For the final time as members of the Big East, the Cincinnati Bearcats and Pittsburgh Panthers meet on the field. They play for this:
Not everything can be a Keg of Nails. The game is at 8pm on ESPN. If you are going, you need to leave early. Earlier than that. Parking at UC is a maddening experience under normal circumstances. UC has issued a parking advisory. If you show up at 7:30 thinking you'll walk in, you'll be walking in when the second quarter starts. It's about 4 now, just leave. Go get some lunch. Go to the bookstore. Audit a class. Do whatever it takes to get to the game on time. If you can, go with a UC student because parking is $7 bucks instead of whatever price they are gouging you at normally.
I covered the Bearcats a lot the past few days, so the preview will mainly focus on Pittsburgh. Let's get to it. First, with the Bearcats.
Here are the links to every UC preview I've written this week: QB RB and Receivers, OL and Special Teams, DL, LBs, DBs
Coach: Butch Jones 14-11 (41-24 overall)
Vs Pittsburgh: 3-8
In Cincinnati: 3-1
Last Meeting: UC 26 Pittsburgh 23
Quaterback - Munchie Legaux
Running Back - George Winn
Receivers - Anthony McClung, Kenbrell Thompkins, Alex Chisum. TE Travis Kelce
Offensive Line - Eric Lefeld Austen Bujnoch Dan Sprague Sam Longo or Parker Ehinger Sean Hooey
Defensive Line - Walter Stewart and Dan Giordano ends Camaron Beard and Jordan Stepp tackles.
Linebackers - Maalik Bomar, will. Greg Blair, mike. Nick Temple, sam.
Corners - Deven Drane, Cameron Cheatham, Chris Williams
Safeties - Arryn Chenault, Drew Frey
Punter - Pat O'Donnell
Kicker - Tony Miliano
Long Snapper - Kirk Willis
Punt Returns - Anthony McClung
Kick Returns - Ralph David Abernathy IV
Coach: Paul Chryst (0-1)
Passing - Tino Sunseri 19-30, 239 yards, 1 TD
Rushing - Ray Graham 14-71
Receiving - Mike Shanahan 6-54
Tackler - Shane Gordon 10
The Panthers are led at quaterback by Tino Sunseri. He has been around for about 7 years now. It seems like he's been starting at Pitt since the early 2000s. You know what you are going to get from Tino. He's going to complete about 60% of his passes. He won't throw a ton of TDs. He is prone to turnovers. He has a strong arm and he will take chances downfield. He has a reputation of playing poorly when it matters most, *coughWestVirginiacough* but he can make a lot of the throws and test the secondary. Sunseri will take off. He had 18 yards last week. His backup is Trey Anderson, who was 12-33, 55 yards, 3 INTs last year.
Ray Graham is the Panthers starter. He was having a spectacular season last year before he tore his ACL. I believe he tore it prior to the UC game. Graham wasn't expected to play last week, but he did. He wasn't amazing, but he was solid. He ran for 71 yards. Graham had a costly fumble. He pretty much spilt carries with Isaac Bennett. Bennett wasn't as effective as Graham. He had 10 carries for 44 yards, but he did score a TD. Besides Sunseri, no other player ran the ball. Mark Giubilato is listed as the starting fullback. He caught a pass against Youngstown St. Pitt has a history of running all over the Bearcats. It's all they did the last time they were in Cincinnati.
Mike Shanahan and Devin Street are the starters at wide receiver, Hubie Graham the starter at tight end. Shanahan, Street and Graham were 1, 2 and 3 in receptions and yards last week. Shanahan caught 6-54, Street 4-51 and Graham 4-38. Cameron Sadler and Ronald Jones are listed at the back ups. Sadler caught 2 passes for 36 yards. Joshua Brinson caught a 35 yard TD. JP Holtz had a 20 yard catch. There is experience on the group. Graham is a very solid tight end. Street and Sadler had speed but drop issues. Street lost a fumble late in the game for instance. Shanhan is a pretty solid player.
The Panther starting line is, from left to right, Cory King, Chris Jacobson, Ryan Turnley, Ryan Schlieper, Matt Rotheram. The Panthers averaged 4.6 yards a rush. They averaged 6.4 yards a play. The Panthers didn't give up a sack. I don't think the line had any penalties. The offensive line was pretty good against Youngstown. They are a big unit. The leanest man weighs 295 pounds. He is also the shortest at 6-3. That's Jacboson. They are big and they are good. Getting pressure is a key.
