Pittsburgh at Cincinnati: 3 things to watch

The Paul Chryst era at Pittsburgh did not get off to a strong start last weekend as the Panthers fell to FCS foe Youngstown State in their season opener.

On Thursday night, Pitt travels to Cincinnati to open up Big East play desperately trying to avoid falling to 0-2. Meanwhile, Butch Jones and the Bearcats will be opening up their season at Nippert Stadium after having a bye in Week 1.

Let's take a look at three things to watch in the clash between the Panthers and the Bearcats on Thursday evening.

1. Have a short memory: Chryst needs to make sure his team has completely forgotten about the loss to Youngstown State in Week 1 and the fact that the team is 0-1. With conference play kicking off, the Panthers need to realize that they can still net a BCS berth as league champion. And as we have seen in recent years in the Big East, any team can win any game in any week. The Bearcats have defeated Pitt in close contests in three of the past four seasons. And it should be another close game again as both teams look to determine their identities early in the season.

Munchie LegauxUS PRESSWIREMunchie Legaux is ready to be Cincinnati's starting QB for a full season.

2. Sunseri vs. Legaux: Tino Sunseri didn't look bad in his first game in Chryst's pro-style scheme, throwing for 239 yards and a touchdown without an interception on 19 of 30 passing, but the Panthers were devoid of big plays in the opener. With a game under its belt, Pitt will be looking to be more sharp despite playing on a short week. The Bearcats made a big jump defensively last season after a disastrous 2010. Can that improvement continue? Meanwhile, Munchie Legaux is the new starting quarterback with the departure of Zach Collaros after he beat out Brendon Kay for the job. He'll need his backfield to help his cause, though, after the offense lost star Isaiah Pead to the NFL. Senior George Winn will get the first crack at the starting job after his strong performance in last year's Liberty Bowl. He was the primary backup last season, but prized recruit Jameel Poteat, who is now in his second season, will push for carries. Anthony McClung led the team in receptions, yards and touchdowns last season, so he and Kenbrell Thompkins are the top weapons in the passing game. After making five starts last season, Legaux understands this offense well and should be primed for a very good season.

3. The Pitt defense: The Panthers were nothing short of awful defensively in their opening loss. Eight different players made their first start, but junior defensive tackle Tyrone Ezell and senior defensive end Shayne Hale should be back Thursday night after both served suspensions and missed the Week 1 contest. But can the Panthers get pressure on Legaux after their 25-game streak with at least one sack was snapped last week? Preseason All-Big East defensive tackle Aaron Donald will need to have a big game, especially against a run offense that may still be strong even without Pead.

Email dave.miller@nationalfootballpost.com or follow me on Twitter at Miller_Dave

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