Week 10 – Syracuse at Cincinnati

Posted Nov 1, 2012

Week 10 Fearless Predictions - Syracuse at Cincinnati

Syracuse (4-4) at Cincinnati (5-2) Nov. 3, 12:00, Big East Network

Here's The Deal: Heartbreak and exultation. Cincinnati and Syracuse, respectively, experienced both last week.

If the Orange is to make the postseason in 2012, it'll point to Week 9 as its watershed moment. In one of the sneaky-good games of the weekend, Syracuse ended a see-saw battle in Tampa on a Ryan Nassib touchdown flip with just three seconds left on the clock. The program has now won back-to-back games, including a rout of Connecticut, and will actually spend the next two Saturdays attempting to sneak up on the rest of the Big East.

Cincinnati has been exposed. Oh, the Bearcats are still a quality team, but they're unlikely to be a championship team. Since peaking at 5-0, with a spot in the Top 25, they've dropped consecutive games to Toledo and Louisville. Last Friday's Battle for the Keg of Nails was especially excruciating, an overtime loss at Papa John's Stadium in a game that Cincy led in the fourth quarter.

The winner here maintains slim hope for a BCS bowl game, while the loser is through.

Why Syracuse Might Win: For a while, the D was the calling card in Upstate New York. During the two-game winning streak, it's been the offense that's led the way.

The Orange has scored 77 points over the last two weeks, complementing the passing of Nassib with back-to-back 100-yard games from bullish RB Jerome Smith. Syracuse will look to maintain that balance against a Cincinnati defense coming off its worst game of the year. The Bearcats had breakdowns on the last line of defense, which Nassib's targets, Marcus Sales and Alec Lemon, will look to exploit.

Why Cincinnati Might Win: If Syracuse starts putting up points, the Bearcats have the firepower and moxie to match them.

Cincinnati leads the Big East in scoring, hanging up 34 points a game. Yes, QB Munchie Legaux can be erratic and off target at times, but he's also the kind of playmaker who can make things happen. He has quick feet and the improvisational skills to drive defenses batty. Legaux is also surrounded by quality skill players, such as RB George Winn and receivers Damon Julian and Kenbrell Thompkins, who are capable of extending plays after absorbing contact.

What To Watch Out For: It's no coincidence that the Syracuse offense has been markedly tighter ever since LT Justin Pugh returned to the lineup in the beginning of October. He's one of the best pass protectors in the Big East, a huge reason why the Orange has allowed only one sack in the last two games. Cincinnati, on the other hand, has been playing without top pass rusher Walter Stewart, forcing DE Dan Giordano and tackling machine Greg Blair to do even more to disrupt the quarterback.

What Will Happen: Cincinnati and Syracuse are a lot closer in talent than anyone believed just two weeks ago.

Not much separates the Bearcats and the Orange, who are basically playing in a Big East semifinal game at Nippert Stadium. Both teams have shown balance on offense and hints of vulnerability on D. The emergence of Smith on the ground has been an unexpected boon for the visitors, who played the first half of the year without much of a running game. Cincy will counter with the underrated Winn and Legaux, a cool cat late in games. The quarterback will guide his Bearcats to a narrow and exciting win with a late drive downfield as the game hangs in the balance.

CFN Prediction: Cincinnati 37 … Syracuse 28
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Cincinnati -5 O/U: 56
Must Watch Rating (5 – The Man With The Iron Fists, 1 – Election coverage until Tuesday morning): 2.5