Cincinnati Bearcats (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) at Tennessee Volunteers (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS)
Saturday September 10th, 2011. 3:30PM EST, College Football Week 2
Neyland Stadium Knoxville, TN
By Jay Horne, Professional Sports Handicapper of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Cin +6.5/TEN -6.5
Two teams with eerie similar personalities head into Knoxville to do battle this Saturday when the Tennessee Volunteers host the Cincinnati Bearcats at Neyland Stadium. Interestingly enough both teams are entering the 2nd season under new head coaching staffs and attempting to shake off disappointing 2010 campaigns. The Volunteers enter Head Coach Derek Dooleys 2nd year at the helm after a disappointing 6-7 record last year. The Volunteers have some young talent that indicates a lot of promising signs for the future of Tennessee football, but many are waiting to see how long it will take them to progress back to their historical reputation as an SEC powerhouse.
The Cincinnati Bearcats are in a very similar situation. After posting 3 straight 10 win seasons from 2007 to 2009, Head Coach Butch Jones took control of a Bearcats team that seemed destined for the national spotlight each year. However, Jones first season as coach saw huge disappointments as the Bearcats managed to put together a measly 4-8 campaign. This season the Bearcats look to return to national prominence and will get their first big test of the year on the road in Knoxville. Cincinnati completely demolished Austin Peay last week 72-10. The Bearcats basically scored with ease last week, but things will be much more difficult this week against a very athletic Tennessee defense.
Still, Cincinnati maintains a ton of talent of the offensive side of the ball that will make it tough for any defense to defend. QB Zach Collaros is a proven guy that threw for just less than 3,000 yards last season and posted 26 touchdowns. Last week Collaros completed 12 of 19 passing for 134 yards with 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. The offense was also able to run the ball with ease also, likely due to the inferior Austin Peay defense, for 387 yards on the ground. Running back Isaiah Pead is a great rusher that will contribute heavily to the offensive success this season. Pead carried the ball 8 times for 87 yards last week and then the backups took the remainder of the snaps afterwards. However, expect Pead to see a huge part of the action this Saturday.
There is no doubt that the Bearcats offense can move the ball and do so rather effectively. However, on the defensive side of the ball there is a ton of uncertainty. The Bearcats pass defense ranked 88th in the nation last season giving up 234 passing yards per game. This season Cincinnati would definitely like to improve on those embarrassing numbers, but to what extent? Will they be a group that no longer gives up the long ball or a group that is just mildly overall improved? One thing that is certain is that the Bearcats will have to be improved if they are going to reach big improvements from that 4-8 record from a season ago.
The Tennessee Volunteers routed Montana last week 42-16. QB Tyler Bray completed 17 of 24 passing for 293 yards with 3 touchdowns and 0 picks. Both wide receivers Justin Hunter and DaRick Rogers eclipsed the 100 yards receiving mark for a touchdown each. Furthermore, running back Tauren Poole carried the ball 24 times totaling 98 yards on the ground. Poole was the primary focus for the offense a year ago as Bray struggled with consistency. However with another year under his Belt, Bray should be improved. If that happens to be the case, Coach Dooley may allow Bray to turn the ball loose a bit more down the field this season.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Volunteers return a ton of talent on the defensive front line. Malik Jackson and Jacques Smith will be the leaders of that defensive front which should also be very solid against the run. The Tennessee back 7 will see a few new faces, but still should be a solid group to say the least. The big thing the defense will need is help from the offense. The Volunteers defense stayed on the field too long last season and was often worn down by the 2nd half. If the offense can move the chains more consistently this season, the defense should be even better in 2011.
Jays Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I believe Cincinnatis offense will be too much to handle in this game and they will win outright. Take the Bearcats +6.5.
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