Big East Fearless Predictions - Week 3 Part 2
Posted Sep 14, 2006

Preview and predictions for the week three Big East games ... Part Two

Big East 
Cincinnati | Connecticut | Louisville | Pittsburgh | Rutgers | South Florida | Syracuse | West Virginia
Past Big East Predictions
Week One | Week Two

How'd we do so far? SU 14-0  ATS 6-3

Big East Week Three Fearless Predictions

Michigan State (2-0) at Pitt (2-0) 12 pm EST ESPN2 Saturday, September 16th
Why to watch: The first meeting between the schools in 46 years has far more significance than most would have imagined back in August.  Pitt’s been one of the big surprises of the early season and is poking around the Top 25 after surprisingly easy wins over Virginia and Cincinnati.  After slogging through 2005, the Panthers have done a 180 by playing terrific defense and doing a much better job in pass protection. Somehow, the defense appears to have gotten much faster over the last several months. Michigan State is also 2-0, but wins over Idaho and Eastern Michigan have mostly elicited yawns.  A road win here would get the Spartans the respect they believe they deserve and send them into the showdown against Notre Dame on a roll.  Pitt’s Tyler Palko vs. Michigan State’s Drew Stanton is the best duel of senior quarterbacks this year until Brady Quinn hits East Lansing.
Why Michigan State might win: Drew Stanton.  Really, the entire Spartan offense, but Stanton is the catalyst and one of those rare talents that can carry a team on his back.  He’s accounted for six touchdowns already while leading the nation’s No. 8 offense. If RBs Javon Ringer and Jehuu Caulcrick are healthy and effective, State becomes the most balanced team Pitt will face until the season-finale with Louisville.
Why Pittsburgh might win: Both teams can score plenty of points, but only Pitt can be counted on to consistently stop the other.  While the Panthers are ranked in the top 20 in every major statistical category, the Spartans are young, rife with question marks and ready to be exposed.  What do the two best defensive players—LB H.B. Blades and CB Darrelle Revis—in this game have in common?  They both answer to Dave Wannstedt, who has suddenly shown off his talent as a defensive coach.
Who to watch
: Spartan WR Matt Trannon is coming off a record-breaking, 14-catch afternoon, but with Revis shadowing him, the catches could be quite a bit harder to come by this weekend.  Like almost every corner that faces Trannon, Revis will be giving away six inches of height and have problems with the former basketball star’s leaping ability. However, the junior is aggressive, instinctive, and fast becoming one of the most polished cover corners in America.
What will happen: With so many big games this weekend, this one will reside beneath the radar.  Too bad.  It’ll be high-scoring, entertaining, and won by Pittsburgh, the one team at Heinz Field that’ll make key defensive stops late in the fourth quarter.
CFN Prediction: Pitt 37 ... Michigan State 31 ... Line: Pitt -2
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Dancing with the Stars) ... 3.5 

(0-2) at Illinois (1-1) 12 pm EST ESPNU Saturday, September 16th
Why to watch: This would get everyone's blood racing if it were played on the hardcourt, but on the football field, these two have been among the most disappointing name programs around over the last few years. Ron Zook's young, young, young Illini showed last week in a 33-0 loss to Rutgers that it's still at least a year away from thinking about turning things around, while Greg Robinson's Orange team has had to spend the last week known nationally as the team that can't gain two yards on seven tries after getting stuffed by Iowa 20-13 in two overtimes. SU has lost 11 straight while Illinois has lost ten in a row against D-I teams. Someone will finally break the gloom.
Why Syracuse might win: Illinois is a mess. SU might be having problems, but Illinois wasn't even close against Rutgers and isn't getting any production from the lines. Currently second in the nation in turnover margin, the Orange should be able to come up with a few big plays. If the offense can finally start to take advantage of a few opportunities, the better-than-it-looks defense should be able to do its job against the struggling Illini offense.
Why Illinois might win: Can Syracuse stop the run? LB Kevin Smith is an All-America caliber star and the leader of a decent group, but the Orange D got rolled over by Wake Forest for 245 rushing yards and by Iowa for 149. Illinois might not be consistent, but it has the backs to get the ground game going with Pierre Thomas and E.B. Halsey good enough to carry the offense if the line can give them a little bit of room. Syracuse doesn't have the offense to crank out more than 300 yards, much less put the game away with any sort of spurt.
Who to watch: It's time the two offenses started to use their underutilized weapons. Syracuse sophomore Curtis Brinkley has the speed and quickness to be a difference-making running back, but he only got 11 carries against Iowa and was nowhere to be found on the fateful overtime goal line stand. The offense has revolved around QB Perry Patterson, and that continues to be a disaster. For Illinois, Pierre Thomas is the number one back, but E.B. Halsey is the more dangerous all-around runner. The coaching staff has to try to find ways to get the ball in Halsey's hands after he only ran four times for four yards against Rutgers.
What will happen: One of these two will finally break the doom-and-gloom. Of the two bottom-feeders, Illinois is playing a little bit worse.
CFN Prediction
: Syracuse 20 ... Illinois 16
... Line: Illinois -3
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Dancing with the Stars) ... 2

