An interesting week of games for the Big East, as we get deeper into the season. A few statement matchups mixed in with must-wins should keep the entertainment level up. Can a true statement be made by WVU beating LSU? Or is it the same old story for the besieged conference? To the picks…
Last Week: 6-1
Bye Week: Louisville
Connecticut at Buffalo: Normally this would be a walk in the park for a Big East team, but who knows with this Husky team? UConn has blown two fourth quarter leads in successive weeks, and now stand under .500. The offense still can't finish drives, and the defense is struggling to come up with a big play. Fortunately, the Huskies take on a team with similar issues. Like UConn, Buffalo is still looking for a win over an FBS opponent. The Bulls have been competitive at times, but mistakes continue to derail them. Buffalo's defense has actually played pretty well, and may make it difficult for the Huskies to move the ball, especially if the Bulls stack the box. Look for a closer-than expected game. UConn is going to have to step-up and work for this win, which will happen. The Huskies rushing attack will wear that defense down late.
Prediction: 31-21 Connecticut
Ohio at Rutgers: The Knights come off a bye week searching for consistency on offense. The Jersey boys should be 2-0, but couldn't do anything with many opportunities handed to them by UNC. Balance has been an issue, so look for Rutgers to try to establish it early against a tough Ohio team. The Bobcats come in undefeated, and have one of the best rushing attacks in the nation three weeks in. The Knights will have to stack the box as much as possible, and see if Terry Tettleton can beat them through the air. The Knights' defense has been opportunistic this season so don't be surprised if Greg Schiano has them play aggressively. If the defense does create opportunities for the offense, Chas Dodd better play better. He's going to be going up against a pretty good defense and needs to prove he can play at this level. Look for Rutgers to try to use the talented wideouts as much as possible, even at the QB position if need be. A close game will go Rutgers way late, forcing a big turnover and converting it.
Prediction: 24-20 Rutgers
UTEP at (17) South Florida: The Bulls just continue to roll through the schedule, and it should continue this Saturday. South Florida faces a schizophrenic UTEP team that may be in for a long night. The Miners offense is stagnant, only averaging 21 points a game. Meanwhile, the defense is coming off a good week, but also allowed 24 points to Stony Brook. Look for B.J. Daniels to attack early, and just gain confidence throughout the entire game. The two-headed running attack of Darrell Scott and Demetrius Murray will keep the Miners' defense guess all night as well. When the dust settles, the Bulls will be 4-0, and ready to move in to the Top-15.
Prediction: 41-17 South Florida
Notre Dame at Pittsburgh: Todd Graham is not off to the start he expected. His pass defense is second to last in the nation, and his quarterback has no confidence. Not a good combination going into Notre Dame week. Yes, the Irish are only 1-2, but seem to be in much better shape than the Panthers. Look for Notre Dame to blitz all night long. Tino Sunseri isn't going to feel comfortable. Pitt will need Ray Graham to find daylight, and a lot of it. The speedy running back will be Pitt's only chance to keep the Panthers close. However, it may not matter. If Tommy Rees has time to throw, he will be find open receivers all day long. The Panther's secondary is just in shambles at this point. Look for Brian Kelly to spread his team out and throw it all over the lot. Pitt may keep it close, because Notre Dame is good for three turnovers, but unless the defense wakes up the Irish will pull away late.
Prediction: 34-23 Notre Dame
Toledo at Syracuse: The Orange come back home to a pretty solid opponent. The Toledo Rockets have played well this season, and are looking to get back to winning ways following tough losses to Ohio State and Boise State. Syracuse better not take it lightly or it could be a long night in the dome. The Orange need to find a ground game to help win the possession battle. At the very least the receivers need to hold on to the ball on third down. Toledo can give up big chunks of yards, so look for Ryan Nassib to be looking down the field early. It will be much easier if the Orange can set up the play-action. The Rockets balanced attack could disrupt any sort of rhythm Syracuse may get on offense, so it will be very important for the defense to create havoc. The Orange are a better football team, but this game will simply come down to execution. Syracuse will win if they play smart, mistake-free football.
Prediction: 29-24 Syracuse
NC State at Cincinnati: This is a must win for the Bearcats. A Thursday night showcase game against the conference that continues to take apart the Big East. More importantly, Cincinnati needs to prove to themselves that they can beat a legit team. There’s no doubt the ‘Cats can score, but can the defense stop a pretty good NC State offense? Cincinnati needs to play aggressively, back to the opportunistic style that worked well under Brian Kelly. The Wolfpack have been better offensively than some may have though after losing Russell Wilson. Mike Glennon has been efficient, and should have success tonight. This will be another close game, and may end up a track meet. The ‘Pack will struggle to slow the balanced Cincy attack. Look for the Bearcats’ defense to make a big play or two in the second half to help differentiate the two. Take the over.
Prediction: 38-31 Cincinnati
Game of the Week: (2) LSU at (16) West Virginia: Three touchdowns. If the Mountaineers can score three touchdowns, then it may be a wild Saturday night. The Tigers’ offense will use ball control and the stellar defense will limit the high-flying Dana Holgorsen attack. So, will the Mountaineers have enough to pull off the upset? Let’s just say on Sunday morning Geno Smith will be a household name. Full preview tomorrow.
Prediction: 24-21 West Virginia