|Cincinnati at Hawaii Spread Odds, Betting Trends & Injuries|
|Written by Anthony Rome|
|Tuesday, 02 December 2008 15:56|
Honolulu, HI - With a Big East title in hand and a likely trip to the Orange Bowl coming up, Cincinnati cannot afford to take a vacation now.
The 13th-ranked Bearcats tune up for their first BCS bowl as they travel to face Hawaii on Saturday night.
Oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made Cincinnati –7.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 84% of bets for this game have been placed on Cincinnati –7.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
Cincinnati's BCS berth was sealed with West Virginia's loss to Pittsburgh last Friday, but the Bearcats secured their first outright Big East title with their fifth straight victory, 30-10 at home over Syracuse on Saturday.
As he has for much of the season, Tony Pike led the way despite playing with a broken left (non-throwing) forearm, going 28-of-44 for 272 yards and a touchdown with one interception. Marshwan Gilyard had 11 catches for 114 yards.
Pike could perhaps be counted among those who weren't expecting the Bearcats (10-2) to burst into the BCS in their fourth season in the Big East while also matching the highest ranking in school history.
"It was a little surprising, just the way things unfolded this year," said Pike, who took over after starter Dustin Grutza broke his leg in the season's second game. "It's been a total team effort."
The Bearcats' success has even prompted rumors that second-year coach Brian Kelly has received offers from higher-profile programs, but Kelly said on Tuesday that he intends to stay at Cincinnati.
"There's so much more to accomplish," he said. "We averaged around 31,000 fans; we need to see 35,000. We can show that not only do we play for Big East championships, we now want to get into the conversation for the national championship."
Kelly's club can accomplish a school record for victories on Saturday. Cincinnati tied the mark, set last December with a win in the Papajohns.com Bowl.
This year's group moved a step closer to that feat thanks in part to a spotless record in close games, winning all five contests decided by eight or fewer points. The win over Syracuse was much easier, as the Bearcats seized a 30-3 lead early in the fourth quarter and allowed the Orange only 59 passing yards.
They'll hope for a similar effort on Saturday even though the game likely won't have any effect on their bowl fate, which will be officially announced on Sunday.
This contest could be anticlimactic for Hawaii (7-5), which posted a 24-10 win over Washington State last Saturday and accepted an invitation to play in its own stadium in the Hawaii Bowl.
On the heels of the Warriors' 12-0 regular season and Sugar Bowl loss in 2007, Hawaii had to move on without coach June Jones and quarterback Colt Brennan. They lost three of their first four games and eventually surrendered the Western Athletic Conference crown back to Boise State, but the Warriors' win over Washington State was their third consecutive victory.
A win over Cincinnati would be even more impressive, and coach Greg McMackin said his team isn't going to take it easy just because of the game's lack of significance in the standings.
"This is our BCS game on Saturday," McMackin said. "We want to redeem ourselves against a good team."
While McMackin attempts to fill Jones' shoes, Greg Alexander is trying to settle into Brennan's. Against Washington State, the junior threw for a career-high 315 yards. In his last five games, Alexander has led Hawaii to four victories, throwing 10 touchdown passes and just one interception over that span.
"The way we are playing now ?I think we could have competed for the WAC championship, but that's not how it worked out," McMackin said.
Hawaii has played three ranked teams this season, suffering lopsided losses to Florida and Boise State but winning 32-29 in overtime at then-No. 22 Fresno State on Oct. 4.
The Warriors have split two meetings with Cincinnati, winning 20-19 in Honolulu in the most recent matchup on Nov. 23, 2002.
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Posted: 12/2/08 7:59 PM ET