Typically by the end of the year you can get a pretty good feel as to where every team stands making these little previews and predictions a bit easier. For the 2010 version of the River City Rivalry, this is not the case.
The 4-7 Cincy Bearcats have only won 1 game in their last 5 including three losses by 20 or more points. Part of the reason for this has been the struggles of the Cincy offense. We all know junior quarterback Zach Collaros can sling the ball all over the field, but recently that has included the other team. He had 4 picks in his previous game which was a huge reason why the Bearcats earned their 7th loss instead of fighting for bowl eligibility this week. One thing which might be surprising to Pitt fans is Cincy's ability to run the ball. Isaiah Pead has only appeared in 9 of the 11 games this year, but is closing in on 1000 yards for the season. More impressive is his 6.8 yards per attempt. So while the common thought is that Cincy will pass all over Pitt like they did last year, we should expect to see a more balanced offense from the Bearcats this year.
As for Pitt, we all know where we stand. We've dropped 2 of the last 3 including a nail biter against USF along the way. With the exception of a phenomenal performance by Dion Lewis, Ray Graham, or Jonathan Baldwin, the Panthers should not expect to have a 1000 yard rusher/receiver this year which is surprising given the hype and expectations placed on two of those 3 players.
The defense has had their share of problems recently, especially in the passing game. That has been the one consistent mark of the Panthers over the past 6 years. Whether it's Paul Rhoads, Phil Bennett, Chris Ball, or Jeff Hafley, we can't stop the pass (except when you have Revis on one side of the field). Add in to the mix we're asking linebackers to cover receivers and we are asking for trouble.
Butch Jones has had success before the Cincy job and I expect him to have success with the Bearcats. This game is important for them because finishing 1 game away from bowl eligibility can be a much easier sell than finishing 4-7 while playing in the worst BCS conference.
As of now, the Bearcats are 2 point favorites against Pitt (that's embarrassing). To be honest, I don't even know how this game will play out because you don't know which Pitt team will show up and you don't know which Cincy team will show up. If we have the Pitt team that played Cuse and Louisville we will win regardless of how well Cincy plays. If we are average and the Cincy team that played Oklahoma shows up, well we are in trouble.
I would love to be able to have 2 guesses on this one. I would say if Cincy can pass we will lose and if they can't we win. I do believe that the first team to 30 will win the game. If the scores stay below 30 then Pitt will win.
My prediction is that Pitt will win 31 to 7, Wannstedt wins this one and the bowl game against some MAC team and my nightmare of Wanny on the sidelines continues for another year as this 8-5 disaster season comes to an end.