped with Cincinnati’s inability to cover.
Louisville has had a tumultuous season. They alternated losses and wins for the first five games, dropping to 2-3 and 0-3 in the ACC. They then heated up to gain bowl eligibility, winning their next four. Their most impressive win in this stretch was a demolition over then-No. 10 Wake Forest. After getting to 6-3, Louisville dropped a game at No. 12 Clemson before knocking off North Carolina State to end .500 in the conference. In their season-ending rivalry game, Louisville fell to Kentucky to end 7-5.
The Cardinals are in the middle of the back offensively. They scored 27.2 points per game, good for 76th in the country. Star quarterback Malik Cunningham has been ultra-productive in the rushing attack, gaining 560 yards and scoring 12 touchdowns. However, he has been inconsistent with his arm, throwing eight touchdowns and five interceptions. Joining Cunningham on the ground, Jawhar Jordan and Tiyon Evans have had solid seasons. Jordan is the team’s leading rusher with 133 attempts for 700 yards. Evans is second to Cunningham with six touchdowns, and he has the best average on the team with 6.3 yards per carry. Tyler Hudson eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards, more than doubling his next teammate.
Defensively, Louisville has had a tough unit. They are a top-20 bunch, allowing 20.2 points per game. Yasir Abdullah leads the team with 13.0 tackles for loss and 8.0 sacks. Yaya Diaby is just behind him with 11.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. Ashton Gillotte and Monty Montgomery have combined to pitch in 16.5 tackles for loss and 11.0 sacks. Nine different Cardinals have intercepted a pass with Quincy Riley leading the way with three. Jarvis Brownlee has swatted 11 passes, and Kei’Trel Clark has two defensive touchdowns.
Louisville is 7-5 ATS. In a weird quirk, they have not covered the spread in a loss nor have they failed to cover the spread in a win. As underdogs, Louisville is 3-3, knocking off UCF, Virginia, and Wake Forest but losing to Florida State, Clemson, and Kentucky. The under is 8-4, hitting in their last four games.
Free Pick: Louisville -2
The over could be a fun play, but here we will back Louisville -2. Louisville has been a slightly better team for most of the season, only posting an inferior record because of a tougher schedule. Louisville is often able to get after the quarterback and force their opponents into tough situations. Expect Louisville to pull out a close win in a revenge game over their former coach’s new school.