Big East Rivals Collide: Cincinnati Bearcats at Pittsburgh Panthers

Cincinnati Bearcats at Pittsburgh Panthers
Heinz Field – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Saturday, November 5, 2011, 7:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPNU
Opening Line: Cincinnati -2 1/2
Current Line: Cincinnati -3 1/2
Opening Total: 54
Current Total: 54 1/2
Opening Money Line: Cincinnati -170 / Pitt +150
Current Money Line: Cincinnati -170 / Pitt +150

Zach Collaros and the Cincinnati Bearcats travel to rival Pitt with first place in the the Big East on the line. The Bearcats are 3.5 point favorites on the road.

The Big East title is up for grabs to say the least. With only a game and a half separating the top 7 teams, every game in conference is crucial as we are in November now. This week, the first place Cincinnati Bearcats (6-1 overall, 2-0 in conference) travel to Pittsburgh (4-4 overall, 2-1 conference) to take on the Panthers. A Pitt win would create a tie for first between the the Panthers and the winner of this week’s West Virginia-Louisville game. A Cincinnati win would keep them as the only unbeaten in conference play. The Bearcats are coached by Butch Jones, and have only a loss at Tennessee 45-23 early in the season as the only blemish on the record. Since then Cincinnati has won 5 straight games. The Bearcats have home wins over Austin Peay 72-10, Akron 59-14, North Carolina St 44-14, and Louisville 25-16, along with road wins at at Miami-Ohio 27-0 and two weeks ago at South Florida 37-34. Pittsburgh is coached by Todd Graham in his first year with the program. The Panthers have home wins over Buffalo 35-16, Maine 35-29, South Florida 44-17, and last Wednesday against UConn 35-20. The Panthers have losses at Iowa 31-27 and Rutgers 34-10, along with home losses to Notre Dame 15-12 and Utah 26-14. Pitt leads the series 8-2 against Cincinnati, including 28-10 last year in Cincinnati. The two teams play for the River City Rivalry Trophy.

Two weeks ago Cincinnati played at South Florida. The Bearcats were 3 point underdogs on the college football betting line in Tampa. South Florida took a 27-17 going into the fourth quarter, but the Bearcats stormed back  in the fourth with 20 points to win 37-34. Cincinnati scored two quick touchdowns in the fourth but had an extra point blocked to make the score 30-27. South Florida retook the lead with 1:27 left 34-30. The Bearcats drove down the field and scored with 12 seconds left on a 2 yard run from quarterback Zach Collaros to win the game. The game was sloppy on both sides with 20 combined penalties and 7 turnovers (4 by South Florida.) The Bearcats had 507 total yards including 389 passing yards from Collaros who had 3 touchdown passes and 2 interceptions, along with 2 rushing touchdowns. Running back Isaiah Pead had 22 caries for 79 yards along with 4 catches for 48 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Kenbrell Thompkins had 6 catches for 114 yards. Alex Chisum had 3 catches, 73 yards, and a touchdown. South Florida had 495 total yards including 409 passing yards.

Cincinnati is averaging 443.9 total yards including 200 rushing yards and 233.9 passing yards. Cincinnati is averaging 41 points a game which is the eleventh best scoring offense in the country. The Bearcats have allowed 9 sacks and have 10 turnovers. Cincinnati is 46/100 on third and fourth down conversions, and 29/35 scoring in the red zone with 24 touchdowns. Cincinnati is allowing 358.4 total yards a game including the second ranked rushing defense allowing only 72.7 yards a game. Unfortunately, the passing defense allows 285.7 yards a game which is #109 out of 120 teams. The Bearcats allow 19 points a game. Cincinnati has forced 23 sacks and 23 turnovers this season. Bearcat opponents are 38/111 on third and fourth down conversions, and 16/19 scoring in the red zone with 11 touchdowns. Cincinnati has 4 defensive touchdowns this season.

