Pitt Panthers In Cincinnati For Thursday Night Clash

By: Michael Robinson | Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The second week of the college football season starts in style Thursday night with the Pittsburgh Panthers visiting the Cincinnati Bearcats.

ESPN will have this Big East battle starting at 8:00 p.m. (ET). The Don Best college football odds screen opened the Bearcats -2½ and immediately moved them to 3½-4 point favorites. The total currently sits at 49.

Cincinnati beat Pittsburgh on the road last year 26-23, just failing to cover the 3½-point spread. The Panthers are 6-1 ATS in the last seven meetings between the teams and the home squad is 4-1 ATS in the last five.

The spread move this week is at least partially due to Pittsburgh’s shocking 31-17 loss to Youngstown State last Saturday as 18 ½-point home favorites. The Panthers averaged 6.4 yards per play vs. 5.6 for their FCS counterpart, but losing the turnover battle 2-0 really hurt.

The defense was also to blame for Pittsburgh after giving up four long touchdown drives. Only having one starter return from the front-seven was tough, and the unit will have to play much better this week.

First-year coach Paul Chryst is the former offensive coordinator for Wisconsin and has switched the offense from a spread to a pro-set. There have been an incredible four Pitt coaches in the last 18 months, although Mike Haywood only lasted two weeks.

Don Best football analyst Kenny White believes Chryst is the right man for the job long term, but growing pains were obvious in the Week 1 loss.

The Panthers will need to rely more on stud running back Ray Graham (71 rushing yards last week at 5.1 ypc). Don Best’s Brian Blessing believes they have an advantage in playing last week, while Cincinnati was off.

Coach Butch Jones will start his third season (14-11 straight up record) with the Bearcats on Thursday. They earned a share of the Big East title three of the last four years and have 55 wins over the past six seasons.

Blessing likes Cincinnati’s improvement to 10-3 SU last year that ended with a Liberty Bowl victory over Vanderbilt, and this is a veteran group having grown up together. There are seven returning starters on defense, versus just four on offense (two on the o-line).

Junior quarterback Munchie Legaux is on the all-name team, but needs to do better than his 47.4 completion percentage last year (116 attempts). He’s a good athlete with good size (6-foot-4, 203 pounds), but simply needs to be more accurate.

White gets the last word on this game and believes having a game under its belt is worth 3-4 points for Pittsburgh. These are two evenly matched teams overall and he likes the Panthers to get revenge for last year's defeat to the Bearcats and win this contest outright.

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