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West Virginia vs. Cincinnati Pick with Analysis

11/12/11

 When Brian Kelly left the Cincinnati Bearcats most fans thought it would take years to get back the heights he helped them reach. Two years later they find themselves at 7-1 and undefeated in Big East play. Kelly's Irish are miring in mediocrity and one has to wonder if this isn't a bit of karma at play.

For the Cincinnati Bearcats to get back to the Orange Bowl they must win 2 of their last 4 games. Playing West Virginia at the Cincinnati Bengal's Paul Brown Stadium will be their first challenge.

The Mountaineers looked like the team to beat all year long, but they have dropped 2 of their last 3. Their last game was at home and they were defeated by a very average Louisville team. The offense looked great, but the defense really fell apart. West Virginia's offense is led by QB Geno Smith. He's overachieved in 2011 with 3,125 passing yards for 23 TDs and only 5 INTs.

The Cincinnati Bearcats will rely on veteran QB Zach Collaros. The dual threat QB has great weapons in the form of WRs DJ Woods, Kenbrell Thompkins, and Anthony McClung. The centerpiece of the offense is RB Isaiah Pead. The future NFL back has 831 yards on 136 attempts. He has reached the end zone 8 times. He has looked stellar in games against Tennessee, NC State and Louisville. He rushed for 150+ in all three games and also scored at least once.

The Bearcats will not have a true home field advantage here as the game will be at PBS and not their traditional home of Nippert Stadium. Paul Brown is a huge stadium and there will be plenty of Mountaineer fans to pack the house.

We mentioned the West Virginia defense. Where those numbers really become magnified is when we look at our favorite stat, yards per point. The Mountaineers have a terrible number of 12.1 defensively compared to 19 for Cinci. Both teams good offensively but Cinci better there as well with an 11 and WVA a 13. Even if you decide not to give Cinci a home field edge here, they'd still be favored by at least 6 here when you factor in a slightly weaker schedule. Likewise, our model sees a 39-28 Cincinnati win. Also note Cinci +13 in turnover margin on the year.

Both teams can score but the Bearcat defense figures to be the one to make enough plays to win this one. WVA has given up 49, 31 and 38 points their last 3 games against teams that are far from being known as offensive powerhouses, especially that last one, Louisville. Cincinnati -3.5

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