Cincinnati vs Pitt Odds & Prediction: Offenses to Step Up?
Via Justin Berl/Getty Images. Pictured: Phil Jurkovec #5 of the Pittsburgh Panthers drops back to pass in the third quarter during the game against the Wofford Terriers at Acrisure Stadium on September 2, 2023 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Cincinnati vs Pitt Odds
The Pittsburgh Panthers host the Cincinnati Bearcats on Saturday after both teams impressed in Week-1 blowout wins over FCS opponents.
Their new quarterbacks led the way in those wins, but there is also significant turnover for both defenses. Will the new quarterbacks or defenses have the edge in this matchup?
Find a betting preview, pick and prediction for Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh below.
In Week 1, Cincinnati started the Scott Satterfield era by defeating Eastern Kentucky 66-13. The Bearcats' offense dominated with a 97th-percentile Success Rate and 99th-percentile EPA/play.
Transfer quarterback Emory Jones led the way by completing 18 of his 22 passes for 338 yards and five touchdowns, as Cincy's EPA per drop back ranked in the 99th percentile. While Jones has bounced around in his college career from Florida to Arizona State and now Cincinnati, the former highly-ranked recruit showed promise in Cincinnati’s offense.
The Bearcats' offense needed a boost after finishing 93rd in Success Rate and 76th in Finishing Drives last season. The run game was almost nonexistent while the passing game struggled for much of the season as well.
This is an entirely new unit as only two starters return, both on the offensive line. The Bearcats lost their top rusher from 2022, as well as their top-eight receivers. With this much turnover, it’s hard to tell how the offense will look under Satterfield, but if last weekend is any indication, this unit is heading the right direction.
Cincinnati returns six starters on defense from a stout unit last year. Despite losing Sauce Gardner and Coby Bryant, Cincinnati still ranked 20th in Success Rate and 37th in Finishing Drives.
Only two starters return in the back seven for the Bearcats, and they're without their top four tacklers from last season, so I would expect a drop-off, at least early in the season, with so much turnover.
Cincinnati’s defense showed signs of vulnerability against Eastern Kentucky, as the Colonels ranked in the 55th percentile in Success Rate, 48th percentile in yards per play and 28th percentile in EPA per play.
While not outstanding, you would expect these numbers to be much better for the Bearcats against a mid-level FCS opponent.
Last weekend, Pittsburgh opened Pat Narduzzi’s ninth season as the Panthers' head coach with a 45-7 victory over Wofford.
The Panthers largely dominated this game, as they ranked in the 95th percentile in Success Rate and in the 89th percentile for EPA per play. The Terriers' offense was stifled, as it ranked in the third and fifth percentile in these two statistics, respectively.
At the end of the day, Wofford just couldn't compete with Pittsburgh up front. Pitt had a 90th-percentile Rushing EPA and held Wofford to a first-percentile Rushing EPA.
This week, the trench play will be significantly more even.
Phil Jurkovec should be an improvement at starting quarterback for Pitt after Kedon Slovis transferred to BYU. Jurkovec is a former Notre Dame recruit who thrived in 2020 under offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr. at Boston College. Cignetti is now in his second season as the offensive coordinator at Pittsburgh, as he and Jurkovec look for a renaissance.
The Panthers return seven starters on offense to help Jurkovec. While running back Israel Abanikanda is their most significant loss, the Panthers return three of their top four receivers and three offensive linemen.
Narduzzi teams are typically tough on defense. Last year, the Panthers finished 15th in Defensive Success Rate, but were 49th in Finishing Drives due to big plays. They were 126th in Run Explosiveness Allowed, but overall, this was a top-25 defense against both the pass and the run.
However, only five defensive starters return from that unit. The Panthers lost their top four tacklers as well as defensive tackle Calijah Kancey, who was selected in the first round of the NFL draft.
While I have faith in Narduzzi patching together this defense in time, Pitt may struggle a bit to start the year against a team it can’t physically demolish like Wofford.
Cincinnati vs Pitt
Betting Pick & Prediction
There's plenty of uncertainty for the Bearcats and Panthers in this matchup. Both teams have new quarterbacks, replace a lot of their defensive production and have only played against an FCS cupcake to start the year.
I'm honing in on the defensive turnover for both teams against a significant step up in competition after both of these offenses showed what they're capable of last week against inferior opponents.
Cincinnati’s defense already displayed cracks against Eastern Kentucky, while Pitt’s stood strong. However, that may change this week when Pitt plays a more formidable opponent.
I see this game as having sneaky shootout potential. Jones and Jurkovec are both experienced and should lead efficient offenses.
Expect this game to exceed the 45 point total in the market.
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