By Mike Wynn Sports
A big game for both these teams in Knoxville Saturday as the Cincinnati Bearcats come to town to battle the Tennessee Volunteers. Both teams are trying to get back on the national scene and a win here is a big boost for the victor while a loss would be a deflating for both squads. Both schools are coming off big wins over non BCS schools and both schools were impressive in their respective wins. So let’s take a look at this matchup Saturday and make a little prediction.
After a dismal 2010 the Cincinnati Bearcats needed a statement game to kick off the 2011 season and they got it with a 72-10 win over Austn Peay. Cincinnati showed signs of 2009 as they racked up 387 yards on the ground with 6 touchdowns and starting QB Zach Collaros was 12 of 19 for 134 yards and 4 scores. Collaros played very well in his one half of work and RB Isaiah Pead averaged 12.4 yards per carry rushing for 87 yards on just 7 carries including 2 scores. Cincinnati offense is expected to put up a lot of points this season and the key for them is going to be the defense, more specifically their secondary which gave up a ton of big plays last season. The Bearcats defense held the Governors scoreless in the first half and didn’t allow a touchdown until the final 8 minutes of the game. Yes their defense played well, but again it’s Austin Peay, which won’t cause many sleepless nights for opposing defensive coordinators this season. All and all a terrific start for head coach Butch Jones but now the Bearcats have to show they can do it on the road against a quality opponent in front of 100,000+ screaming fans.
The Tennessee Volunteers also got a much needed big win to kick off the 2011 season as they rolled over Montana 42-16. Montana is also a FCS program but the Grizzlies are a national powerhouse in the FCS, which makes the Tennessee win more impressive than the Cincinnati victory. Tennessee QB Tyler Bray was very good completing 17 of 24 passes for 293 yards and 3 touchdowns despite having an offensive line that struggled to get the running game going consistently. Tennessee’s top two RB’s Tauren Poole and Marlin Lane only combined for 133 yards on 34 carries, but both backs did manage to score a touchdown. In the passing game Tennessee’s receivers Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers each recorded a 100+ yards, which is the first time that’s happened in the same game for the Volunteers since 2007. The defense wasn’t stellar allowing 346 yards including an 80-yard touchdown pass for Montana’s first score with 3:49 left in the first half. Second year coach Derek Dooley got his big win to start the season after a disappointing 2010, and just like Cincinnati they now need to follow it up with a win here Saturday or the week one win over Montana will be a very distant memory in Knoxville.
Tennessee was instilled as a touchdown favorite for this game Saturday and I think they the oddsmakers have done a pretty good job with the number but I do think the total of 53 is too low for this contest. Tennessee’s big receivers should have success against Cincinnati’s short corners, and the Bearcats offense will put up numbers against anyone this season. Look for both teams to score in the 30’s and make this a nice over play Saturday.