Cincinnati Bearcats (0-0, 0-0 ATS) vs. Fresno State Bulldogs (0-0, 0-0 ATS) 10:00 p.m. EST, College Football Week 1, Saturday, September 4, 2010, Bulldog Stadium, Fresno, California
By Scotty L, Professional College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Cincinnati (+1), Fresno State (-1)
The Cincinnati Bearcats, coming off their renaissance season in 2009 (12-1), looks to continue the positive momentum in 2010 against a resurgent Fresno State squad. Its notable that Cincinnati has been left off the Top 25 to begin the year. While the prognosis that they will have a letdown and not return to a BCS Bowl game might be accurate, it still looks like a good team. It is bizarre that after going 12-1, they will again be in a position where they have to sneak up on people. They are truly up against it on the Fresno State home field for a tough first game as the Bulldogs have one of the best home field advantages in all of college football.
The Cincinnati offense has a lot to prove, but they might be up to the task. Zach Collaros is the new QB, but he has already shown his ability, shining in 4 games last year with Pike hurt. He put up an average of 300 yards per game, while providing a different dimension with his mobility and rushing ability. Defenses were really on their toes. With a full training camp behind him as the top guy, look for Collaros to be one of top quarterbacks in the Big East.
Big playmaker Marty Gilyard is gone and thats a big loss, but two good wide receivers return with Armon Binns (11 TDs) and rising star DJ Woods. Isaiah Pead is a dynamic backa rushing and receiving threat that rounds out a nice set of options for Collaros. He will be operating behind a good veteran offensive line that returns 3 starters.
The Cincinnati defense was awful in closing out 2009. It kind of made you wonder if they were that good to begin with. Once the competition stiffened, they looked lost. With two new co-coordinators, it remains a big question mark. Against a team like Fresno State, it could prove disastrous. Some young guys need to step up, particularly on the D-line, which wasnt very good at stopping the run last year. The secondary returns 2 starters, but should be able to fill in the holes with the great athletes on the Bearcat squad.
Fresno State will be without Ryan Matthews (2000 yards, 19 TDs) and that kind of production is going to be missed. Bullet-fast Robbie Rouse should be a good fill-in, but time will tell. He wont be able to blame it on the line if he fails, as the Bulldogs bring back all 5 starters. Quarterback Ryan Colburn is back and should be better this year. The added maturity of the line and quarterback make it easy to envision another solid season of offensive production.
The Fresno State defense had virtually no pass rush last year and they were awful against the run, giving up 210 yards per game on the ground. Defensive end Chris Carter will need help from others and he might get it in the form of a rising linebacking crew, headed by Ben Jacobs and up-and-comer Travis Brown. The secondary is a bit soft. Safety Lorne Bell is good, but otherwise a big question mark looms. What if a pass rush does not get established? That figures to put a lot of pressure on a secondary that hasnt shown much.
Fresno States offensive line should be able to push the Bearcats off the ball, allowing the Bulldogs to enjoy periods of where theyre moving the ball easily and picking up first downs and big plays. At the same time, the Cincinnati offense is dynamic and Zach Collaros looks to have a big day picking apart the dubious Bulldog defense. Both defenses will be tested and it might turn into a bit of a track meet in spots.
Scotty Ls Pick to Cover the Spread: I see both offenses putting up a lot of points. For the over, Cincinnati is 11-3-1 in their last 15 games on grass, with Fresno State 6-2 in their last 8. These teams match up well, as evidenced by their game last year, which was won by 17-point faves Cincinnati 28-20. It just seems that since that meeting, both teams bubbles have popped on defense. The over is hovering at most books at 58-58.5. I see that number getting passed late in the 3rd quarter. Take the over.