Big East Week One Fearless Predictions
Posted Aug 31, 2006

Preview and predictions for the week one Big East games

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

Big East Week One Fearless Predictions, Part 2

Big East Game of the Week

Marshall at West Virginia  3:30 pm EST  GamePlan  Saturday, September 2nd 
Why to watch: Clean, old-fashioned hate belongs to the Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry, but for one weekend, Marshall-West Virginia is going to borrow it.  These two schools, who’ve met just once in 83 years, genuinely despise each other, which is a recipe for an insanely fun weekend in Morgantown.  Marshall feels it was being ducked for years, and West Virginia doesn’t pay much attention to its little brother down south.  It’s Coal Bowl I, the first of seven meetings between college football’s version of the Hatfields and McCoys.  The Mountaineers are brimming with optimism with speed and experience on both sides of the ball and eyeing more than just a Big East title.  Marshall hasn’t been Marshall of late winning just five of its last 15 games, but hope comes in the form of 25 returners with starting experience.  They’ll be better in Mark Snyder’s second season, but how much better depends on the development of QB Bernie Morris.
Why Marshall might win: As good as West Virginia’s offense was in the second half of 2005, it was one-dimensional. Steve Slaton to the right, Pat White to the left and almost nothing through the air.  Okay, so the ‘eers rarely had to get vertical, but until proven otherwise, White is a pedestrian passer.  An underrated Marshall D has the sideline-to-sideline speed with players, such as LBs Dennis Thornton and Josh Johnson, to potentially contain West Virginia’s prolific running game.  
Why West Virginia might win: The Mountaineers do two things that are essential for every winning program: they run the ball well and can stop the run with attacking linebackers Boo McLee and Jay Henry and a deep line rotation.  WVU was Top 20 in both areas last year, and if it can neutralize MU RB Ahmad Bradshaw and force the erratic Morris to win the game, Marshall’s doomed. 
Who to watch: Bradshaw is reinventing what it means to be an offensive star at Marshall.  He’s neither a quarterback nor a wide receiver, yet is halfway to becoming the best back to ever play in Huntington.  The junior led the Herd in rushing and receiving in 2005 and is the one player in green and white good enough to spur a monumental upset.  
What will happen: Believe it or not, this has the potential to be the most electric atmosphere of September.  Marshall is underrated and will play with an edge, but Slaton and White will get their big plays, and the Herd offense isn’t yet built to come from behind, especially at Milan Puskar.

CFN Prediction: West Virginia 34 ... Marshall 23 ... Line: West Virginia -21.5
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Pants Off, Dance Off) ... 3.5
Final Score: 

Rhode Island at Connecticut  7:30 pm EST  Thursday, August 31st 
Why to watch: Injuries and youth in 2005 stalled the momentum UConn had been building since its move up to the D-I ranks.  Priority No. 1 is to get back the mojo and start to take positive steps forward as a Big East power. The offense, which imploded in league games last fall, is now in the hands of fleet-footed sophomore D.J. Hernandez, who emerged in the spring as the clear-cut starter after an off-season battle. The underrated D has its sights set on leading the Big East in total defense for the third straight year. Rhode Island represents little more than a live scrimmage coming in with just three winning seasons over the past two decades, and it’s unlikely No. 4 will come in 2006.  Hope for the future can be found in FB Joe Casey, last year’s Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year.
Why Rhode Island might win: The UConn offense isn’t going to scare anyone this fall. It was 94th nationally last year, and that included blowouts of Buffalo, Liberty and Army that artificially inflated the numbers.  The quarterback is new and the line is very young, so there’ll be pockets of futility again at the start of the campaign.
 Why UConn might win: Statistically, few teams have been better than the Huskies on defense over the last two seasons.  Despite not having All-American types, the no-name D has been a rock in all phases with an aggressive style making up for the lack of talent.  In its last nine non-conference games, UConn has surrendered an average of less than ten points per game.             
Who to watch
: That work-in-progress UConn offensive line will eventually be built around 6-7, 338-pound behemoth redshirt freshman Mike Hicks, who’s ready to take over at right tackle.  The play of the offensive line was an issue last year, making Hicks’ development a focal point of 2006.            
What will happen
: Under Randy Edsall, UConn will display a killer instinct in the games its supposed to win.  Rhode Island will serve as an opportunity to get valuable reps for Hernandez before next week’s key visit from Wake Forest. 

