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Cincinnati Bearcats at Louisville Cardinals Fenway Bowl Betting Preview

The big thing to watch in Saturday’s Fenway Bowl is if the Cincinnati Bearcats (9-3) consider this mid-December game a step down for their program. It wouldn’t be a huge shocker if Cincinnati came out flat, considering they were in the College Football Playoff a season ago, and this game really becomes a wild card with both teams having interim coaches at the helm.

Saturday’s game could be called the “Transfer Portal Bowl” because there’s going to be a lot of moving parts here as both teams welcome new coaches shortly after the final whistle in Boston. Oddsmakers agree that this contest could go either way, making Louisville just a slight -1.5 favorite.

Cincinnati’s Fickell Set All This in Motion

The bowl committee really did a great job with this matchup, as both of these teams kind of mirror each other. Bearcats coach Luke Fickell led the team to a CFP berth a season ago, but he was lured away to become the head man at Wisconsin. Louisville coach Scott Satterfield then decided to take Fickell’s job at Cincinnati, with the Cardinals also turning to the Big Ten to bring Purdue’s Jeff Brohm (a former Louisville QB) back home.

Neither new coach will be taking over their teams for the Fenway Bowl, so it will be special teams coach Kerry Coombs manning the sidelines for Cincinnati while former NFL star Deion Branch – who was only the director of player development – makes his coaching debut for the Cardinals.

Cincinnati QB Ben Bryant (foot) will miss this game as well, and he had mixed reviews with 2,732 yards to go along with 21 TDs to 7 INTs filling in for longtime starter Desmond Ridder who is off to the Atlanta Falcons.

Evan Prater will get the nod, but he was just 10/26 for 102 yards in a 27-24 loss to Tulane in the season finale – a game in which a win would have sent the Bearcats to the AAC Championship Game.

No Swan Song for the Cardinals’ Cunningham

Mid-December bowl games have to fight for eyeballs watching them, and Saturday’s game lost what was going to be the main attraction as Louisville QB Malik Cunningham is opting out as he preps for the NFL draft.

Cunningham has the most TDs in Louisville history (120), which is impressive considering former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL MVP Lamar Jackson was here before Cunningham took over. The redshirt Senior had 1,000+ yards rushing and 20 TD runs last season but was banged up a bit this year, and his numbers dipped.

Cunningham sitting out means Brock Domann gets the call at QB. Domann only completed 53.7% of his passes this season, with three TDs to five INTs.

Bearcats at Cardinals Pick

This game might be hard to watch offensively, with Prater doing nothing impressive in Cincinnati’s loss to Tulane and Cunningham not playing for the Cardinals.

Who knows what Branch will do for Louisville in his head coaching debut while the Bearcats also consider the Fenway Bowl a disappointment after making the CFP a season ago. The only way to play this one is for it to be low scoring.

Pick: Under 38.5

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