Your weeknight amuse-bouches, with a capital “AMUSE,” amirite, TOB?
• Hampton @ Bethune-Cookman, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPNU): The Thursday-night HBCU series continues with a MEAC date in Daytona Beach. Hampton currently holds claim to a share of the top slot in the conference standings, sharing a 1-0 in-league and 2-1 overall record with Norfolk State. Bethune-Cookman has already lost one conference game, and maintains a 1-1 overall record. The Pirates are coming off a close loss to Old Dominion last Saturday, 45-42, and though they look like the stronger team on paper, they’ll be operating on a short week against a Wildcats squad that’s had a bye week to prepare for their arrival.
• North Carolina State @ Cincinnati, 8:00 p.m. ET (ESPN): Thursday night marks the return game of a home-and-home series that last year saw the Wolfpack top the Bearcats, 30-19. State and Cincy have shared similar trajectories thus far in 2011: The ‘Pack trounced Liberty and South Alabama, but lost to Wake Forest by a touchdown, while the Bearcats blew by two wildly overmatched opponents in Austin Peay and Akron but got torched at Tennessee.
It’d be nice to say we’ve got a quarterbacks duel in the making tonight, but we’ll have to see whether State brought enough weapons to hold up its end. Mike Glennon has performed adequately in the Russell Wilson void, but look at the schedule so far and remember where most of his numbers are coming from. He’ll need help, both from his line and his receivers, to keep pace with Zach Collaros tonight. Cincinnati’s pass defense looked indifferent in Knoxville, so perhaps it’ll be in a giving mood, but protection is a real concern: Each of the ‘Pack’s FCS opponents sacked Glennon four times.
While the Bearcats’ defense may be suspect, their offense has options. Collaros is an able air show performer (although remember that he, too, has seen little to challenge him so far this season), and if interception-happy NCSU defensive back David Amerson gets too troublesome, Cincy can easily bring the game to the ground: Isaiah Pead, who’s amassed 257 rushing yards in three games, is edging dangerously close to 10 yards per carry. The Bearcats are favored by a touchdown in this game, and it’s going to be Pead who gives them the edge.
Stat of the night: Both teams’ turnover margins rank in the top 10 nationally, with Cincinnati No. 1 and NC State No. 8.
Time-waster of the afternoon: Amuse yourselves until kickoff with the #notoriousTOB Twitter hashtag, a celebration of the action-packed thrill ride that is NC State football under Tom O’Brien.