Cincinnati is closer to the College Football Playoff than any Group of Five team before it. If the No. 4 Bearcats capture the American Athletic Conference on Saturday, they should punch their ticket to the postseason that matters. That possibility alone will add a little drama to a game with a double-digit spread.
Check out our free college football picks and predictions for Houston at Cincinnati on December 4, with kickoff set for 4:00 ET.
Houston vs Cincinnati odds
Odds via the Covers Line, an average comprised of odds from multiple sportsbooks.
The Bearcats began the week as 10.5-point favorites and are ending the week as 10.5-point favorites, but the line fell across the key number of 10 for a stretch on Monday. The total opened at 55.5 on Sunday and quickly fell to 53.5 at some books and 54.0 at others. By Wednesday, it had fallen further to 52.5 at most locations.
Houston vs Cincinnati predictions
Predictions made on 12/02/2021 at 2:00 p.m. ET.
Click on each prediction to jump to the full analysis.
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Houston vs Cincinnati game info
• Location: Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, OH
• Date: Saturday, December 4, 2021
• Time: 4:00 p.m. ET
• TV: ABC
Houston vs Cincinnati betting preview
Be sure to monitor the gametime conditions with our NCAA football weather info.
Houston: KeSean Carter WR (Questionable), Sedrick Williams DL (Out).
Cincinnati: Cole Smith K (Questionable), Michael Young WR (Questionable).
Find our latest NCAA football injury reports.
Betting trend to know
Houston is 2-0 ATS as an underdog this season, and Cincinnati is 2-4 ATS in its last six games. Find more NCAA betting trends for Houston vs. Cincinnati.
Houston vs Cincinnati picks and predictions
Our predictions are compiled from the analysis of the spread and total and are indications of where we are leaning for this game.
Our best bet is the play that we like the most for this game, which we would actually put some of our bankroll behind.
Neither team excels at covering the spread as one might expect from two opponents in a conference championship, both going 7-5 against the spread this season. Nationally, though, one of them is perceived in far more favorable terms than the other, despite the latter having its own strong season.
The Cougars have won 11 straight games, something one might think would earn more praise than it has. Their one loss came in the season opener, a game that Houston led 21-7 at halftime before giving up 31 unanswered points in the second half. Since then, the Cougars have rarely worried. East Carolina took them to overtime, but only two other games were one-possession games: against triple-option clock-devouring Navy and against the third-best team in the conference, SMU.
Yet Houston remains undervalued in the public view.
On the other sideline, Cincinnati knows it is in the Playoff with a win. There may be some late Saturday consternation about No. 5 Oklahoma State leapfrogging the Bearcats with a win against No. 9 Baylor in the Big 12 title game, but three other games could render that hand-wringing moot if it is justified at all in the first place. Cincinnati is in if it wins.
A blowout is no longer necessary. The Bearcats do not need to try to run up the score. They need to win. That is fortunate for them because they struggled to run up the score throughout the second half of the season, frustrating backers with a four-game losing streak ATS. Its two recent covers were against SMU and East Carolina, and neither is on par with Houston.
Houston has shown fight all season, while Cincinnati has simply shown an ability to get by.
Prediction: Houston +10.5 (-110)
Again, the Bearcats do not need to run this up, nor have they been strong in that regard of late. Five of Cincinnati’s last six games have gone Under the total. And at the risk of relying too heavily on a small sample set, two of Houston’s last three games have also gone Under the total.
That may explain why this total fell from 55.5 early in the week to 52.5, but those falls can logically go only so far.
With the Bearcats’ dominant defense giving up only 15.8 points per game this season, good for No. 3 in the country, and 4.29 yards per play, also No. 3 in the country, this game could quickly become a grind. Cincinnati would be fine with that, as a win of any stripe is all it needs.
Prediction: Under 52.5 (-110)
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The last two weeks aside, Cincinnati cannot be counted on to cover a spread, even if it is the more talented team in this matchup. Nonetheless, when a talent disparity is this clear — Houston is good, maybe even very good, but the Bearcats are head and shoulders above the rest of the Group of Five — good faith cannot allow suggesting you back the underdog in a championship game.
The only prudent choice is to assume Cincinnati will qualify for the Playoff. That is to say, pick the Bearcats to win, nothing more.
Looking at a favorite’s money line of -450, that bet can require a chunk of your bankroll, but in a week with only 11 games — don’t forget about the USC-Cal comedy to end Saturday night — you can justify tying up more of your bankroll with such short odds.
Pick: Cincinnati ML (-450)
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Use our college football parlay calculator to create your own parlays and see their potential payouts.