The Panthers and Bearcats will open up their Big East schedules in Week 2 of the 2012 college football season, with one team already experiencing a humiliating setback. Let’s take a closer look at this Thursday matchup from a college football betting perspective.


Is Jim Tressel back in the coaching ranks?

Pittsburgh PanthersThe Pittsburgh Panthers suffered a 31-14 defeat to the Youngstown State Penguins as 18.5-point home favorites last Saturday, which served as the team’s first-ever loss to a Football Championship Subdivision program. Sports bettors are certainly familiar with the Penguins longstanding success on the gridiron, as former Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel manned the sidelines from 1986-2000.

River City Rivalry Trophy up for grabs

Cincinnati has won three of the last four series meetings, but Pittsburgh owns a 3-1 all-time edge when playing inside Nippert Stadium. There’s no question that the road underdogs look attractive on the college football odds page, considering two of the last three games have been decided by a total of four points. The Bearcats earned a 26-23 victory as 3.5-point road favorites on November 5 of last year.

Big East Conference opener for both sides

The Bearcats are also going to attract some college football betting action on Thursday, winning their last five Big East openers, which includes a 25-16 win over the Louisville Cardinals as 13-point home favorites in 2011. Since the conference began round-robin play in 1993, the Panthers are 10-9 openers, picking up victories in five of the past six since 2006.

Ray Graham passes his first test 

Cincinnati BearcatsPanthers senior running back Ray Graham will continue his comeback from 2011 right knee surgery, as he looks to build off a 71-yard performance on 14 carries against the Penguins. Through his first seven games of last year’s campaign, Graham was second nationally and first in the conference in averaging 134.1 rushing yards per game. He currently sits 10th on the school’s all-time rushing list with 2,300 yards. 

Getting the munchies 

Third-year head coach Butch Jones had a major decision to make during the offseason, eventually settling on Munchie Legaux over senior Brendon Kay to be under center for the Bearcats offense. He threw for 749 yards and five touchdowns in six contests (three starts) in 2011. The junior has a pair of capable wide receivers on the perimeter with Anthony McClung and Kenbrell Thompkins, combining for 93 catches for 1,219 yards a year ago. 

Sunseri is a seasoned veteran for the visitor 

Pittsburgh senior quarterback Tino Sunseri has started 27 consecutive games dating back to the 2010 season opener at Utah, which is the longest such streak for the program at that position since Tyler Palko made 35 straight starts from 2004-06. He continues to move up the all-time charts, ranking sixth in school history with 5,541 career passing yards.

Prediction 

The Bearcats have tallied a 5-9 against-the-spread (ATS) record against conference foes over the last two years, which makes them vulnerable in this spot, especially due to their 0-2 ATS mark as home favorites of seven points or less in that span. Former Wisconsin Badgers offensive coordinator Paul Chryst can’t be happy about losing his first career game as a head coach in the Steel City, but Sunseri has been been a money-making signal-caller in Big East play, going 11-3 ATS in that situation since 2010.

Free College Football Pick: Pittsburgh Panthers +4.5