Starting out week 2 with the Thursday night game. Pretty happy with my 5-3 +3.5* Units week in Week 1 and look to build upon that here in a Big East Thursday Grudge Match, Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Pittsburgh Panthers.
1.5* Units Pittsburgh Panthers +3 1st Half
Added: 1* Units Pittsburgh Panthers +6
I’ve been looking at this game for two days and keep going back and forth with how I feel. When I get into this spot, I go back to the basics and break it down. I start with the trenches, because that’s where the game is dictated. The throwing and running game stems from the trenches. First downs stem from the trenches. Ultimately, scoring comes from protection, running lanes, and blocking.
Let’s start on with Nati on the offensive side of the ball.
They lose LG, LT, and their C from last year, for a combined 76 starts. Two of those players were All-Big East. They have 3 players returning to the line with some playing experience. On the other side of the ball, Pitt returns 2 DTs. One being relatively solid. They lose their 3 best Linebackers. Cumulatively between these players, they lose 36% of their tackles and 16 sacks. The light at the end of the tunnel is they return their leading sack DT and are very deep at LB. In conclusion, I don’t think either teams line here are that solid. Doesn’t appear as though either team has the advantage, but the fact that Pitt couldn’t penetrate Y State (no sacks), I don’t see them doing it much here either.
Continuing on the Nati offensive side, they have a QB named Munchie. Seriously bro? Let’s talk about this for a second. What type of female goes through allllll the trouble of having a baby, and then decides to name it Munchie? I’m already skeptical.
In seriousness though, He has some experience. Zach Collaros went down for a few games last year and Munchie got some looks. He was sub-par throwing the ball, completing just 47% of his passes. I think some of this has to do with being thrown into situations without as much preparation with first team, with the WR, etc. I think this year will be better, but he still won’t be a 60% passer. He’s also a pretty solid rusher. He averages 6.6 YPC last year. This is grossly underestimated in the early weeks. Having a QB that can pick up 3rd downs, and extend drives, making something out of nothing. That’s valuable. I don’t see Pitt having too much of an answer for him personally, but I think his supporting cast is lacking. With that being said, I still expect him to make mistakes.
At RB and WR, Cincy lost quite a bit. They have some talent returning, but no one scary. This could be an issue as all of Pitts attention is stopping Munchie (this just sounds so wrong). The Pitt secondary is the most secure part (so I thought) of their defense based on who they have returning. They did not prove that last week though as they were shredded by Y State. Munchie is not as good of a passer as Y State QB, and I honestly think he struggles a bit throwing the ball here.
On the Pitt offensive side of the ball, on paper, they are pretty solid. The only big turnover was the OL. They lost the RG, RT, and LT who combined for 66 starts. With that being said, they protected Tino well last week. I think they will have a tougher time this week against a Cincy DL, even though they lost their 2 most solid lineman. They are deep though, returning 5 players with 12 or games of experience. They will get pressure, but I don’t think they will be in the back field allllll day.
The QB for Pitt is Tino Sunseri. I think this dude has been starting since Dan Marino. He is a pretty experienced 64% passer, but he makes quite a few mistakes. Surrounding him, he has highly touted Ray Graham who averages 5.9 YPC and is set to breakout. He fumbled last week, and I think he rebounds this week as a senior leader who is trying to improve his draft stock. On the defensive side, Cincy lost their best LB, but return 3 with decent amounts of experience. They should be okay here, but not totally disruptive. In the secondary, their big loss is their free safety. Overall this defense is a bunch of ball hawks.
I project Tino and Ray Graham to be able to pace the game and have some sustained drives. They only had one 3 and out last week, but with that being said only went 6 of 12 on 3rd down conversions. They only punted the ball twice so how didn’t the score? The reason they lost the game was because of fumbles and not being able to get any big stops on defense. Y State completely controlled the game on offense. I expect the defense struggles to probably continue, but I think they convert better 3rd downs and red zone opportunities. I also don’t expect Cinci offense to be as fluid (that doesn’t mean as good) as Y State.
Outside of the actually talent comparison, there is so much other noise going on with this game. It is UC’s first game of the season, at home in Nippert Stadium, where I have witnessed many of games (back when my high school sold more tickets than UC Football did). Cincy has been pretty solid at home the past few years, and I expect a crowd here and the players jacked up to play.
UC got to watch Pitt last week. They got extra time to prepare. They will be fresh. I also believe UC has a much better coach.
Pitt got beatdown by an FCS team. Has a new coach implementing a new system. May be a little dejected. Coming off of short rest. Want to prove themselves that they aren’t as bad as they showed.
When it comes down to it, I have been back and forth on this game. I am playing Pitt in the first half for multiple reasons. First, I think they want to come out and show that they are actually a decent team. If I am the coach, I am telling these players to put that first game behind them, and that they can still win the Big East and make a good bowl game.
I like the first half here for Pitt because having the game field speed is huge. They’ve gotten out there and have hit someone. I think UC has the first game first half jitters. They will probably miss some tackles and the offense will probably be a little off beat.
I think Pitt will have the adrenaline carry them through the first half at least. The legs may start to feel tired towards the end of the game, where Cincy’s fresh legs should have an advantage.
I look to also probably make a play on the 2h, as well as possibly an in-game play depending on how I see things playing out. I will have those plays on my twitter account, probably from some random bar in the city.
Added Play: Way to much value at +6 on Pitt. No idea what you will get from UC. Pitt has little bit more motivation, better QB, better RB, and just needs to protect ball and convert better. Adding a unit there.