North Carolina State Wolfpack (2-1 SU, 0-3 ATS) at Cincinnati Bearcats (2-1 SU, 2-1 ATS), Thursday September 22nd, 2011. 8:00PM EST, College Football Week 4
Nippert Stadium Cincinnati, OH
By Jay Horne, College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NC St. +7/Cin -7
Over/Under Total: OFF
The Cincinnati Bearcats rebounded from a tough loss to Tennessee by dismantling an inferior opponent in South Alabama last week 35-13. This week the Bearcats take center stage in the national spotlight when they host the North Carolina State Wolfpack in a big Thursday night showdown inside Nippert Stadium. The Wolfpack are currently 2-1 on the season with their only defeat suffered at the hands of Wake Forest two weeks ago 34-27. The Wolfpack have walked through the first 3 weeks of the season with some rather ugly performances and will be looking to put all the pieces together on the big Thursday night stage against the Bearcats.
The Bearcats enter Thursday night’s game with concerns on the defensive side of the football. In the first 3 games of the season, Cincinnati has given up 385 yards per game on defense which ranks 81st in the nation. Keep in mind that the Bearcats have also only played one quality opponent during that stretch as well. Furthermore, this is the same defense that was torched by Tennessee QB Tyler Bray for over 400 passing yards just two weeks ago. One reason that statistic stands out is because the Bearcats will face another solid passing attack this week led by senior North Carolina State QB Mike Glennon. Therefore it will be interesting to see if that Bearcats defense can hold their ground this Thursday night.
The North Carolina state offense has had their troubles as well rushing for only 122 yards per game (86th in NCAA) and giving 6 turnovers through the first 3 games. The offense has not been pretty by any stretch of the imagination. However, one thing that the Wolfpack offense has done well is throw the football behind Glennon. Glennon has averaged 258 passing yards per game while completing 64% with 8 touchdowns and 1 interception on the season. Glennon is a guy that should only get better as the season progresses and Wolfpack fans hope he can exploit the Bearcats secondary in a big way. Another guy that brings encouragement to the offense is senior WR T.J Graham. Graham has posted two straight 100 yard plus receiving performances and appears to have become the “go to” guy in the receiving game. Therefore, keep your eyes on #6 this Thursday as he will be a target for big plays in the receiving game.
On the other side of the coin, the Wolfpack will have similar concerns with their own defense entering their showdown with Cincinnati. North Carolina State ranks 77th in total defense giving up 376 yards per game. Additionally, the Wolfpack pass defense has given up an embarrassing 271 yards per game through the air that ranks 103rd against the pass. Just like Cincinnati, the Wolfpack has only played one true quality opponent which makes those numbers even more embarrassing.
The Bearcats run a balanced offensive attack, but they can also stretch the ball down the field as well. Bearcats running back Isaiah Pead is a guy that will capture a lot of defensive focus. The Bearcats senior tailback had 1,029 rushing yards in 2010 and is already on a similar pace in 2011. If Pead can get the ground game rolling, QB Zach Collaros should be able to take some chances down field against that struggling North Carolina State pass defense. Collaros has solid numbers on the season throwing for 523 yards while completing 62% passing with 7 touchdowns and 0 picks. Therefore, he will be able to capitalize if North Carolina State becomes too focused on stopping the run.
However, the story of this game will come down to both defenses or should I say lack of defensive play. Both defenses have been horrible thus far this season and must play better going forward. Who will it be this Thursday night? Despite the defense giving up big yardage, the Bearcats currently lead the nation with a +4 turnover ratio per game. I believe North Carolina State has the overall better defense, but if the Bearcats can force some turnovers then this game could become a true toss-up.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread - I really think this game will come down to the wire and could possibly go either way. Therefore, I like the points North Carolina State is getting here. Take the NC St. Wolfpack +7
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