Pittsburgh (0-1) at Cincinnati (0-0)|
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, September 6, 8:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Nippert Stadium (35,000) -- Cincinnati, Ohio.
Television: ESPN. Home Record: Pittsburgh 0-1, Cincinnati 0-0.
Away Record: Pittsburgh 0-0, Cincinnati 0-0. Neutral Record:
Pittsburgh 0-0, Cincinnati 0-0. Conference Record: Pittsburgh 0-0,
Cincinnati 0-0. Series Record: Pittsburgh leads 8-3.
GAME NOTES: The Pittsburgh Panthers will try to bounce back from an
embarrassing loss on opening weekend, while the Cincinnati Bearcats attempt
to get the season off on the right foot, as the two Big East foes clash
at Nippert Stadium Thursday night.
Cincinnati had a bye in the first week of the season making the matchup
with Pitt its season opener. The Bearcats are coming off a 10-3 campaign
last year when they tied for the Big East title with a 5-2 mark. Cincinnati,
along with former member West Virginia, were the only teams in the conference
to get into the national rankings during the season. Cincinnati capped off the
season with a 31-24 victory over Vanderbilt in the Liberty Bowl.
Pittsburgh may have been better served with a bye last weekend as the
Panthers were downed 31-17 by FCS foe Youngstown State. The loss ended a 57-
game winning streak against FCS competition by Big East squads. Pittsburgh
went 6-7 last season but did make a bowl game, falling to SMU in the BBVA
This series dates back to 1921 although there have only been 11 total
matchups. In those matchups, Pittsburgh is 8-3 including a 3-1 mark at
Cincinnati. Cincinnati won last season's meeting 26-23, as Pitt missed on a
potential gamed-tying field goal with 14 seconds remaining in regulation. Four
of the last five games between the two teams have been decided by single
It took most of the summer but Butch Jones finally settled on the
quarterback to lead the Cincinnati offense after the departure of Zach
Collaros. As expected, the choice was Munchie Legaux. The junior is a
dual-threat who threw for 749 yards and five touchdowns while also rushing
for 185 yards in limited playing time last season.
Legaux will not have to develop along with the receiving corps as both of
Cincinnati's most talented and experienced wideouts return. Anthony McClung
led the team in receptions (49), yards (683) and touchdowns (6) last season
and Kenbrell Thompkins caught 44 balls for 536 yards and two scores.
Cincinnati will have a harder time replacing the production of departed
running back Isaiah Pead, who rushed for 1,259 yards last season. Senior
George Winn will get the first crack at the starting job. He was the primary
backup last season, but prized recruit Jameel Poteat, who is now in his
second season, will push for carries.
The offensive line is solid on the left side with left tackle Eric Lefeld
and left guard Austen Bujnoch returning as starters. From there the line is
a bit unsettled.
John Jancek will be taking over as the defensive coordinator for the
Bearcats after Tim Banks left for Illinois. He will be trying to get similar
production from last year, when Cincinnati ranked sixth in the nation in
rushing defense and 42nd in total defense.
He will be doing so while trying to replace defensive tackle Derek Wolfe
and middle linebacker JK Schaffer. Even with those departures the unit
still returns seven starters, with the secondary the strong point. Safety
Drew Frey was an All-Big East First-Team selection last season and is
joined by top returning tackler in cornerback Camerron Cheatham.
Maalik Bomar and Nick Temple return as starters in the linebacking unit
which will start sophomore Solomon Tentman in place of Schaffer. The
defensive line will need ends Walter Stewart and Dan Giordano to get
pressure, while the young interior develops.
Pittsburgh's offense didn't get it done on the important downs in the loss
to Youngstown State, converting only 6-of-12 third down attempts and
going 2-for-3 in the red zone, while YSU was a perfect 3-for-3.
Despite that, there was a major positive in the return of star running back
Ray Graham. The senior was lost midway through last season but rushed for
71 yards on 14 carries and scored a touchdown. Graham did have a costly
fumble in the red zone, however.
Tino Sunseri completed 19-of-30 pass attempts for 244 yards and looked much
more comfortable in new head coach Paul Chryst's offense then the spread
attack the team employed under Todd Graham last season. Sunseri is now
sixth in Pittsburgh history in career passing yards.
There were certainly growing pains for the Pittsburgh defense in the first
game of the season when eight different players made their first start.
Missing from action were also key defensive players like junior defensive
tackle Tyrone Ezell and senior defensive end Shayne Hale, who were both
serving suspensions. According to the depth chart both should be back in
action on Thursday.
The inexperience showed as Pitt allowed 386 total yards to the Penguins and
ended a 25-game streak without at least one sack. The team also only compiled
two tackles for loss in the game. Shane Gordon, in his first start at
linebacker, led the team with 10 total tackles and also broke up a pass. Pre-
season All-Big East defensive tackle Aaron Donald had four total tackles, one
for a loss, and a team-leading two quarterback hits.
This has become one of the better conference matchups in recent years and
has all the makings of another good one. With a week under its belt and the
motivation of last week's loss, Paul Chryst's squad will be trying to prove
itself. Meanwhile, Cincinnati has had an extra week to prepare with a bunch of
speed and talent on the roster. Pittsburgh will turn in a more respectable
performance than the opener, but Cincinnati will keep the Panthers out of the
win column for at least one more week.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cincinnati 27, Pittsburgh 21
09/05 10:42:18 ET