The AAC Championship and a likely selection to a New Year’s Six bowl game are on the line Saturday as the No. 23 Tulsa Golden Hurricane (6-1) take on the No. 9 Cincinnati Bearcats (8-0). The Bearcats will host this one at Nippert Stadium, with kickoff scheduled for 8:00 pm ET.
Tulsa has had a fantastic season this year, with their lone loss coming in a 16-7 road loss against No. 21 Oklahoma State in the first game. Since then, they have won six in a row, including a 19-6 win over Navy two weeks ago. While their offense can be inconsistent at times, they are hoping to ride a strong defense to victory Saturday.
The only team Tulsa trails in most defensive stat categories in the AAC is Cincinnati. The Bearcats swept the regular season and are looking to keep it rolling into one of the major bowl games.
In their last game, they beat UCF 36-33. They will likely have a chip on their shoulder as they dropped a spot in the rankings simply because they didn’t play over the last few weeks due to COVID-19 issues.
Cincinnati comes into this one as the overwhelming favorite. They are -650 to win, while Tulsa’s moneyline is +425. The spread features Tulsa +14 while the over/under for total points is 45.
By The Numbers
Cincinnati has been excellent on both sides of the ball this year. Offensively, they rank 14th overall averaging 38.9 points per game. Tulsa falls to 66th in the nation averaging 27.7 points per game.
Defensively, Cincinnati is currently the second-best scoring defense in the nation as they are allowing just 14.3 points per game to opponents. Tulsa comes in 22nd, allowing an average of 19.9 points per game.
Tulsa Looks For Upset Over Cincinnati
Head coach Phillip Montgomery has the Golden Hurricane playing well this season, and they will look to keep it rolling with an upset over conference foe, Cincinnati.
Offensively, leading the way for Tulsa is quarterback Zach Smith. In seven games, he has thrown for 1,434 yards, 11 touchdowns, and six interceptions. He has four players who have over 250 yards receiving, but the biggest threats have been Keylon Stokes (508 yards, two touchdowns) and Josh Johnson (484 yards, six touchdowns).
On the ground, they have a trio of players with over 300 yards. Deneric Prince (356 yards, two touchdowns), Corey Taylor II (329 yards, two touchdowns), and T.K. Wilkerson (317 yards, four touchdowns) have all had success.
Bearcats Hope To Stay Perfect
The Bearcats have dominated teams on both sides of the ball this year and will look to keep that domination going to keep their perfect record intact.
Under center for the Bearcats is Desmond Ridder. The AAC offensive player of the year has thrown for 1,821 yards, 16 touchdowns, and six interceptions. He has also rushed 67 times for 526 yards and 11 touchdowns.
As strong as Ridder has been on the ground, their leading rusher is Gerrid Doaks. He has rushed 137 times for 660 yards and seven touchdowns. Between the two, they will likely give Tulsa’s defense headaches all night long.
Defensively, the team has been led by Jarell White (68 tackles), Myjai Sanders (five sacks), Ahmad Gardner (three interceptions), and Coby Bryant (three interceptions).
Cincy Wins, But Can’t Cover
This one comes down to defense. While Cincinnati has been better at putting up points, both teams have stout defenses that should give the other side headaches.
I still think that Cincinnati wins this game, but it wouldn’t shock me if Tulsa’s defense keeps it close. Straight up, Cincinnati is the choice in this one, but if looking at the spread, I am taking Tulsa +14.