With these Five Keys the Cincinnati Bearcats lock up the World. OK, maybe the World is pushing it, but how bout the greater Ohio Valley region and the full collection of traveling trophies for the second time in three seasons?
Get To Tino Sunseri Early and Often
To say that the Panthers offensive line is bad is putting it very, very mildly. The Panthers are on pace to have one of the 5 or so worst offensive lines of the last decade. The combination of a change in scheme and an unbelievable barrage of injuries up front has spelled disaster. Pitt's best offensive linemen, Lucas Nix, a big time recruit back in 2009, has been out for the past three weeks. Nix is expected to play, that's the rhetoric at least, but no one but him knows if he will be near 100 per cent. There is also no telling how big an impact Nix's return will have. It will probably be sizable, but not enough to turn the group from terrible to competent overnight. Going against this front the Bearcats defensive line should dominate proceedings. If not the game will probably be close to the end.Isaiah Pead
Pead is going to be the X factor offensively tomorrow, though I don't think he will have a banner day rushing the Football. Pitt is strong at the point of attack and like all teams they will make it their mission to lessen Isaiah Pead's effectiveness running the ball. To do that they will have to play in their base 3-4 alignment for large chunks of the game. That's why I expect Pead to have a big game catching the Football. Simply put there is not a linebacker on Pitt's roster capable of sticking with iPead in the passing game. That should be a big time advantage for UC, one that I expect Collaros to go to early and often.
I keep talking about the kid because his performance will go a looooong way in determining who winds up winning the game. UC is going to score on this Pitt defense. That's a foregone conclusion. Pitt has allowed at least 20 points in five of eight games. Meanwhile the Cats have scored at least 20 points in every game this year, including 29 against Louisville which has the best defense UC has seen in 2011. Pitt isn't as good as the Cards, they rush the passer exceptionally well, but they don't do much else at an elite level, and they don't force turnovers either. That means that UC is going to get plenty of (relatively) low risk chances to convert drives into points. Pitt has to keep up, and seeing as they can't run, it's all on Sunseri's shoulders. He has to play not just well, but exceptionally for Pitt to win.
These two have emerged in the month of October as legitimate weapons for Zach Collaros. For the month the pair reeled in 7 catches for 173 yards and a pair of TD's. These are two big, physical and athletic guys who can cause big problems for defenses. Particularly Pitt's defense which has been exploited up the seams time and again in 2011. The big guys are hot, they should be fed.
These two teams are both bottom of the table when it comes to time of possession nationally. UC ranks 97th and Pitt 110th. Both employ offenses that are ostensible fast paced, no huddle based. Pitt gets 73.5 snaps off per game, UC is slightly off that pace at 69.1 per game. Though both teams want to play fast I still think this is something to keep an eye on. If I am Butch Jones my goal should be to get 80 to 85 snaps off. UC has better depth and what's more, is relatively whole in terms of injuries. As such a faster tempo can have a devastating effect on the Panthers.