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September 25, 2010 Two years ago in Norman, Oklahoma doubled up on Cincinnati 52-26 in a game that was not surprising to many around the country. However, the Bearcats went on to go 11-2 that year and 12-0 to start last season, and all of a sudden this return trip to Cincinnati did not look so easy for an Oklahoma team coming off a 7-5 year. However, the table is set for the Sooners again as Oklahoma has survived a murderer's row of three opening games at home and now hits the road to play a demoralized Bearcat team after a 1-2 start. Cincinnati appears to be a shell of the powerful offense of the past two seasons, but Oklahoma has played very inconsistent and quite frankly, is not a very good team away from Norman. Thus, a 14 point spread might be the line, but this is not a sure bet for the Sooners. Let's jump into the matchups.

When Oklahoma has the ball, Landry Jones will look to exploit a Bearcat defense that has had some trouble stopping good athletes on the edges thus far. Jones is prone to an occassional misfire, and safeties Drew Frey and Wesley Richardson must read those passes well to force a couple of turnovers. RB Demarco Murray is a workhorse for Bob Stoops' offense, averaging nearly five yards per carry through the first three weeks of the season. Although Oklahoma needs to run the ball more to get ready for the Texas game next week, expect the Bearcats to follow the plan of prior defenses and stack up against Murray to force Jones to beat them. This strategy will be a real risk, as Oklahoma just has better athletes than Cincinnati. Oklahoma will likely put up 30-40 points in this one, which means the match up on the other side of the ball may determine the tone of this game.

When Cincinnati has the ball, the key will be these five gentlemen: Evan Davis, Alex Hoffman, Jason Kelce, CJ Cobb, and Sam Griffin. If you don't recognize those names, you may by the end of the first half on Saturday, especially if the line continues to give up sacks at their current pace or better (15 total in 3 games). Zach Collaros has stepped into a beehive this season as he has not had much time to throw safely or make reads. The only thing saving Collaros overall is his running ability, which he has overused thus far this season with all the poor pass blocking. When Collaros has time, he makes good decisions as he has not thrown a pick all season and has two great talents at wideout in Armon Binns and D.J. Woods. If Oklahoma's running game has been poor to date, Cincinnati has had a non-existant rushing attack. John Goebel and Darrin Williams are averaging 7 to 8 yards per carry, but neither has many attempts. Expect Sooners DE Jeremy Beal to be all over Collaros as Cincinnati cannot afford to double-team him. this could be Beal's best collegiate game. There will be openings though against the secondary if Collaros can find them.

On special teams, Oklahoma has an interesting situation at kicker as Jimmy Stevens has proven himself by starting 2-2 while Patrick O'Hara is 3-4 thus far. Punter Tress Way is averaging nearly 50 yards per punt, which will likely not be crucial in the expected shootout. Cincinnati has a huge question mark in the kicking game as Jacob Rogers has been perfect on extra points but only 1 of 3 in the field goal department. To be fair, those field goal attempts have all been 48-52 yards and not easy kicks. The return game favors Oklahoma with Demarco Murray getting more touches unless Cincinnati kicks away from him. Expect Oklahoma to win the field position battle, but that may not be so important with both teams freely moving the ball. If the game comes down to special teams, Oklahoma is the favorite. As for coaches and intangibles, the Bearcats are cornered and coach Butch Jones is looking for his chance to turn it around. Bob Stoops is not great on the road, but he has a team good enough to compete for a national title this year if they can hold it together this week. Also note that Oklahoma may be caught looking ahead to Texas, which would be a huge mistake as Cincinnati still has enough talent to pull this upset, especially in Ohio.

Last year's college football game at Paul Brown Stadium was a total blowout as Kentucky dominated Miami of Ohio, but this year's version has a lot more spice with Oklahoma in the mix for a national title and Cincinnati looking to get back on track before trying to defend a two-time conference crown. In the first half, I expect Cincinnati to fall behind early, but continue to fight deep into the third quarter before falling 3 scores behind late. One or two turnovers by Jones or Murray could keep Cincinnati's fans in it, but remember that this game is not at Nippert stadium and will have a little more of a neutral feel, even being in Cincinnati Ohio. This one looks too tough for the Bearcats, but expect some improvement from their losses against Fresno State and NC State.

The Pick - Oklahoma 51, Cincinnati 28

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