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Cincinnati vs. Rutgers Pick

11/19/11

It is open season in the Big East after the Cincinnati Bearcats (7-2) lost at Paul Brown Stadium against the West Virginia Mountaineers. Now they will travel to take on a wily Rutgers (7-3) team. Although no longer unbeaten in Big East play, the Bearcats control their own destiny in their quest for a BCS bid. The Scarlet Knights are also in with a shot. Cincinnati is a -3 point road favorite as of Tuesday at Betonline with a total of 48.

A key injury for this game is that of Cincinnati QB Zach Collaros. His career as a Bearcat is likely over after he broke his ankle against West Virginia. He will be replaced by sophomore Munchie Legaux (What a name!). We haven't seen much of Legaux, but from what we have seen you can expect lots of designed running plays in the fashion of Michigan's Denard Robinson. RB Isaiah Pead should take on an even more pronounced role in the offense. He's a shifty back that is deadly in the open field and when he gets room to run.

Rutgers has surprised many people by winning 7 games so far in 2011, but it really shouldn't be a surprise. HC Greg Schiano recruits tons of talent and it was only a matter of time before they started clicking. They will look to exploit a Cincinnati secondary that has been very shaky the past couple of weeks. WR Mohammad Sanu has been incredible this year and he will be a key player for this game. If he can go off and have a big game Rutgers could be very tough.

The Big East is wide open. Cinci is the top dog at 3-1 followed by 4 teams at 3-2 in conference play. If Rutgers wins out the rest of the way they would finish no worse than tied for 1st. This is essentially a Big East playoff game.

We like both of these teams and have used them both as Key Releases this year. Last week we had Cincinnati over West Virginia. Collaros going down hurt but we thought we were going to pull out a win and turn our 5-2 day into a 6-1 day but the Bearcats fell short.

Losing Collaros not only hurts the Bearcats, it hurts us handicappers as well. It's the unknown factor. Legaux filled in nicely last week but from here forward things are different. Game plans will be drawn up with Legaux in mind, focusing on his strengths. In the meantime, the stats we have to work with are the result of Zach Collaros behind center. We think that plays into our hands here as the game plan is likely to be a tad more conservative and we like Rutgers here.

Yards per point numbers almost dead even here. Cinci is 11.4 on offense and 18.4 on defense. Rutgers is 11.9 on offense and 17.8 on defense. Using these numbers to make a line, Cinci would be a 1 point favorite on a neutral field. Throw in 2 or 3 points for the Rutgers home field and Rutgers becomes a 1 to 2 point favorite.

Likewise, our model has a predicted score of 23-22 Rutgers. What's not to like. You get a home underdog, getting +3 points, a team that was picked to finish last and yet has a chance to win it all, going up against a team that has lost their leader and figures to at least be down a notch.

This game is a toss up. Rutgers has lost 3 games. Two of those losses were by 2 points. The other, was a 10 point loss to West Virginia which they had control of at the half. Cincinnati has had their last 3 games decided by a field goal, all conference games, with two wins and a loss. Can this game be anything other than close?

Revenge can't hurt either and is always sweet and the revenge goes back further than just last year as Cinci hammered Rutgers 69-38. They also hammered them the year before that, 47-15 and have won 5 straight in the series. Here's a nice quote from a Rutgers player to show you that teams really do remember these things:

For Rutgers nose tackle Scott Vallone, the memory of leaving Nippert Stadium following a 69-38 thumping at the hands of Cincinnati has yet to dissipate. Asked whether it was the most embarrassing defeat he’s experienced, Vallone said on Monday: “No doubt.”

Last but not least, it's Senior Day for Rutgers. Last home game of the year and a pre game ceremony honoring the out going Senior players. Add it all together, no Collaros, Revenge, Senior Day and most importantly, the fact that the game handicaps as dead even, we'll gladly take the +3 in what looks like a good spot all around for Rutgers. Rutgers +3

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