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Cincinnati vs. Fresno State Preview, Prediction, Pick Against the Spread

Posted by in College Football Picks on August 16th, 2010 | Comment »
Zach Collaros

QB Zach Collaros can get it done in the air or on the ground. He's the real deal.

When I saw the line open at Cincinnati -1.5, my eyes opened up and I was in a state of disbelief. Something has to be up because this football spread is just too favorable if my first impression serves me correct. Sure, Cincinnati lost their head coach Brian Kelly to Notre Dame and they don’t have QB Tony Pike this season either (29 TDs last season in just 8 starts), but did the oddsmakers forget that Fresno State lost the nation’s best running back RB Ryan Matthews (1808 yards, 19 TDs) and play in the WAC?

Cincinnati has a more than capable quarterback in QB Zach Collaros (1436 passing yards, 344 rushing yards, 10 passing TDs, 4 rushing TDs in 4 starts), who filled in for the injured Tony Pike last season. I am enamored with this kid. In Collaros’s five games after Pike’s injury (he had 132 rushing yards in his debut once Pike went down vs. USF), he averaged 65 rushing yards per game. Collaros helped lead the Bearcats to a 12-0 regular season by going 4-0 as their starter and beating quality teams such as Connecticut and West Virginia. He threw for 4 TDs against Syracuse and racked up 480 passing yards, 75 rushing yards, and 3 TDs against Connecticut. Collaros won over Bearcats fans and there were many who wanted him to remain the starting QB for the rest of the season.

Collaros also has a ton of weapons to work with again this season as the offense returns 8 starters including returning RB Isaiah Pead (806 rushing yards, 201 receiving yards, 11 TDs), WR Armon Binns (61 receptions, 888 yards, 11 TDs), WR DJ Woods (51 receptions, 640 yards, 4 TDs), and USC transfer WR Vidal Hazelton (57 receptions, 586 yards, 4 TDs). Collaros has weapons all around him and you can expect another high-scoring Cincinnati team again this year. Cincinnati averaged 39 PPG last season and I don’t expect that average to be significantly lower this season. Cincinnati was ranked 8th in passing last year with 308 yards per game and with a talent like WR Armon Binns, who Rivals.com is calling to have a breakout year, Cincy should easily remain in the top 25 in passing.

If Cincy has a problem, it’s their defense. It seems like Cincy won every single game last season by a point or two in shootouts. ┬áSuch wins include 47-45 over Connecticut, 24-21 over WVU, and 45-44 over Pittsburgh in 3 of their last 4 contests of the regular season. On defense, Cincinnati will be returning 5 starters. Without Matthews, I’m not too worried about Fresno’s offense, so Cincy’s poor D shouldn’t be an overwhelming concern this game.

Fresno State has QB Ryan Colburn (2459 yards, 19 TDs, 11 INTs) returning, but with the loss of RB Ryan Matthews, as well as backup rushers Lonyae Miller and Anthony Harding, they’ll be hurting. Fresno also lost their top wideout WR Seyi Ajirotutu (49 receptions, 677 yards, 7 TDs; undrafted free agent by San Diego). An 8-5 record (7-5 ATS) with one of the nation’s best running backs doesn’t impress me much either. Fresno certainly won’t be ranked 8th in the nation in rushing this season and being ranked 6th in the WAC in passing won’t get the job done this season without a solid run game. Don’t discount Fresno’s offense too much though, RB Robbie Rouse (82 carries for 479 yds, 4 TDs, 5.8 YPC) and WR Jamel Hamler (503 yards, 5 TDs) should produce enough offense to be competitive in this game. Although Rouse is talented undersized back at 185 pounds, Fresno has sophomore RB Michael Harris to help carry the load. Fresno will also benefit from having their entire offensive line return this season. On defense, the return of 9 starters should also benefit Fresno State.

Sure, Fresno has proven they can beat the likes of New Mexico State, Utah State, and Idaho — big deal! They lost to Wyoming in the New Mexico Bowl! They don’t have a single win that truly impresses me. They were waxed by Boise State 51-34 last season and they also played Cincinnati last year in week 4 and lost 28-20. However, Fresno was a +9 underdog in that game and they covered.

I’ll agree, Cincinnati won’t be the same team as last year, but they’re returning a lot of their offensive playmakers. Additionally, Fresno’s defense should only improve on last year. Fresno struggled against the run and with a Cincy QB who can run along with a talented RB in Isaiah Pead, Fresno’s D may be in trouble. However, it’s also going to be tough for Cincinnati to make the long trip out west and win this one with a new head coach. With that said, I don’t see how you cannot favor Cincinnati in this one. I’m not going to let the coaching change spook me. The bottom line is that Cincinnati has a much more potent offense and I expect them to come out on top in this game.

In Sporting News’s preseason rankings, Cincinnati was ranked No. 41 while Fresno State was ranked No. 81. Several other preseason polls have Cincinnati in the top 25. Fresno as 1-point favorites? I don’t think so.

Prediction: Cincinnati 27 – Fresno State 20

Pick Against the Spread: Cincinnati -1.5 (Confidence: 3/5)

Notes: With the loss of Cincy’s coach and being on the road, I had to scale my confidence back in this pick, which I was tempted to make a 4/5 pick (worthy of a nice bet), especially after talking to Brandon, whose first impression was with Fresno. Although Fresno’s D may have improved, I just don’t think they can muster enough offense to compete with a Cincinnati team that is deep at receiver, has their top running back from last year, and has a proven QB in Zach Collaros taking over for Tony Pike. I’ll take Cincinnati, but you may want to hear from Brandon, who favors Fresno, before taking this bet.

Who do you think will cover Cincinnati (-1.5) @ Fresno State

  • Cincinnati (65%, 95 Votes)
  • Fresno State (35%, 52 Votes)

Total Voters: 147

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Zach Collaros Highlights vs. UCONN (555 Total Yards, 3 TDs)

Skip to the 1:00 mark in the video.

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