Houston vs. Cincinnati AAC Championship Game Odds and Free Picks

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Quarterback Desmond Ridder #9 of the Cincinnati Bearcats. Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images/AFP

Cincinnati will get the chance to make its case for a College Football Playoff berth—which would be the first-ever given to a team not in a Power Five Conference—in the AAC Championship Game on Saturday against Houston.

Let’s dive into the NCAAF odds for this great matchup!

Houston Cougars vs. Cincinnati Bearcats

Saturday, December 4, 2021 – 04:00 PM EST at Nippert Stadium

The Bearcats are 12-0 with a win over Notre Dame in the regular season. They’re ranked in the top four in the AP poll as well as the College Football Playoff Rankings. However, they’ll need to maintain their position through championship Saturday, when the other teams jockeying for a bid will be playing title games against top-rated opposition.

The Bearcats have a marquee opponent for the game in No. 16 Houston. The Cougars were also unbeaten in AAC play and have won 11 straight since a season-opening loss to Texas Tech. Cincinnati and Houston are the top two teams in the conference in scoring offense and scoring defense.

Cincinnati will need an impressive win over the Cougars to keep one of the Power Conference teams from leapfrogging into the playoff. Houston will be looking to spring the upset.

Looking to Win

Houston isn’t content to be an impressive opponent to help support Cincinnati’s playoff quest. The Cougars will be looking to win the game and earn an impressive bowl berth for themselves.

“I wanted this team to experience an undefeated conference slate, and we did it,” coach Dana Holgorsen said. “This program has some really good history, some really good football teams over the years. Our job is not done. It’s a great accomplishment, but it’s not the ultimate accomplishment.”

In addition to ranking in the top 10 nationally in scoring and defense, the Cougars’ special teams are elite. Houston leads the country in blocked kicks and blocked punts and is second in kick return touchdowns and eighth in punt return average.

The offense is led by freshman running back Alton McCaskill, who set a school record with 16 touchdowns, and 1,000-yard receiver Nathaniel Dell. McCaskill has been bothered by a shoulder injury and Dell a head injury, but both are expected to be full-go on Saturday.

The defense is third in the nation in sacks. The defense is expected to get back linebacker Donavan Mutin for the game. He suffered a concussion on Nov. 19, but he’s cleared the concussion protocol.

“He’s good to go,” Holgorsen said. “I don’t think there is anything in the world that would keep him out of this game.”

Clayton Tune #3 of the Houston Cougars. Tim Warner/Getty Images/AFP

Distraction Central

With so much at stake, most of the media focus heading into the AAC Championship Game has been on what comes next for Cincinnati, which could present a dangerous trap for the Bearcats. Coach Luke Fickell has brushed off all questions about whether Cincinnati deserves a bid if they win, instead of trying to focus on getting the win first. He’s concerned about his players’ ability to do the same, however.

“We’re not ignorant to think that they’re going to be like me and bury their head in the sand and not listen or talk to or communicate with anybody outside of where it is you spend 90% of your time,” Fickell said. “Hey, we want to enjoy (the attention), but we can’t allow it to change us. And I’m not saying it’s easy.”

It was made even more difficult on Monday night, when Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly took the LSU job, opening a gem of a head coaching vacancy with the Irish. Fickell is rumored to be high on Notre Dame’s list.

“We don’t talk about individual things,” was Fickell’s response, but the rumors present yet another potential source of distraction.

The Pick

Houston has given up more than 35 points in three games this season. While the defense and special teams have had plenty of big plays this year, keeping the Bearcat offense in check could be too much for the Cougars’ D. Look for Cincinnati to put up a big number for your NCAAF pick and blow past the Cougars to make a statement to the selection committee.

NCAAF Pick: Cincinnati -10.5 (-110) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.