TJ Clemmings and Jack Lippert are the defensive ends, Aaron Donald is at tackle and Tyrone Ezell is the nose tackle. Of those 4, Donald had the best game against Youngstown. He made 4 tackles, including 1 for a loss, with 2 hurries. Lippert had 3 tackles, while Ezell and Clemmings were shut out. Bryan Murphy backs up Clemmings, and had 3 tackles and a hurry. Darryl Render and Khaynin Mosley-Smith back up the tackle positions, while Shayne Hale is the other reserve end. Only Mosley-Smith had a tackle in the first game.
The Panther linebacking unit is very young. Shane Gordon is the eldest statesman, a juinor. He plays the middle spot. The Sam backer is sophomore Eric Williams. Mike backer is Nicholas Grigsby, a redshirt freshman. Gordon and Grigsby were the Panthers leading tacklers a week ago. Gordon had 10 tackles, 1 for loss. He broke up a pass as well. Grigsby had 9 tackles. Williams assisted on 2 tackles and had a QB hurry.
The Panther corners are Lafayette Pitts and K'Waun Williams. Pitts is a redshirt freshman. The safeties are Ray Vinopal and either Andrew Taglianetti or Jarred Holley. Tags had 6 tackles a week ago, as did Holley and back up to Vinopal Jason Hendricks. Pitts had 2 passes broken up to lead the secondary. His back up Cullen Christian had 5 tackles. Williams assisted on a tackle.
The Panther specialists are punter Matt Yoklic and kicker Kevin Harper. Yoklic averaged 43 yards a punt with a long of 52. Both his punts were inside the 20. Harper hit his only field goal attempt, a 33 yarder. Harper handles kick offs. He had 1 touchback. Opponents started at the 23. Cameron Saddler returns punts and kicks. It was Pitts who returned all the kicks against Youngstown. He had a 30 yard average. Saddler returned 2 punts for 22 yards.
UC has won 3 of the last 4 against Pittsburgh.
UC is a 4.5 point favorite and the most wagered on team at Sportsbook. (ht: @KegsnEggs)
No team that lost to a 1-AA team won the next week, per Paul Dehner Jr.
Pitt has won their last 4 Big East openers.
UC is 3-2 in Big East openers.
4 of the last 5 meetings have been decided by single digits.
I'm worried about 5 things tonight.
1) The running game. The Bearcats are probably going to be a run heavy team this season. You would think that with inexpericence at the QB position. The Bearcats have 3 guys who all should get carries in Winn, Poteat and RDA. It's important that one of them step up and take over at some point. Cracking a big run against the Pitt defense would be huge.
2) Ball control. The first point ties into the second. Pitt could not get off the field against Youngstown St. The Penguins had the ball for over 34 minutes. Youngstown also converted a high amount of 3rd downs. The Panther defense is vulnerable, just like every other defense, when you can keep them on the field for long periods of time.
3) Getting Munchie going early. We don't really know what we are getting from Munchie Legaux. Chances are, he will not be the same quarterback he was last year. That's certainly true because he's older and has had a lot more practice time as the starting quarterback. Munchie got off to a fast start against UConn and the Bearcats built up a big lead. He turned awful later in that game and UConn came back. Munchie was pretty solid against Syracuse, UC won. He was bad against Rutgers and UC lost. He's got very solid receivers. He and McClung have a good connection. He and Chisum look to have the same. Limiting his attempts seems like a better thing. If he's throwing 40 times, I feel like UC would lose tonight.
4) Pitt has already played. Butch Jones talked at length about the adjustments the first game of the season poses. While the Panthers have had a week of film study to right their wrongs against YSU, the Bearcats have only played themselves. The OR in the right guard spot isn't there to be mysterious, it's there because they don't know who the starter is. If you look back on past openers, like Fresno in 2010, the whole offensive line changed after that game. This could be the only game of the year George Winn starts at running back. Hell, this could be the only game Munchie starts at quarterback. We don't know. Some things we wouldn't know anyway, but having your feet put to the fire is a lot tougher when your opponent already has played.
And Pittsburgh lost. The Panthers losing their opener was funny as a person who doesn't care about Pitt football, but it has me worried. The Panthers season could be going down in flames 2 games in if they lose tonight. They have a ton to play for. They play Virginia Tech next week. They will probably lose. Being 1-2 is a lot better than being 0-3. Especially since this is a conference game. I know a lot of people, including myself, had a lot of confidence after Pitt lost. Some of my worry is natural worrying about every game, but some of it is because Pitt is not completely awful and they could very much win.
5) Pass rush. Walter Stewart is back and hopefully better than ever. Dan Giordano rushes the QB like no one's business. As does Brandon Mills. But there is a gaping hole where an All American used to be. Now that lines don't have to focus on Wolfe, where does that leave everyone else? It's a question that will be answered tonight. Hopefully with 10 sacks.
Go Bearcats. Beat Pitt