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N.C. State at Cincinnati

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N.C. State at Cincinnati (-7)
Thursday, Sept. 22
8:00 pm ET
ESPN
Over-Under 60

Nice rebound win last Thursday night as I correctly predicted that the LSU defense would simply be too much for Mississippi State to handle. And ultimately that was the story in this game as the Bayou Bengals smothered the Bulldogs and won 19-6, easily covering the three point spread.

Speaking of Week 3 Thursday night college football games, it was during Week 3 in 2010 that Cincinnati paid a visit to Raleigh to face North Carolina State on a Thursday night – the first time ever that these two programs had met. In that game, Wolfpack quarterabck Russell Wilson threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns to propel NC State to a pretty easy 30-19 victory, giving the program its first 3-0 start since 2002.

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Bearcats coach Butch Jones, in his first year at Cincinnati following Brian Kelly’s departure for Notre Dame, said of his team that night: "It's inexcusable, our players have got to play better, our coaches have got to coach better, everything in our program."

A year later, with Cincinnati and NC State both sitting at 2-1 and preparing to face each other this Thursday night, it’s interesting to note how much has changed in the year since these two programs first played.

For starters, Cincinnati is playing better. So far the Bearcats are 2-1 and while the victories haven’t been against the toughest opponents (Austin Peay & Akron), the average margin of victory has been over 53 points showing that Cincy is starting to get in a rhythm under Coach Jones and his new system. The lone loss for Cincinnati is certainly excusable considering it came at Neyland Stadium, home of the University of Tennessee.

Looking specifically at the progress made in the past year under Jones and his new schemes, the Bearcats offense has been clicking with QB Zach Collaros at the helm. The redshirt senior is the Big East's top returning passer and has weapons such as WR D.J. Woods and RB Isaiah Pead to give Cincy some of that dangerous offense that they were known for under Kelly.

Coach Tom O’Brien certainly knows what it’s like to have a dangerous QB under center – the only problem is that Russell Wilson is now taking snaps for the Wisconsin Badgers. O’Brien released the former Atlantic Coast Conference rookie of the year and all-league quarterback from his scholarship after he again skipped spring practice to play minor league baseball. It was a tough decision for O’Brien to make considering Wilson led the Wolfpack to a 9-4 finish and a bowl in 2010.

So now the Mike Glennon era has arrived at N.C. State. The brother of former Virginia Tech QB Sean Glennon, the redshirt senior won’t ever be mistaken for Wilson but so far has managed to play fairly mistake free football for O’Brien with eight touchdowns against only one interception. Glennon has a nice support system with WRs T.J. Graham and Tobias Palmer and a pair of talented running backs James Washington and Curtis Underwood.

Like Cincinnati, N.C. State has a pair of relatively easy wins against weak opponents in Liberty and South Alabama to go along with a loss to Wake Forest.

N.C. State returns five starters on offense and eight on defense and thus far in 2011 is 0-1 against the spread. The Bearcats also return five starters on offense while bringing back 10 on defense. Cincinnati is currently 1-1 against the spread.

  
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