South Florida (2-0) at UCF (1-1), 2:30 EST, CSTV, Saturday, September 16th
Why to watch: Fine, so this game means absolutely nothing to folks outside the Sunshine State, but to a pair of fledgling programs wrestling to become the next big thing behind the state’s Big 3, it has the potential to develop into a pretty nasty rivalry.  South Florida has lived dangerously this season needing rallies to beat McNeese State and Florida International, and it doesn’t appear to have seized the momentum from last year’s inaugural bowl berth. At least not yet. UCF has been on the winning and losing end of one-sided games, but it should be in for a tight battle. Last weekend the Knights learned firsthand just how far it has to go to compare to the elite losing 42-0 to Florida after beating up Villanova 35-16. For both schools, a win here would be a huge boost before league play begins.
Why South Florida might win: UCF’s problems on offense are likely to continue against South Florida’s No. 10 defense. The Bulls are allowing just 53 yards a game on the ground, a tough assignment for a Knight offense that’s having an awful time creating space for RB Kevin Smith averaging 63 rushing yards per outing.  South Florida is one of just five schools yet to allow a sack meaning QB Matt Grothe will have time to work.
UCF might win: South Florida may be 2-0, but it’s been horrible in both games needing a miracle, late-game fumble last week to beat Florida International, a three-touchdown underdog.  Now that it’s venturing out on the road to face a better opponent, can it afford to win ugly? The Bulls’ sloppy coverage team is just the unit Joe Burnett can break a game-changing punt return on.
Who to watch: Grothe really has been a revelation for a USF program that’s been desperate for a quality quarterback ever since Marquel Blackwell graduated.  Yeah, he’s making freshman mistakes, but he also leads the Bulls in rushing, and more important, has been the steady-handed catalyst of both come-from-behind wins.
What will happen
: Neither team looks right these days, but UCF’s play is particularly troubling.  The Knights are showing their youth having looked lost at times on the defensive side of the ball.  Grothe will get his third win of the season, but thanks to more solid play from the defense, won’t need to perform any magic this weekend.
CFN Prediction: South Florida 24 ... UCF 16 ... Line: UCF -2.5
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Dancing with the Stars) ... 2.5

Ohio (2-0) at Rutgers (2-0), 3:30 EST, ESPN Gameplan, Saturday, September 16th
Why to watch: Raise your hand if you thought these two schools would be 4-0 combined after the first two weekends of the season. Liar. The Scarlet Knights have been surprisingly good in wins over North Carolina and Illinois, and Ohio used an uncommonly balanced offense on Saturday to author a shocking 35-23 road win at Northern Illinois to go along with a bunch of school firsts.  Frank Solich has the Bobcats headed in the right direction and one win from the school’s first 3-0 start in three decades.  Rutgers has one of the most dynamic running tandems in America, and is fresh off a 33-0 spanking of the Illini in which the offense, defense and special teams contributed touchdowns. With Howard coming up next week, Rutgers has an honest shot of going 4-0 before jumping into Big East play against South Florida. Ohio needs this with a nasty date at Missouri next week.
Why Ohio might win: Rutgers’ first two opponents were feeble offensively, but the Bobcats will challenge the Knights with a versatile attack that rung up 509 yards on Northern Illinois last weekend.  Kalvin McRae is an established 1,000-yard back, and QB Austen Everson is fresh off the school’s first 300-yard passing day in 20 years. If the Bobcats can throw like they did against the Huskies, suddenly this becomes a nasty attack to deal with.
Why Rutgers might win: RBs Ray Rice and Brian Leonard are getting most of the Rutgers pub these days, but the Scarlet Knight D will start to get more and more respect as the year goes on.  The unit just posted its first shutout in six years and is 11th in the country in scoring defense. This group is the real deal, and it’s more than good enough to keep McRae and check. Everson isn’t going to have two big-time passing games in a row.
Who to watch: Rutgers sophomore DE Jamaal Westerman is coming off a two-sack day showing more and more that he’s able to pick up the slack left by the graduation of Ryan Neil and Val Barnaby.  If Rutgers is going to more than just a one-month wonder, the defensive line must continue putting to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Any heat on Everson will force mistakes.
What will happen: Someone’s posing, and it’s not the Scarlet Knights, who continue to get better and gain confidence.  While commendable, Ohio’s win over Northern Illinois will wind up being more of a blip on the radar than a sign the Bobcats are ready to storm the gates of the MAC East.
CFN Prediction: Rutgers 35 ... Ohio 14 ... Line: Rutgers -17
Must See Rating:
(5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Dancing with the Stars) ... 2

Big East Week Three Fearless Predictions