Collaros is 128/200 passing (64% completions) with 1,576 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 6 touchdowns, along 61 carries, 225 yards, and 6 scores. Pead has 114 carries, 703 yards, and 8 touchdowns along with 15 catches, 106 yards, and 2 touchdown catches. Six other players besides Collaros and Pead have rushing touchdowns this season. Thompkins has 30 catches, 388 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Anthony McClung has 29 catches, 371 yards, and 3 touchdowns. D.J. Woods has 29 catches, 329 yards, and 2 touchdowns.  Adrien Robinson has only 5 catches, but has 123 yards and 3 scores. Kicker Tony Miliano is 30/33 on extra points and 8/11 on field goals with a long of 48 yards. Cincinnati defensive back Dominique Battle is out for the season with a torn ACL.

Pitt hosted UConn in a rare Wednesday night game last week. Pittsburgh won 35-20 to cover the 10 point spread but the victory was costly. Leading rusher Ray Graham tore his ACL early in the first quarter and is gone for the season. Pitt was up 21-3 at halftime, but UConn made it interesting by pulling to within 8 points 21-13 in the third quarter. Pitt scored 2 straight touchdowns to take control of the game again, before UConn scored late to make the final score. Pittsburgh had 529 total yards including 433 passing yards. Quarterback Tino Sunseri threw for 419 yards, with 2 touchdown passes and no picks, along with 12 carries for 40 yards and a rushing touchdown. Receiver Ronald Jones also threw a touchdown pass on his only attempt of the game. Running back Zach Brown had 12 carries for 30 yards and a touchdown, along with 9 catches for 84 yards. Mike Shanahan had 4 catches for 76 yards and 2 scores. Devin Street had 5 catches, 70 yards, and a touchdown. UConn had 316 total yards including 114 rushing yards. There were no turnovers by either team.

Pitt has averaged 365.5 yards a game including 151 rushing yards and 214.5 passing yards this season. Pitt is scoring 26.5 points a game.  The Panthers have allowed 36 sacks and have  14 turnovers so far this season. They are 41/120 on third and fourth downs this season and 26/28 scoring in the red zone with 21 touchdowns. On defense Pitt has allowed 363.8 yards, including 119.9 rushing yards and 243.9 passing yards a game. The Panthers are allowing 23.5 points a game.  They have forced 7 turnovers and 27 sacks this season. Pittsburgh opponents are 50/143 on third and fourth down conversions, and 19/23 scoring in the red zone with 13 touchdowns. Pitt has 3 special teams touchdowns this season.

Sunseri is 151/240 passing with 1,623 yards, 7 touchdowns and and 7 interceptions so far this season, along with 82 carries for 51 yards and 2 rushing touchdowns. Back-up Trey Anderson has 3 interceptions in his 33 attempts, but is out indefinitely with a wrist injury. Graham was the star of the offense with 164 carries for 958 yards and 9 touchdowns, along with 30 catches for 200 yards. With Graham gone, Zach Brown will get most of the carries. Brown has 41 carries for 129 yards, and 4 touchdowns along with 16 catches for 136 yards. Corey Davis should get the carries that Brown used to take as the back-up, but Davis only has 3 attempts this season.  Street has 25 catches, 353 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Shanahan (no relation to the Redskins coach of the same name) has 26 catches for 330 yards and 3 touchdowns. Hubie Graham has 20 catches for 247 yards, and two touchdowns. Cameron Saddler has 19 catches for 207 yards and 1 touchdown. He is also out for the season with a broken sternum.  Kicker Kevin Harper has made 22 of 23 extra points and has made  10 out of 16 field goals. He has a long of 47 yards. The Panthers have 8 players out for the season including 4 skill position players and 2 offensive linemen.

Pitt is 3-5 against the spread this season and the total is 4-4 in those games. Cincinnati is 5-2 ATS and the total is 4-3 this season. The Bearcats are 5-1 ATS as a favorite, 4-1 overall and as a road favorite, 3-7 on the road, and 4-10 after a straight up win, 3-9 in conference games, 1-4 as a favorite of between 3.5 and 10 points, 1-5 on grass, and 1-6 in November. The Panthers are 5-0 at home against teams with winning road records, 4-1 as a home underdog, 7-2 against teams with winning records, 14-5 in conference, 1-4 in November, and after a straight up win.

Ok, I know Pittsburgh had over 500 yards against Connecticut last week, but I think that was a fluke. Without Ray Graham, I think Pittsburgh will struggle to move the ball against a good Cincinnati defense. Cincinnati should win this game to set up another potential first place showdown next week against West Virginia, depending on what the Mountaineers do against Louisville.

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