Cincinnati Bearcats (11-0 SU, 5-5 ATS) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (9-2 SU, 6-4 ATS), 12:00 p.m. EST, Saturday, December 5, 2009, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pa. TV: ABC
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Cincinnati -2/Pittsburgh +2
One game decides it all. Who will win the Big East Championship and advance to the BCS? That will be decided on the field between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon at Heinz Field.
Cincinnati is a perfect 11-0 on the season and 6-0 in the Big East. Despite star quarterback Tony Pike being out for a few games, the Bearcats didn’t miss a beat. Zach Collaros stepped in and was just as dominant. Now, Pike is back and the Bearcats are still winning games. The last two weeks have been a bit rocky, but perhaps Cincy was looking ahead to this mammoth matchup to decide it all.
Two weeks ago, the Bearcats won by just a field goal, 24-21, over West Virginia. Last week, they won 49-36 over Illinois. Scoring 49 points will almost always be good enough, but the Cincinnati defense giving up 36 points to a weak Illinois team is not a great sign. In that game, Pike threw for 399 yards and six touchdowns. The Bearcats only ran for 33 yards, but the passing attack was good enough. DJ Woods, Armon Binns, Mardy Gilyard and Ben Guidugli each had seven receptions and at least one touchdown. With so many capable receivers, Pike is tough to stop. If it weren’t for the injury, Pike would probably be the front-runner for the Heisman right now.
In eight games, Pike has 2,048 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and three interceptions. And in three of those games, Pike had limited action. He’s only been sacked six times in eight games, which is a tribute to the offensive line. Gilyard leads the team in receiving with 75 receptions for 1,032 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Pitt is having a terrific season, but the Panthers had a minor slip-up last week. After starting off 9-1 overall and 5-0 in the Big East and being a fourth quarter comeback by North Carolina State away from being undefeated, the Panthers got caught looking ahead to this game and fell to West Virginia last week on a last-second field goal, 19-16. In that game, Pitt quarterback Bill Stull was 16-for-30 for 179 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Dion Lewis ran for 155 yards on 26 carries. Jonathan Baldwin caught eight passes for 127 yards and a touchdown. The Panthers allowed 134 rushing yards to West Virginia running back Noel Devine in the loss.
For the season, Stull has 2,294 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and six interceptions. Lewis is one of the top running backs in the country with 1,446 yards and 13 touchdowns. Baldwin leads the team in receptions and receiving yards with 48 receptions for 967 yards. He has six receiving touchdowns, but Dorin Dickerson leads the team with 10 receiving touchdowns.
Last season, Cincinnati won this game at home, 28-21. The Bearcats held a 28-7 lead in the fourth quarter before Pitt got two touchdowns to get back into it. Pike threw for 309 yards and three touchdowns, while Stull had 229 yards, a touchdown and an interception. LeSean McCoy, Pitt’s star running back last season, had only 82 rushing yards. Gilyard and Dominick Goodman each had over 100 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Cincinnati is 4-1 ATS in its last five road games. The total has gone over in six of Cincy’s last nine road games. The total has gone under in four of Pitt’s last five road games and six of Pitt’s last seven games overall.
Ryno’s Pick: This game is going to come down to which team can stop the other team’s offense. Pitt will have to focus on stopping Pike, while Cincy will have to focus on stopping Lewis. Lately, Cincy’s defense has not been good. The Bearcats allowed 36 points to Illinois and 45 points to Connecticut in the last three weeks. Pitt’s defense was shaky early in the season but the Panthers haven’t given up more than 22 points in any of their last seven games. Based on this, Pitt has a better chance of stopping the other team’s offense. If the Panthers can get the lead, Lewis can pound the ball and run the clock. If the Bearcats get the lead, they will continue passing the ball, which will give Pitt a chance to get back into the game. Cincy did not look great on defense last week but the Bearcats are still undefeated, so they will be coming into this game with confidence. Pitt, on the other hand, is coming off a loss, so the Panthers probably worked extra hard to prepare for this game. Take Pittsburgh +2.