West Virginia Moutaineers vs. Cincinnati Bearcats
The West Virginia Mountaineers head to Ohio to take on the Cincinnati Bearcats with Cincinnati trying to close in on the Big East title. The Mountaineers conference hopes took a shot with a 38-35 loss to Louisville at home Saturday while the Bearcats stayed unbeaten in the conference with a 26-23 win at Pitt. The Bearcats are -4 point favorites over the Mountaineers.
West Virginia’s conference title hopes need help as the team no longer controls their destiny with another slow start costing them. The Mountaineers have gotten off to several slow starts this season and a 21-21 tie heading in to the locker room with Louisville was another example. The Mountaineers had a sizeable advantage in offense with 533 yards with 28 first downs but what mistakes they made were costly. WVU didn’t have a great deal of success on the ground outside of Dustin Garrison (13-64) and Shawne Alston (11-45) who ran for two touchdowns. The Mountaineers did have an explosive day in the air with 410 yards from the right arm of Geno Smith who completed 31 of 44 throws for three touchdowns against zero interceptions. Stedman Bailey was his receiver of choice with game highs of eight receptions for 118 yards and one yard and two yard scoring catches. The defense allowed 351 yards and forced one turnover but the turning point of the game was a fourth quarter field goal attempt that was blocked and returned by the Cardinals for six.
Although Cincinnati hasn’t always looked good this season, the fact is the Bearcats are winning…a lot with seven consecutive victories and a 3-0 start in conference play. This game was nip and tuck throughout and as close in the box score as the final score indicated with the Bearcats posting 366 yards with barely enough balance between the run and pass to keep the Pittsburgh defense honest. Cincinnati ran for over 150 yards with Isaiah Pead in his usual leadership role with 118 yards on 18 carries. Quarterback Zach Collaros didn’t have his best game under center but made enough plays to keep his team afloat. Collaros was 19 of 32 for only 214 yards with no scores and a pair of picks although he did have a pair of short touchdown runs. The defense gave up some yardage at times and allowed nearly 400 yards and 6 of 17 on third down while recovering a fumble and intercepting a pass. The key was limiting the Panthers to just seven second half points.
Cincinnati hasn’t always made things look smooth but the Bearcats continue to win because they offense can score and the defense keeps opponents out of the end zone. West Virginia also can put up the points but the defense has allowed nearly eight points more than the Bearcats because of their tendency to start slow. If that happens WVU is toast but I have to think this team will be up for this game.
West Virginia Mountaineers +4 Cincinnati Bearcats