Week 2 Feature Game:
Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012 • 8 p.m. ET • ESPN
Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio (35,000/FieldTurf Pro)
Line: Cincinnati -4.5
The Panthers, coming off a 31-17 loss to Youngstown State on Saturday, will be playing their second game in six days. The Bearcats, by contrast, are opening their 2012 season.
Pitt RB Ray Graham continues his comeback from knee surgery. Graham had his first action since last October when he started Saturday, gaining 71 yards on 14 carries.
Pitt’s defense included eight first-time starters in its opener. Before the game, head coach Paul Chryst suspended six players for disciplinary reasons. Among them were starting NT Tyrone Ezell and freshman RB Rushel Shell.
Four of the past five Pitt-Cincinnati games have been decided by single digits. Last year’s game at Heinz Field, was a 26-23 win for Cincinnati with Pitt missing a 50-yard field goal in the final seconds. The past four games in the series have also had Big East championship implications. In 2009 the Bearcats erased a 21-point first-half deficit to claim a 45-44 victory at Heinz Field, clinching an undefeated season and a berth in the Sugar Bowl.
Since 1993, the Panthers are 10-9 in conference openers. Pitt has won four consecutive Big East openers and five of its past six since 2006.
Cincinnati begins its 125th season of football Thursday. The Bearcats program dates to 1885 and is one of the 10 oldest in major college football. It holds an all-time record of 561-553-51.
Cincinnati has won three of the past four conference championships and has played in a bowl game in five of the past six seasons. The Bearcats have won 55 games over the last six years, the most among current members of the Big East.
The Bearcats return 13 starters. Junior QB Munchie Legaux will start the season under center. He made three starts a year ago, throwing for 749 yards and five touchdowns, going 2-1.
Other players to watch are: RB George Winn (219 yards, 2 TD), RB Jameel Poteat (108 yards, TD), WR Anthony McClung (49 catches, 683 yards, 6 TD), WR Kenbrell Thompkins (44 catches, 536 yards, 2 TD), DE Walter Stewart (44 tackles, 11 TFL, 6 sacks), DE Dan Giordano (35 tackles, 9 TFL, 5 sacks), SS Drew Frey (73 tackles, 2 INT), P Pat O’Donnell (43.8 avg.), RB/KR Ralph David Abernathy IV (26.5 avg., TD).
Pete’s pick: Cincinnati 33, Pitt 27
N.C. State (0-1) at UConn (1-0)
Maryland (1-0) at Temple (1-0)
Missouri State (0-1) at Louisville (1-0)
Howard (1-0)at Rutgers (1-0)
USC (1-0) at Syracuse (0-1) - MetLife Stadium
USF (1-0) at Nevada (1-0)
Big East Week One Notes
Week 1 game results:
UConn 30 vs. UMass 0
Temple 41 vs. Villanova 10
Northwestern 42 at Syracuse 41
Youngstown St. 31 at Pitt 17
USF 34 vs. Chattanooga 13
Rutgers 24 at Tulane 12
Louisville 32 vs. Kentucky 14
Conference Players of Week 1:
Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib (Offense), UConn LB Yawin Smallwood (Defense) and Temple K/P Brandon McManus (Special Teams)
Pete’s Big East Power Rankings: