2010 Big East Fearless Picks - Sept. 18
West Virginia QB Geno Smith
West Virginia QB Geno Smith
Posted Sep 16, 2010

Fearless Predictions for every Big East game, Sept. 18

2010 Big East Fearless Predictions

Week 3 ... Sept. 18 Games

Big East 
Cincinnati | Connecticut | Louisville | Pittsburgh | Rutgers
South Florida | Syracuse | West Virginia

Big East Fearless Predictions 
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Cincinnati (1-1) at NC State (2-0) Sept. 16, 7:30 ET, ESPN

Here's The Deal … In front of a national TV audience, Cincinnati and NC State meet for the first time. For both, this could be the kind of crossroads game that catapults the winner and derails the loser. The Wolfpack and coach Tom O'Brien, in particular, need a breakthrough moment to offset the past few seasons of mediocrity. Beating Western Carolina and UCF did little to alter the program's reputation as a fast starter that beefs up on weaker competition. The Bearcats are still feeling their way through the Butch Jones era, waking up after a slow start to jet past Indiana State and even the record. In order to have any hope for a third straight Big East championship, Cincy needs to show it's evolved from the Week 1 loss to Fresno State that raised all kinds of issues about its 2010 potential.
Why Cincinnati Might Win: No, the offensive engine hasn't started to hum on a consistent basis, but the ingredients are there for a potent attack. QB Zach Collaros has a quick trigger and an accurate arm, distributing the ball to Armon Binns, DJ Woods, and TE Ben Guidugli. While RB Isaiah Pead should be back from injury, reserves Darrin Williams and John Goebel played well in his place, averaging almost nine yards a carry. The Pack defense has had problems ever since O'Brien arrived, especially when it comes to stopping the pass. Neither the Catamounts nor the Knights provided much of a test for this group.
Why NC State Might Win: While QB Russell Wilson had an off day in Orlando, don't expect it to become a trend. He's just too good to play poorly in consecutive weeks. It helps that he has so many playmakers on the receiving end of his passes, including Owen Spencer, Jarvis Williams, T.J. Graham, and TE George Bryan. The last time Cincinnati played a quality opponent, Fresno State's Ryan Colburn carved it up for four touchdown passes. The Bulldogs also had eight sacks, exposing gaping holes in the Bearcat O-line.
What To Watch Out For: Cincinnati's issues up front could be exacerbated by an NC State defense that's attacking far more under the guidance of assistant Jon Tenuta. One of the biggest beneficiaries has been LB Audie Cole, who's being used liberally on outside blitzes. In the win over UCF, he was in on 12 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, a sack, and a pick, which won't be lost on the Bearcat staff when it checks out film this week.
What Will Happen: Which offense is going to break through after experiencing some power outages in the early stages of the season? Cincinnati has the potential, but NC State has the closer thing to a sure-thing, Wilson. He'll relish a rare opportunity to play in front of a large national audience, carrying the Pack to one of its most meaningful wins in the O'Brien era.
CFN Prediction: NC State 26 … Cincinnati 21 … Line: NC State -2
Must See Rating: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – 5 … The Event - 1 … 3
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Maryland (2-0) at West Virginia (2-0) Sept. 18, 12:00 ET, ESPNU

Here's The Deal … Maryland and West Virginia appear to have swapped personalities entering this week's pivotal showdown in Morgantown. It's the Terps who are confident and the Mountaineers shaky after the first two weekends of the season. Who'd have figured? No, Maryland hasn't quite gone big-game hunting, but by stuffing Navy and destroying Morgan State, 62-3, the program is brimming with unexpected confidence. A win on the road would legitimize the Terps' fast start. West Virginia, on the other hand, has not impressed in its wins over Coastal Carolina and Marshall. In fact, in Friday's comeback defeat of the Herd, the Mountaineers were outplayed and were fortunate to get out of Huntington without an embarrassing defeat. This team needs to put forth a complete, 60-minute effort for the first time this month.
Why Maryland Might Win: The Terrapin offense has far more options than it did a year ago, which could cause problems for West Virginia. While Da'Rel Scott and Davin Meggett remain the staples in the running game, QB Jamarr Robinson has also sparked the attack with his athleticism and quick feet. And backup QB Danny O'Brien, who threw three touchdown passes last Saturday, will also be inserted on occasion to maximize the skills of receivers Torrey Smith and Adrian Cannon. The Alex Wujciak-led defense has been terrific so far, allowing some yards, but no touchdowns in the last five quarters.
Why West Virginia Might Win: While the Mountaineers' biggest weakness in Huntington was pass defense, Maryland is less likely to exploit it with a run-heavy system. Creating holes on a tough West Virginia front seven is never easy, especially for a questionable Terp O-line. Navy and Morgan State didn't present anywhere near the speed and quickness problems that RB Noel Devine and receivers Jock Sanders and Tavon Austin do. For the first time, the Maryland front will have to prove it against a big and physical Mountaineer offensive line.
What To Watch Out For: West Virginia QB Geno Smith is growing up in front of everyone's eyes. It was the sophomore who was most responsible for Friday's 15-point comeback in the fourth quarter, tossing the touchdown and tying conversion with seconds left to send the game into overtime. It could have marked the turning point in a career flush with so much upside potential.
What Will Happen: Identities will be forged following this week's game at Milan-Puskar Stadium. Both defenses are going to play well enough to ensure that neither team is able to run away and hide. West Virginia will eventually pull away in the second half, riding its edge in the passing game and in the trenches to a hard-fought victory over a feisty visitor.
CFN Prediction: West Virginia 28 … Maryland 20 … Line: West Virginia -10.5
Must See Rating: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – 5 … The Event - 1 … 3
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Connecticut (1-1) at Temple (2-0) Sept. 18, 12:00 ET, ESPN3.com

Here's The Deal … Connecticut and Temple have started forging a pretty interesting little rivalry, with regional appeal on the East Coast. The last two meetings were decided by less than a touchdown, and the gap between the schools has narrowed in recent years. The Owls come in battle-tested, having narrowly beaten Villanova and Central Michigan on Brandon McManus field goals with three seconds left and in overtime, respectively. In the big picture, this might also serve as an audition for a program being considered for a return invite to the Big East. The Huskies rebounded from their opening day flop in Ann Arbor to easily dispose of Texas Southern, 62-3. Does that mean that Connecticut has made the necessary adjustments from the Michigan game? We'll have a much better idea after this weekend's trip to Philadelphia.
Why Connecticut Might Win: The Huskies got the running game back on the tracks in East Hartford, unleashing Jordan Todman, Robbie Frey, and USC transfer D.J. Shoemate. Although Temple won't be so easily moved off the ball, the Connecticut line is still capable of putting QB Zach Frazer in manageable situations on second and third down. The Owl offense is really struggling, a situation complicated by a hand injury to RB Bernard Pierce. When not facing Denard Robinson, Connecticut has the deep and talented front seven to force Temple QB Chester Stewart to play outside of his comfort level.
Why Temple Might Win: Connecticut will try to establish the running game, but might end up hitting a brick wall. Al Golden has constructed a terrific defense, which features all-stars Muhammad Wilkerson and Adrian Robinson up front. Until Frazer starts playing with more consistency as a passer, the Owls won't be bashful about pressing up LB Stephen Johnson and FS Jaiquawn Jarrett to add more traffic to the box. Regardless of the status of Pierce, Temple believes it can move the chains on the ground with Matt Brown navigating behind a seasoned and talented offensive line.
What To Watch Out For: This is the kind of defensive struggle that's likely to hinge on the two kickers. McManus has hit 6-of-9 field goal attempts, including those two clutch game-winners. Connecticut's Dave Teggart is 3-of-4, as he attempts to rebound from a sub par sophomore year. It's just a hunch, but whichever program houses the more accurate placekicker on Saturday afternoon will leave The Linc with a victory.
What Will Happen: This game is going to be close, physical, and decided by defense and special teams. Like Temple's first two games, the outcome is going to be in doubt for all 60 minutes, assuming extra sessions aren't required. This week, it'll be Teggart, not McManus, who's the hero in a nail-biter for Connecticut. Even in losing, however, the Owls will impress with their talent and overall physicality.
CFN Prediction: Connecticut 27 … Temple 16 … Line: Connecticut -7
Must See Rating: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – 5 … The Event - 1 … 2.5
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Louisville (1-1) at Oregon State (0-1) Sept. 18, 5:30 ET

Here's The Deal … The only thing worse than losing a high-profile opener is getting an off-week following it. Oregon State has had two long weeks to brood about getting handled by TCU in Arlington, 30-21, in a game that was more one-sided than the score indicated. The Beavers know a little something about rebounding from slow starts under Mike Riley, which is exactly what they plan to do beginning with this Saturday's first home game. Louisville handed first-year head coach Charlie Strong his first career victory, through struggling with Eastern Kentucky, 23-13, was hardly a reason to break out the champagne. The Cardinals are a work-in-progress, with the goals of becoming more competitive and fine-tuning their overall execution as the season unfolds.
Why Louisville Might Win: Through the first two weeks, Strong has done a commendable job of coaching up the defense, his forte. The Cardinals are hitting a little harder and missing fewer tackles. The result has been a more aggressive unit that's given up just a total of 36 points. Louisville had eight sacks on Saturday, led by four from DE Rodney Gnat, and will aim to rattle untested Beaver QB Ryan Katz the TCU did in the opener. The staff believes that CB Johnny Patrick is good enough to take the other team's best receiver out of the game.
Why Oregon State Might Win: While the Louisville defense has been feisty, the offense has been feeble. Even against an average FCS team, it was 2-of-10 on third downs and was shut out in three of four quarters. The ground game, its best chance to move the ball, is going to run head first into DT Stephen Paea and the Beaver front seven. Having already handled TCU QB Andy Dalton, don't expect Adam Froman to have much success against the Oregon State secondary. As feisty as the Cards have been, it's also prone to get blown off the ball, which will allow Jacquizz and James Rodgers to get to the second level untouched.
What To Watch Out For: Beaver QB Ryan Katz had a predictably tough time versus the Horned Frog D, but the staff loves his arm and upside. Sure, he was 9-of-25, but also threw two touchdown passes and didn't commit a turnover. This week provides a chance to spruce up the confidence and start developing some chemistry with teammates not named Rodgers, like WR Aaron Nichols and H-back Joe Halahuni.
What Will Happen: A trip to Corvallis is a tough spot for Louisville and Strong. Oregon State is well-rested and eager to get back on track after beginning the season with a loss. As they often do, the Beavers will play inspired at Reser Stadium, keeping the Cardinal offense quiet and jumping out to a quick lead behind James and Jacquizz. Katz will show the biggest growth from Week 1, looking much more like the future under center for the program.
CFN Prediction: Oregon State 44 … Louisville 16 … Line: Oregon State -18.5
Must See Rating: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – 5 … The Event - 1 … 2
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Maine (1-1) at Syracuse (1-1) Sept. 18, 7:15 ET, ESPN3.com

Here's The Deal … After getting pushed around in Seattle, it's Syracuse's turn to play the bully. After enjoying an early lead and trailing by just three at halftime, the Orange wilted in the second half to Jake Locker and the Huskies, 41-20. The program can ill-afford to dwell on the collapse, needing to avoid an upset against an FCS visitor and move back to a game over the .500 mark. Maine lost this game a year ago, 41-24, and is looking to elevate beyond the Colonial Athletic Association midsection. The Black Bears followed up an ugly opening night loss to Albany by defeating Monmouth, 31-23, on the road.
Why Maine Might Win: After getting blanked by Albany, the Black Bear offense emerged last weekend, getting balance and ball-control from the attack. Warren Smith appears to have settled in at quarterback, where he'll be looking for receivers Derek Session and Tyrell Jones. RB Jared Turcotte is No. 10 nationally in rushing, coming off a career-best 144-yard, three-touchdown effort. After tackling and covering poorly, Syracuse needs to quickly clean up its act on the defensive side of the ball.
Why Syracuse Might Win: The Orange will have no problems setting the tone on the ground, feeding Maine a heavy dose of RB Delone Carter. One of the more underrated players in the Big East, he'll be good for his first 100-yard game of the year and a couple of scores. Now that a future first round quarterback isn't in the other huddle, the Syracuse D will revert back to its opening day form, when it held Akron to a field goal. The Black Bears don't have the speed to get to the edge on linebackers Derrell Smith and Doug Hogue.
What To Watch Out For: At some point, Syracuse is going to need more production through the air from QB Ryan Nassib, who's mostly been a game manager up to this point. His mobility has been an asset, but he can really free up Carter by making more connections downfield. On a positive note, he appears to have found a favorite target in WR Van Chew, who's caught nine passes for 162 yards and a touchdown in the first two games.
What Will Happen: Syracuse is on the right path under Marrone. With a much weaker opponent visiting the Carrier Dome, it gets a chance to prove it. Carter will lead the charge on offense, running for 150 yards and making life a little easier on Nassib. The Orange defense will shake off last week's listless second half effort, keeping Maine off the board until the game is already out of reach.
CFN Prediction: Syracuse 38 … Maine 7 … Line: No Line
Must See Rating: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – 5 … The Event - 1 … 1
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