No. 5 Cincinnati is on the outside looking in of the College Football Playoff, but it has the stage all to itself on Friday night when it travels to Tampa to take on South Florida. The Bearcats have managed to navigate through the season without a blemish on their record, but has looked sluggish in each of the last three games.
Meanwhile, the Bulls have sputtered to a 2-7 season and lost a 54-42 shootout to Houston in their last game. There are signs of improvement for Jeff Scott's team, but the wins haven't come just yet.
Let's break down the game and make picks straight up and against the spread.
Cincinnati vs. South Florida: Need to know
Ridder to Whyle connection: Josh Whyle, the 6-foot-6, 245-pound tight end, has become a force within Cincinnati's offense. Star quarterback Desmond Ridder has hooked up with Whyle nine times over the last three games, which have included four of Whyle's five touchdowns on the season. The Cincinnati running game gets most of the publicity, but coach Luke Fickell has been weaving in plenty of balance over the last month-plus, with Whyle becoming more of a threat.
Secondary stand up: The Bearcats' pass defense leads the AAC with 155.4 yards per game allowed, and this is a perfect chance to further establish itself as one of the best units in the country. The Bulls passing offense ranked 10th in the league at 185.3 yards per game, ahead of only Navy -- which, of course, runs the triple option. The Bulls have broken the 200-yard mark just twice through the air, but one of them came against the Cougars last week when they put up 289 in a shootout.
Run the dang ball: The duo of Ridder and running back Jerome Ford has been one of the best in college football. Ford is averaging a respectable 98 yards per game on the ground -- second in the AAC -- and leads the conference with 15 rushing touchdowns. The 5-foot-11, 220-pound bruiser works alongside Ridder, who has topped the 40-yard mark -- sacks included -- in each of the last two games. Those two studs will be going against the second-worst run defense in the AAC, which might make this one ugly.
How to watch Cincinnati vs. USF live
Date: Friday, Nov. 12 | Time: 6 p.m. ET
Location: Raymond James Stadium -- Tampa, Florida
TV: ESPN2 | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Cincinnati vs. USF prediction, picks
There's no reason to out-think the room here. All the Bearcats need to do is run the football and get out of Tampa with an old-school win to stay undefeated, and that's exactly what will happen. Ford will go north of 100 yards and Ridder will flirt with 75 in what will be a Bearcats blowout. With that said, can they cover the 23-point spread? Nope. The rushing attack will drain the clock and those with Bulls tickets will cash 'em. Prediction: USF (+23)
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