CFN Prediction: Connecticut 44 ... Rhode Island 9 ... Line: No Line
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Pants Off, Dance Off) ... 1
Final Score: 

Rutgers at North Carolina  3:30 pm EST  ABC  Saturday, September 2nd 
Why to Watch:  Rutgers believes that last year wasn’t a fluke and North Carolina thinks that it's headed back to a bowl game in 2006 after a down year. This game will go a long way to determining both and should be a tone-setter. Expect a great deal of power running on both sides with UNC’s Ronnie McGill and Rutgers’ duo of Ray Rice and Brian Leonard good enough all put up huge numbers. The Tar Heel defense has gotten more athletic and more productive the past three years, but stopping the Scarlet Knight two-headed monster is a task and a half. If they can do it, then it might make next week's battle with Virginia Tech more interesting. Rutgers could get off to a hot start with a win with three winnable road games (Illinois, Buffalo and Howard) to follow.
Why Rutgers Might Win:  Rice is good. Leonard might be a late first/early second round NFL pick. Together they're magnificent and have to combine for at least 200 yards to pull off the road upset. The question mark, though, for the offense is whether QB Mike Teel is ready to be The Man. If he is, this offense is flat out scary and North Carolina won't be able to keep up the offensive pace. On defense, Rutgers is small, but quick, so if they can slant/move and frustrate the Heels offensive line, McGill won’t reach 100 yards.
Why North Carolina Might Win: Carolina’s defense has improved mightily over the last few seasons. While it'll have its hands full stopping the Rutgers powerful attack, it's far better equipped than previous years with a solid front seven that should be able to get into the backfield against the shaky Scarlet Knight offensive line. The QB situation, not controversy, can’t play itself out on the field – either Joe Dailey or Cam Sexton has to definitively be the leader.
Who to Watch:  Rutgers DT Ramel Meekins made a number of huge plays in the backfield from his interior position last year and has to be a factor right off the bat  He’s not a 300+ pound, gap stuffer, but he's quick and can disrupt the Carolina blocking schemes. 
What Will Happen:  The Carolina passing game could be the X factor. WR Jesse Holley will have a big game if someone can get him the ball consistently, but, that’s a tall order for one guy trying to redeem himself (Dailey) and one guy trying to make a name for himself (Sexton).  However, in the end, too much Rice and Leonard could open things up for perhaps the best unknown tight end in the nation Clark Harris.
CFN Prediction: Rutgers 27 ... North Carolina 24 ... Line: North Carolina -5.5
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Pants Off, Dance Off) ... 3
Final Score: 

Syracuse at Wake Forest   6:30 pm EST  Saturday, September 2nd 
Why to Watch:  Looking for a surprise team in either the Big East or the ACC?  These two have to be on the radar. Syracuse didn’t do much offensively behind QB Perry Patterson last year, and that’s being nice, so the key for this offense is how well he’s protected and what he can do when given time. He'll be worth watching if only to see how the offense might be better early on.  Wake, on the other hand, has got talent in the backfield with RB Micah Andrews, son of former Atlanta Falcon William Andrews, running behind a solid line led by Steve Vallos. If the Demon Deacons really plan on being a challenger for a bowl bid, it needs to win this game.
Why Syracuse Might Win:  There are enough decent pieces in place to hope for an immediate turnaround. Patterson has started for four years and if it ‘clicks’ for him this season, he has the potential to make the O night-and-day better. He’s a big, strong quarterback who has to keep the chains moving and keep the defense off the field.  LB Kelvin Smith is one of the nation’s best, but how effective he can be behind a ‘green’ Orange line, especially at DE, is a major question mark this season.
Why Wake Forest Might Win: 
The Deacon running game is difficult for first time opponents to defense, not to mention the fact that Andrews is going to be working behind a strong line that should give the Orange D line fits. If QB Ben Mauk avoids turnovers and gets his receivers involved early on, things will become wide open for the ground attack. The secondary is one of the ACC's most underrated. If Patterson has to throw it around the yard to keep the Orange in the game, they’ll make him pay.
Who to Watch:  Wake Forest CB Alphonso Smith may be unknown nationally, but he won’t be after this season.  He’s one of the best cover corners in the ACC already and  a complete player who should have a big year. Patterson has to know where he is at all times and stay away from him as much as possible.
What Will Happen:  Wake should control the ball on the ground forcing the Orange to roll up a safety into the box to account for the run game.  That should be enough room for Mauk to go over the top for a few big difference-making plays. LB Jon Abbate and the Demon Deacon D will keep the Orange ground game under wraps.

CFN Prediction: Wake Forest 27 ... Syracuse 16 ... Line: Wake Forest -15.5
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Pants Off, Dance Off) ... 2.5 
Final Score: 

Big East Week One Fearless Predictions, Part 2