Saturday, December 19, 2020, Nipper Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio, 8 p.m. ET
Golden Hurricane at Bearcats Betting Preview: Golden Hurricane (+14.5), Bearcats (-14.5)
No. 23 Tulsa enters the American Athletic Conference with some momentum after winning six consecutive game following its opening loss at Oklahoma State.
The Golden Hurricane (6-1, 6-0 AAC) clinched their berth with a 19-6 win over Navy on Dec. 5. That victory will allow them the opportunity to compete for a championship for the first time since 2012.
The Golden Hurricane lost an opportunity to host the league title game when their regularly scheduled game against the Bearcats was canceled last week. The conference awarded the Bearcats home field because of their higher spot in the College Football Playoff rankings. The two teams also had been scheduled to meet in October.
“I know our guys were excited to play them early in the year,” Golden Hurricane coach Philip Montgomery told the Tulsa World. “They were excited to play them this past weekend. We’re finally going to get that opportunity to do that.”
League coaches picked Tulsa to finish ninth in the conference in a preseason poll, but the Hurricane got rolling with a 34-26 win at UCF after their opening 16-7 loss to Oklahoma State and have kept on since.
The win over the Knights was the first of four comeback wins for the Hurricane this season. They were down 23-5 late n the first half at UCF and trailed 17-3 at the half of their eventual 34-30 win over East Carolina. They were down 21-0 early against SMU and 24-7 at the half before rallying for a 28-24 win over the Mustangs, and they were down 14 points late in the third quarter against Tulane before pulling out the 30-24 win in overtime.
Zach Smith has been the leader on offense. In 19 career games he has passed for 4,713 yards and 30 touchdowns with 1,414 yards and 11 touchdowns coming in the seven games of this season.
Zaven Collins leads the defense. He was a unanimous pick of the conference coaches for AAC Defensive Player of the Year after recording 51 tackles with 11.5 for losses with four sacks and four interceptions.
No. 9 Cincinnati’s drop in the latest CFP rankings from what was a No. 7 place just a couple of weeks ago pretty much puts the Bearcats (8-0, 6-0 AAC) out of contention for a spot in the four-team playoff field, but they do remain the leader for a berth in one of the prestigious New Year’s Six bowl games.
The Bearcats are three spots ahead of undefeated Coastal Carolina in the rankings among teams from Group of Five conferences as they prepare to play their first game since a 36-33 victory at UCF on Nov. 21.
“I think we’re in pretty good shape, in a good place right now,” Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell said. “We’re getting through some minor things that come along with being off for 14, 15, 16 days or so. Other than that I think we should hopefully by Saturday be in good shape with just about everybody.”
Fickell (Coach of the Year) and Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder (Offensive Player of the Year) were among those selected for 2020 AAC Awards this week.
Ridder became the first Bearcat to earn the honor since running back Isaiah Pead in 2011. He has passed for 1,821 yards and 16 touchdowns this season and also has rushed for 526 yards and 11 scores.
But he threw for just 172 yards and added 23 on the ground in Cincinnati’s 24-13 win over Tulsa last season.
Gerrid Doaks had three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) in that game for the Bearcats. He has nine scores (seven rushing, two receiving) this season and leads the team in rushing with 660 yards.
Golden Hurricane at Bearcats Betting Pick for December 19, 2020
Among common opponents, Cincinnati posted a 38-33 win at UCF in its last game and Tulsa rallied to be the Knights 34-26) back on Oct. 3. Cincinnati whipped South Florida 28-7 and East Carolina 55-17, and Tulsa handled South Florida 42-13 and East Carolina 34-30. The Bearcats also cruised past SMU 42-13 and the Hurricane had to overcome a 21-point deficit to win 28-24.
Golden Hurricane at Bearcats Betting Pick:
Bearcats 28, Golden Hurricane 24
Golden Hurricane at Bearcats Best Bet for December 19, 2020
Cincinnati has won six of the last seven meetings with Tulsa, a stretch that includes a 24-13 win in Nippert Stadium last year. The two previous meetings were much higher scoring affairs with the Hurricane winning 40-47 in overtime in 2016 and the Bearcats winning 49-38 in 2015.
Golden Hurricane at Bearcats Best Bet: OVER 45.5