|Cincinnati quarterback Munchie Legaux looks to get the season started on the right foot. (US Presswire)|
Kickoff: Thursday, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Spread: Cincinnati by 4
Watchability: Not only will it be the opener for Cincinnati, it will also be a chance for Pittsburgh to wash off the stench of the Youngstown State, um, incident from last week. It's also the only game on.
Shining stars: Cincinnati: QB Munchie Legaux. It didn't happen until well into the summer, but Legaux was finally named the Bearcats starter by head coach Butch Jones. Legaux hopes to build on a successful season in 2011, where he was more than adequate replacing the injured Zach Collaros. Thursday night will be his first chance to prove he is the unquestioned leader of the offense. Pittsburgh: RB Ray Graham. Battling injuries throughout the offseason, Graham was questionable for Saturday's opener against Youngstown State. Graham did play, but only managed 14 rushes. He was effective, though, gaining more than five yards per carry. He should be well rested and ready for the Cincinnati defense.
Who could steal the show: Cincinnati: RB Ralph David Abernathy IV. With RB Isaiah Pead dominating the offense in 2011, the dynamic Abernathy was rarely in the backfield. He was an effective kick returner, however, and Jones has said that he hopes to use a variety of looks on the offense with Abernathy. He's an absolute chore to stop in space, and the Bearcat offense hopes to find some seams in the Pitt defense. Pittsburgh: WR Devin Street. A costly Street fumble against YSU all but sealed the Panthers loss Saturday, so the speedy receiver will be looking for redemption. Street finished Saturday's game with four catches for 51 yards.
You going? Ranking the road trip: Thursday night games are always fun. But, as an added bonus for Cincinnati fans, this will be their first chance to see the Bearcats play -- in a conference game, no less. Nippert Stadium will be rocking, that's for sure.
Magic number for Cincinnati: 1. As in, this is the first game for the Bearcats. Though Pitt is coming off an embarrassing loss to FCS power Youngstown State, the Panthers still have the advantage of having played an actual game.
Magic number for Pittsburgh: 118. That's how many yards quarterback Tino Sunseri and Devin Street hooked up for a year ago when these teams met. The more Street, Sunseri, and the rest of the Panther pass-catchers can keep the focus off Graham, the more effective the offense will be.
The game comes down to: Cincinnati's focus. If the Bearcats fall into the trap of looking past the Panthers they'll get burned. This is still a solid Pitt team, despite what happened last weekend. Plus, they'll certainly be hungry to redeem themselves.
Prediction: Cincinnati 27, Pittsburgh 20
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