Cliff's Notes: Pitt at UC

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Listen, I'm not the professor who will fail you for not paying attention until two days before the exam. I know your work ethic lags. I know you didn't want to buy the books. It's OK, I've decided to give you the cheat sheat before the test.

For those of you who have been drawing pictures of a half-man, half-animal community picnic, here is everything you need to know to be an intelligent fan for tonight's opener against Pitt. Be an intelligent fan.

Remember the motto tonight:

Be Loud. Be Proud. Read the blog. Wear Black.

Here's all you need to know:

Where: Nippert Stadium

When: Thursday, 8 p.m., ESPN

Forecast: 81 degrees at kickoff, no rain expected
2011 records - Bearcats 10-3, 5-2, Panthers 6-7, 4-3

Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Dec. 4, 2010: Pitt 28, @Cincinnati 10; Nov. 5, 2011: Cincinnati 26, @Pitt 23.

Need to know: Pulling any conclusions about this opener from last year's game would be a waste of time. Pittsburgh changed coaches -- again -- and the four top playmakers for the Bearcats have moved on to the NFL. A new era of UC and Pitt football ushers in as the rivalry between the two ushers out. Panic mode has struck around the Pittsburgh fan base since they suffered their first loss to an FCS team when Youngstown State came into Heinz Field and waxed them 31-17. Pitt is reeling while UC is wondering if it will receive a similar disappointing performance with its new cast of characters. A total of 65 first- and second-year players will suit for the Bearcats.
Thumbnail image for Munchie.jpgWho to know: Bearcats QB Munchie Legaux. He served an appetizer of what he can offer last year, but 2012 is the main course. He appears more confident and has been given the approval of the coaching staff to lead the team this year. In offense more suited to his dual-threat strengths and one he owns a better understanding of he should be improved. Maybe the difference between middle of the pack in the Big East and another league championship will be how much he has improved.

Defining matchup: DTs Camaron Beard-Jordan Stepp vs. Pitt O-line. UC will be outsized up the middle as stalwarts of the strong 2011 defense, Derek Wolfe (Denver Broncos) and John Hughes (Cleveland Browns), are gone. Pitt comes in averaging 6-5, 317 up front with a stable of talented running backs behind them. If UC can force the game to move to the air, it will play into their hands with an experienced backfield.

Injuries of note: Ray Graham. He tore his ACL last year and played in Week 1, but he looked like a player who tore his ACL in Week 1. He lacked the same explosion that made him the top back in the conference. Will he look better in Week 2? Will the Panthers turn to highly-touted freshman Russel Shell?

Insider trading: Few know the name Dan Sprague or Sam Longo, but they will go a long way to deciding the outcome tonight. Sprague will take over at center and Longo right guard as first-year starters. With Munchie Legaux and the running backs behind him looking to exploit a Pitt defense that allowed 204 rushing yards by Youngstown State, those two will need big debuts.

Connections: Jameel Poteat originally committed to Pittsburgh and hails from the Pittsburgh area. He eventually ditched the Panthers for UC and will now face his former team on national television as a primary ball-carrier for the first time. UC is expected to split the carries three ways between starter George Winn, Poteat and speedy Ralph David Abernathy IV.

By the numbers: Pittsburgh loves to run the ball against the Bearcats. The last two meetings between the teams they have rushed 84 times for 451 yards at a 5.4-yard average.

By the numbers, Part II: Six teams lost to FCS teams last year. The next week, they went a collective 0-6.

They said it: OL Austen Bujnoch on the big ESPN stage and the constant battle for respect they fight nationally -- "Sold out Nippert Statidum, Blackout crowd, it gives a little extra juice to you. We defintiely have to show ESPN and the country that we deserve some respect."

Looking ahead: A win here could go a long way, sans the Sept. 29 game against Virginia Tech, UC will be heavily favored in every other game until conference play resumes. The possibility of this young team gaining confidence and entering a game against Louisville 5-1 or 6-0 would become a very realistic possibility.

Hype video: Much love to #VideoShane in the multimedia suite on this one. Here is the movie trailer for tonight's game. Enjoy gameday, everyone.

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