How will Pittsburgh respond after the program’s first-ever loss to an FCS school?
That’s the biggest question facing handicappers leading up to Thursday night’s Big East showdown between Pittsburgh and host Cincinnati.
The Panthers were embarrassed in a 31-17 opening home loss to Youngstown State. Quarterback Tino Sunseri was booed by the home crowd, and new coach Paul Chryst suspended six players before the game, including his starting nose tackle.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati was enjoying the Labor Day weekend with an opening bye. The Bearcats have 65 first- or second-year players on the roster, according to Cincinnati.com.
Both teams were picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the Big East.
The Bearcats opened as three-point favorites, but had been bet up to -4 as of Wednesday afternoon at most online shops tracked by OddsShark.com.
Pittsburgh has covered in five of the last seven games against Cincinnati, but the Bearcats have been tough as chalk, winning 17 of 20 straight up in that role.
"The Bearcats have tallied a 5-9 against-the-spread record against conference foes over the last two years, which makes them vulnerable in this spot, especially due to their 0-2 ATS mark as home favorites of seven points or less in that span," said Jeff Grant of SBRForum.com, pointing to the matchup stats on this game.
The over/under opened at 50, but had been bet down under seven touchdowns and was sitting at 48.5. The last five meetings between the Bearcats and Panthers have averaged 53.2 points.
Injuries/Suspensions (courtesy OddsShark.com injury reports)
Pittsburgh: An announcement was expected Wednesday regarding the status of the six players who were suspended for the opener.
Keep an eye on injury news on starting corner K’Waun Williams, who left the Youngstown State game and did not return. Starting defensive end T.J. Clemmings also did not play in the opener, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Cincinnati: No significant injuries reported.
Forecast calls for a 40 percent chance of showers.
Chryst is the Panthers’ fourth head coach in three seasons and brought in a new offensive and defensive coordinator…Cincinnati coach Butch Jones is entering his third season. He is 1-1 straight up and 0-2 ATS vs. Pittsburgh…Panthers star RB Ray Graham played in his first game since tearing his ACL last season. He received 14 carries, but there are still some doubts about if he’s 100 percent or not.
Nov. 5, 2011, at Pittsburgh: Bearcats (-3.5) 26, Panthers 23
Dec. 4, 2010, at Cincinnati: Panthers 28, Bearcats (-1.5) 10
Dec. 5, 2009, at Pittsburgh: Bearcats 45, Panthers (-1.5) 44
Nov. 22, 2008, at Cincinnati: Bearcats (-6) 28, Panthers 21
Oct. 20, 2007, at Pittsburgh: Panthers 24, Bearcats (-10.5) 17
Pick: The Bearcats tend to win as favorites, and with a small spread and home field against a team licking its wounds, we side with the home team.