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The final River City Rivalry?

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Is it?

Who knows?

Pitt's jumped ship to the ACC along with Syracuse so their programs can experience March Madness in the historic venue known as the Greensboro Coliseum (not quite the goose bumps of Madison Square Garden).

I overheard Whit Babcock tell Bill Koch that he's not opposed to playing Pitt again due to the proximity, but you never know what can transpire in the world of college athletics.

Honestly, it'll be hard to top the Pike to Binns catch from 2008, so I won't personally lose a lot of sleep over not playing the Panthers. If they think they're serving their audience by playing in a southern conference, so be it.  Ditto for West Virginia sending the Mountaineer folks out west in Conestoga wagons and such for their Big 12 games.

Trust me, both Panther and Mountaineer fans will miss the ol' Nipp.  Somehow, the world will continue to spin on it's axis.

Now, in the words of the immortal Bobby Knight, back to THE GAME:

WHERE:  Come on!
SERIES: Panthers up 8-3
LAST GAME: Good guys won 26-23 on a Tony Miliano field goal.
KICKOFF:  8 p.m. on ESPN or whenever Holtz and the always unbiased Mark May and company toss it to Rece Davis, Jesse Palmer and former Bengal David Pollack.
USELESS STAT OF THE NIGHT:  Pitt is 7-10 on Thursday nights. I bet Johnny Majors never played on Thursday night.

UC offense vs. Pitt defense

The obvious knee-jerk reaction is that Pitt's defense gave up 31 to Youngstown State. However, six Panthers were suspended for that one and I'm told at least one of those youngsters would easily have helped the defensive effort. On the other hand, the Penguins aren't exactly mentioned in the same breath with the Alabama, USC, Oregon, Boise State, etc. The Pitt "D" also has the reality of playing two games in six days which is not real good in terms of recovery time.

The other question mark is UC's offense.  Does Munchie Legaux pick up where he left off or has he improved his game management skills?  Also, is Munchie "managing the game" or will he be allowed to freelance in a bind?  At running back, who steps forward?  George Winn? Jameel Poteat? Ralph David Abernathy IV? Or, will it be someone less publicized?  What I do know is the receivers are solid with Kenbrell Thompkins, Anthony McClung and Alex Chisum. So are the back-ups and so is future NFL player Travis Kelce at tight end.  If Munchie can get some throws off, UC has guys that can catch it and that will then open up whatever runner steps up.

What does Scott think?

I know.  Who cares.  But, these things are good for debate and firing people up, so I give you my unscientific opinion of having watched every football contest here since 1994 and a good many before that.   UC has some new lineman, but tempo has been practiced so much that I expect the offense to not be far off of where it was at the end of last year.  Keep in mind, it's the first game as colleges have no exhibitions.  Temper your expectations. EDGE: UC

Pitt offense vs. UC defense

Regardless of not being able to foil the Penguins, Pitt still has a senior quarterback in Tino Sunseri, two lanky receivers in 6-foot-5 Mike Shanahan and 6-foot-4 Devin Street, a senior tight end in Hubie Graham and senior running back Ray Graham.  Graham can run.  How he runs a year after his injury is another thing.  Often times the player is better the second year after an injury.  As for Shanahan and Street, they are a concern as beyond Drew Frey, most of the Bearcat DBs are 6-foot or under.

UC also has a new mix of defensive linemen and linebackers.  I'm interested to watch Walter Stewart at defensive end and Greg Blair at linebacker.  Others, like Dan Giordano, Jordan Stepp and Maalik  Bomar will be solid.  On the other hand, the losses of Derek Wolfe and JK Schaffer are significant.

Where you going Scott?  Since it's game one, I think the Pitt offense has something to prove and the UC defense will be a work in progress.  Hopefully, it progresses quickly.  EDGE: Pitt

Special teams

Pitt returner Cameron Saddler is related to Greg Blair.  I don't know if Greg is on the coverage teams, but that could be an interesting encounter on the turf.   Kevin Harper has a leg as he nailed a 52-yarder in last year's game. But, he also missed a 50-yarder.  Tony Miliano booted four treys at Heinz Field in 2011 and I think he'll improve as UC's recent kickers have with time. In the punt game, it's hard not to go with Patrick O'Donnell. The Bearcats' key returner is obviously Ralph David Abernathy IV who last hit paydirt in the Liberty Bowl.  Anthony McClung is no slouch either.  EDGE: UC

Intangibles

(No that's not a lunchbox product or Super Hero movie.)  Pitt is unlikely to follow up the Youngstown State game with a dud.  Put that out of your mind.  UC needs to treat it as it is--a key league game. Also, it's an ESPN opener and a team will feed off of it's fans.  It used to be the kids weren't in school this early, but now they are.  Will the semester system benefit the noisy, closed-end horseshoe section?  EDGE:  I think it will.

The call

I don't give scores, just gut reactions.  Just as Pitt couldn't fall out of the gate at Heinz Field (but did) UC can't and won't keep their fans up late on Thursday without reason to celebrate.

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