Pittsburgh Panthers (6-5, 5-4-2 ATS) at Cincinnati Bearcats (4-7, 4-7 ATS)
Saturday December 4th, 12:00PM Eastern Nippert Stadium Cincinnati, O.H.
By Jay Horne, Professional Sports Handicapper
Betting Odds: Pitt -1/Cinci +1
Over/Under Total: OFF
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The Pittsburgh Panthers take the road this Saturday to Nippert Stadium to battle the Cincinnati Bearcats in a regular season finale. The Panthers are currently in a 3-way tie on top of the Big East standings at 4-2 in conference play despite being just 6-5 overall this season. The Panthers would need both Connecticut and West Virginia to lose this Saturday while also capturing a win over the Bearcats to earn the Big East Title. While those odds are a long shot, the Panthers do have a good chance to improve their Bowl position if they can capture their 7th win of the season this Saturday.
For the Bearcats, it has been the ultimate season of disappointment. Cincinnati might have expected to be knocked off top of the Big East this season in a rebuilding type scenario, but nobody expected the Bearcats to be just 2-4 in conference play with just wins on the season overall. Last week the Bearcats were embarrassed by Connecticut 38-17 giving Cincinnati their 4th loss in the last 5 games. To make matters worse, the Bearcats defense has given up 30 plus points in each of their last 5 outings. Those defensive struggles have been one of the main disappointing factors all season. Luckily for the Bearcats, Pittsburgh has been struggling on the offensive side of the ball in recent weeks. Therefore, perhaps the Bearcats can pull out a victory and end the season on a high note.
Pittsburgh is coming off a blowout loss to West Virginia 35-10. The game was a huge setback to the Panthers who could have really took grasp of the Big East, but constant turnovers lead to their demise. The Panthers now have to shake off that disappointing loss to avoid falling to just 6-6 on the season. Offensively, Pittsburgh has all the skill position players to be a potent offense. QB Tino Sunseri has struggled at times with 7 interceptions on the year, but has still thrown for 2,318 yards while completing 66% on the season. Leading receiver Jon Baldwin has 753 yards on the season despite being quiet in recent weeks. The Bearcats defense has really struggled against the pass this season giving up 240 yards on average. Therefore, I expect Sunseri to find Baldwin on some down field exchanges to lead to some big plays.
Outside of the passing offense, Pittsburgh also has some solid running backs in Ray Graham and Dion Lewis. Graham leads the team with 825 yards and Lewis has posted an additional 695 rushing yards. Both backs have 8 touchdowns a piece and Pittsburgh will definitely test the Bearcats defense considering Connecticut ran for 236 yards against Cincinnati just a week ago. I really believe that the Panthers have the balance on offense to keep the Bearcats on their heels. However, the Panthers moved the ball well a week ago and it only resulted into 10 points on the afternoon. If that happens again, they will be starring down the barrel of a .500 record on the season.
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The Cincinnati offense had similar troubles last week against Connecticut. The Bearcats posted 400 yards of total offense, but 5 turnovers simply killed any chances they had to win the ball game. QB Zach Collaros attempted a season high 50 passes while completing 26 of them for 288 yards, 1 score, and 4 interceptions. Those interceptions have been a problem all season and have really been momentum changers. WR Armon Binns is perhaps the biggest playmaker on offense. Binns has 72 catches for 1,072 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season. Not only has Binns been outstanding, but the entire passing offense has averaged 274 yards per game this season. The problem is the ball movement has not converted into points mainly due to the Bearcats ranking next to last in the country with a negative 1.18 turnover ratio.
It is absolutely imperative that the Bearcats hold on to the football this Saturday because if they do not then the Panthers have an offense that can really capitalize on miscues. I really would like to see the Bearcats rely on their ground game more often due to the problems throwing the football. Cincinnati running back Isaiah Pead is a strong runner with over 900 yards on the season. If the Bearcats can get Pead rolling on the ground, it would take a lot of pressure off of Collaros behind center. However, I’m not convinced that the Bearcats will attempt to win the game on the ground and not sold they would be able to do it either. I expect Cincinnati to come out throwing the football around and a few turnovers will once again seal their faith. I’m backing the Panthers in a two score victory.
Jay’s pick to cover the point spread: Pittsburgh -1