Conference play opens up for the first time this year for the Big East. It's highlighted by another big Thursday night game that could push South Florida even closer to the Top-10. Or can Pittsburgh finally get their season rolling? On to the picks...
Last Week: 6-1
Bye Week: None
Marshall at Louisville: The Cardinals are coming off a bye, with a whole lot of confidence. Louisville handled some adveristy in the last game, and took down not-so mighty rival, Kentucky. Young quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater played solidly after starter Will Stein went down. Stein may be out again this week, so look for Bridgewater and the running game to attack the Herd as much as possible. Marshall has been completely run over the last few weeks, so the Cards should have success. If the Herd stack the box, look for Bridgewater (or Stein) to go down the field. DeVante Parker and the boys should be able to beat Marhsall's secondary at will. Louisville has struggled to finish drives this season, but this is the kind of game that could change that. Dominique Brown being under center at times could also be another factor in finding more consistency in the redzone. It might stay close early, but the Herd just aren't scary enough to hang around.
Prediction: 29-13 Louisville
Cincinnati at Miami(OH): The Bearcats go on the road to take on a MAC opponent. It's been a strange year so far for Miami. Three games that could have gone either way have them as a scary 0-3 team. Have the Redhawks faced an offense like Cincinnati? Yes and no. They did play Missouri in week 1 and held them to 17 points. However, it was the first game of the year, when teams tend to be susceptible. The Bearcats' offense is clicking on all cylinders, and is coming off a dismantling of NC State. Cincinnati is now 4th in the nation in scoring, and shouldn't have too much trouble moving the ball this weekend. The only thing that could slow down the train is mistakes. The Redhawks will have to play opportunistic, which certainly could backfire...and probably will. This is just a solid matchup for Cincy. Expect another comfortable.
Prediction: 38-17 Cincinnati
Bowling Green at West Virginia: The Mountaineers fought LSU hard last week, but turnovers and tackling would be their downfall. WVU now faces a solid offensive team in Bowling Green, and better be ready defensively. Geno Smith and company should be able to move the ball on the Falcons, and look for the rushing attack to have their first big game. But can Bowling Green keep it close? Probably early on, but too much Geno will seperate the two in the second half. Full preview coming tomorrow.
Prediction: 49-24 West Virginia
Western Michigan at Connecticut: The Huskies better be ready, and better be disciplined this weekend. The Broncos are certainly no pushover, and nearly took down an undefeated Illinois last week. The Huskies struggled to score against Buffalo. So, it's no surprise that UConn is only a 3-point favorite. Connecticut's defense will make it difficult for WMU to move the ball. UConn has done well staying in games due limiting opposing teams opportunities. The Husky defense is ranked 13th in points against. Meanwhile, the Broncos have had their own struggles offensively, especially holding onto the football. Look for UConn to play an aggressive style to try and force mistakes. This will probably be the Huskies' saving grace. Until the offense gets more consistent play, primarily at the quarterback position, UConn has rely on the solid defense. This one will be close all day, with the Huskies holding on late.
Prediction: 17-14 Connecticut
Rutgers at Syracuse: I honestly have no idea what to make of Syracuse. The Orange have played four games, and practically underachieved in all of them. However, a 3-1 record is solid. Sure, two of those games were won in overtime, and the other was a tight game against Rhode Island, but the team is winning. Meanwhile, Rutgers is coming off a nice win over Ohio, and continue to get good play from Chas Dodd, and his dynamic receivers. The Knights should have success moving the ball against the banged up defense of Syracuse. However, the Orange have done a pretty good job in the redzone, so Dodd will have to be more patient than he has been in those tight situations. Rutgers has struggled to run the ball so Syracuse can be more cognizant of the pass throughout. However, the same goes on the other side of the ball. Rutgers can key on the pass until Syracuse can prove they can pound the rock. And, with a few injuries to deal with this week don't expect the Orange to bust out Saturday. So, does this game come down to Dodd v Ryan Nassib? Possibly. Both have performed well, limiting the big mistakes. Expect Nassib to play a bit better, considering he'll have the home field advantage, and already has a step on maturity. Should be a fun game to watch, back and forth all the way. A few big plays for the Orange in the second half will be the difference in this one.
Prediction: 31-27 Syracuse
Game of the Week: (16) South Florida at Pittsburgh: The Bulls have just been killing people since beating Notre Dame. The Panthers have lost two straight, including one to Notre Dame. Though, Pitt did look better...kind of. While the defensee kept the Panthers in the game, Todd Graham's offense continues to struggle to get off the ground. As talented as Ray Graham is, the running back is starting to dance a little too much. Meanwhile, Tino Sunseri continues to look timid behind the center, and needs a breakout game to get going. Will it happen tonight? Maybe. The Bulls' defense hasn't been lockdown, but haven't had to be. With giant leads in the majority of their games, USF has essentially breezed through second halves. The Bulls will certainly stack the box and make Sunseri prove he is a threat. A quarterback who hasn't struggled with complacency is B.J. Daniels. The junior is having an outstanding start to the season, with nine total touchdowns and only one INT. The running game has been solid too, with Darrell Scott averaging nearly seven yards a carry. Look for the balanced attack to just be too much for the Panthers' defense. It's a Thursday night game in Pittsburgh, which could help, but if Sunseri doesn't have a dynamic game it's hard to see the Panthers winning this game.
Prediction: 27-17 USF