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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 10:10 AM

The short 2011 season has been one of extremes so far for the Cincinnati Bearcats as they prepare to host North Carolina State Thursday Night on ESPN. They’ve won two monster blowouts…but they’ve also been badly outclassed by what might turn out to be a mediocre SEC team.

Cincinnati beat Austin Peay 72-10
Cincinnati (-34) beat Akron 59-14

Cincinnati (+4) lost at Tennessee 45-23

The Bearcats showed virtually no defense in the loss at Knoxville. Tennessee didn’t just score 45 points. They gained 531 total yards. They went 10 of 13 on third downs. Tyler Bray passed for over 400 yards. The team you watched struggle at Florida this past Saturday just ran roughshod over Cincinnati.

Yet, when stepping down in class, Cincinnati became the bully…beating lesser lights by a combined score of 131-24.

Oddsmakers haven’t been close yet. They missed the loss at Tennessee by 18 points in one direction. They missed the win over Akron by 11 points in the other direction. That’s two double digit misses. The “outlaw” line vs. Austin Peay was in the low 40’s. Cincinnati won by 62.

What’s happened so far is a continuation of last year. In fact, the driving storyline of the 2010 season was that oddsmakers could never figure out what was going to happen in Cincinnati games! When you step back and look from a distance, it’s clear though that this “bully or be bullied” theme is the key to pay attention to.

Cincinnati (-19) beat Miami of Ohio 45-3
Cincinnati (-11) beat Rutgers 69-38

Vegas oddsmakers missed by 13 and 20 points in games Cincinnati was expected to dominate. The Bearcats were bullies and ran up the score. (Note that a non-board game against Indiana State ended 40-7)

Cincinnati (+2.5) lost at Fresno State 28-14 (missed by 11.5 points)
Cincinnati (+2) lost at NC State 30-19 (missed by 9 points)
Cincinnati (+14) covered in a 31-29 loss to Oklahoma (missed by 12 points)
Cincinnati (-2.5) covered in a 35-27 win at Louisville
Cincinnati (-9) lost to South Florida 38-30 (missed by 17 points)
Cincinnati (-6) lost to Syracuse 31-7 (missed by 30 points)
Cincinnati (+5) lost at West Virginia 37-10 (missed by 22 points)
Cincinnati (+2) lost at Connecticut 38-17 (missed by 19 points)
Cincinnati (+1) lost to Pittsburgh 28-10 (missed by 17 points)

Yes, the near-upset vs. Oklahoma as at least a good showing for Cincinnati (if not oddsmakers). But, look at the debacle that happened after the win at Louisville! Cincinnati was virtually non-competitive in “challenge” games that they were expected to either win or at least make it close.

*There are three embarrassing home losses on that list, to South Florida, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh.

*In non-conference games rated as virtual coin flips against Fresno State and NC State, Cincinnati lost by a combined 58-33 score.

*In Big East games rated as virtual coin flips against UCONN and Pitt, the Bearcats lost by a combined 66-27 score…struggling badly on both sides of the ball to teams who weren’t particularly potent on offense.

*Outside of the three “bully” wins over Rutgers, Miami of Ohio, and Indiana State, Cincinnati was 1-8 straight up.

*The market had projected a 6-6 season for Cincinnati, with four of the projected “losses” in the “too close to call” range of less than a field goal. Cincinnati only managed a 4-8 mark and failed to qualify for a bowl.

However you slice it, we’re talking about a full season of oddsmaker misreads about the Cincinnati program. They didn’t know when they’d play well. They didn’t know when they’d play poorly. They didn’t realize how good the best games would be. They didn’t realize how NON-EXISTENT the team would be against the likes of Syracuse, Connecticut, West Virginia, and Pittsburgh.

The most simple, and most reasonable interpretation of the results is that Cincinnati has the type of team that will blow and go against teams that can’t stop them…but will self-destruct and give up against anyone who stands eyeball to eyeball with them and doesn’t blink.

Under Brian Kelly, the great games were more plentiful, and the turnover implosions less common (note that Kelly took that approach with him to Notre Dame!). With Butch Jones in charge, things have trended in the other direction. Fewer blowout wins, more embarrassing losses. Results so far in 2011 are in line with what happened in 2010. Cincinnati looked great vs. Austin Peay and Akron. They looked awful at Tennessee.

So, if you’re trying to handicap Thursday’s TV game, your job is to classify the 2011 North Carolina State team. Are they as good as the Big East teams last year who embarrassed Cincinnati? Are they as good as 2011 Tennessee? Or, are have they fallen so far that they’re more like the Louisville or Rutgers teams that fell to Cincinnati last year (there’s no way NC State has fallen so far as to be linked with Akron!).

This task isn’t as easy as it sounds. Last year’s NC State team would be an automatic take. Heck, they showed up on the list with a 30-19 win! This year’s team is harder to read.

*NC State only returns four offensive starters from last year, and is breaking in a new quarterback.

*NC State played two non-board games in their first three games this season, beating Liberty and South Alabama. They weren’t particularly impressive in either game. They didn’t cover the “outlaw” line in either of those non-board games. Look at the total yardage marks from those games:

Liberty 407, NC State 318
South Alabama 286, NC State 392

Total: Opponents 693, NC state 710

The Wolfpack was only 17 yards better than the composite of Liberty and South Alabama!

*NC State lost its only board game, falling 34-27 at Wake Forest as a 1-point favorite. Wake Forest was picked to be the worst ACC team this year before the season started. NC State lost yardage in this game 438-424….and that’s with a garbage time rally that brought them back from a 34-13 deficit.

Because of personnel changes, NC State might be the worst team in the ACC right now. Forget the Preseason estimates that had them as a top 35 team. You know…ESPN isn’t going to bill the game this way…but we’re talking about a bad Big East team hosting a bad ACC team!

Oddsmakers currently have Cincinnati favored by 7.5 points. That’s not at -10 or higher, meaning the thresholds from last year would suggest you should play the underdog. But, given that the market is having trouble with BOTH of these teams right now…it’s far from a sure thing that minus 7.5 is right. Maybe NC State is so bad that this line SHOULD be -10…and Cincinnati becomes a bully who runs up the score.

As we’ve told you often over the years…when there’s confusion in the marketplace…a window of opportunity exists for you to step in and grab some cash. Vegas its literally crossing its fingers hoping they don’t get hurt in this Thursday Night game. JIM HURLEY, thanks to his scouts, his sources, his stat handicappers, his computer programmers, and his Wise Guy connections…is ready to do just that. If you can’t figure out who to take here…LINK UP WITH JIM HURLEY RIGHT NOW HERE AT THE WEBSITE.

Thursday’s big play is going to kick off a MONSTER weekend that will feature our COLLEGE GAME OF THE MONTH for September on Saturday. Among the possibilities:

Arkansas at Alabama on CBS
LSU at West Virginia on ABC
Notre Dame at Pittsburgh on ABC
Florida State at Clemson on ESPN
Oklahoma State at Texas A&M on ABC
Missouri at Oklahoma on FX
Oregon at Arizona on ESPN2

Build your bankroll tonight with NC State/Cincinnati and Friday Night with Central Florida/BYU…then really hit the colleges hard this Saturday. If you have any questions about offers this week, or for the full season, call our office at 1-800-323-4453.

Oddsmakers are struggling with tonight’s teams…and are off to a bad start already this season given all the big play winners you’ve been reading about. What are you doing sitting on the sidelines? GET IN THE GAME!

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