Big East Fearless Predictions, Week 5
Posted Sep 26, 2006

Preview and predictions for the week five WAC games

Big East 
Cincinnati | Connecticut | Louisville | Pittsburgh | Rutgers | South Florida | Syracuse | West Virginia
Past Big East Predictions
Week One | Week Two | Week Three | Week Four
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How'd we do so far? SU 28-2  ATS 16-6-1

Big East Game of the Week

Rutgers (4-0) at South Florida (3-1)  8:00 PM EST ESPN2 Friday September 30th
Why to watch: After sneaking into the No. 23 slot of both polls this week, Rutgers’ Q rating has never been higher, and now the spotlight is on with a 4-0 record for the first time in 26 years.  The program’s done a terrific job getting to this point, but how will it handle the increased pressure and scrutiny that comes with expectations? A loss on national television will almost certainly cost the Knights a lot of the equity they’ve amassed this month as people now will be watching.  South Florida had hoped to join Rutgers in perfection before dropping a 13-7 decision to Kansas on Saturday. With their opponents getting all of the attention, the Bulls would love nothing more than to grab the spotlight, while getting an early jump on the third spot in the Big East pecking order behind West Virginia and Louisville.  While he’s in Tampa, Greg Schiano might want to shoot down I-75 for a cup of coffee with Miami athletic director Paul Dee.
Why Rutgers might win: Yeah, the running tandem of Ray Rice and Brian Leonard has been Rutgers’ chief catalyst, but the defense has been the unsung hero of the program’s emergence.  The unit, which hasn’t allowed more than 16 points in a game and is No. 4 nationally in total defense, will suffocate a Bull attack that’s far too dependent on one player, freshmen QB Matt Grothe.  South Florida has scored just 31 points the last two weeks, getting absolutely no support from the running backs.
Why South Florida might win: No one Rutgers has played this month comes close to the South Florida defense.  Spurred by a tenacious trio of veteran linebackers, the Bulls allow only 15 points a game and have given up just a pair of touchdown passes all year.  One of these days, sporadic Scarlet Knight QB Mike Teel will have to do more than dish out handoffs, and that day is this Friday.
Who to watch: Bulls Stephen Nicholas and Ben Moffitt are two of the best linebackers you’ve never seen play. Now you’ll get a chance. Their jobs on Friday night are simple—contain Rice, the country’s fourth-leading rusher and don’t forget about Leonard, who can demoralize a defense in a multitude of ways.  If they can force Teel to make plays on third and long, South Florida will hand Rutgers its first loss of 2006.
What will happen
: No matter what happens Friday night, the big winner is the Big East, which has a showcase game involving someone other than West Virginia and Louisville, for a change.  Although South Florida always plays well in Raymond James Stadium, it won’t have the offensive artillery to out gun the Scarlet Knights.
CFN Prediction: Rutgers 26 ... South Florida 20 ... Line: Rutgers -4
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) ... 3.5

Navy (3-1) at Connecticut (2-1)  12:00 PM EST GamePlan Saturday September 30th
Why to watch: Navy and UConn enter this week’s game with very different emotional mindsets.  The Huskies bounced back from a listless loss to Wake Forest with a defensive-driven 14-7 upset of Indiana in Bloomington.  A win in Storrs Saturday will give them a head of steam heading into the Big East opener the following week.  The Middies, on the other hand, are reeling from a one-point overtime loss to Tulsa that ended their perfect season when Matt Harmon’s game-tying extra point was blocked.  With Air Force, Rutgers and Notre Dame in the on-deck circle, Navy can’t afford back-to-back losses.
Why Navy might win: The UConn defense is pretty stout when faced with Rhode Island, Indiana and a Wake Forest team debuting a freshman quarterback.  Navy, however, presents a unique challenge that a mediocre Husky front seven won’t be able to handle for four quarters.  The Middies top-ranked running attack will wear down UConn up front with the improving QB Brian Hampton and straight-ahead FB Adam Ballard.  
Why UConn might win
: Navy won’t be the only team in Storrs that can effectively run the ball on Saturday.  UConn rose to fourth in the country in rushing offense after gutting Indiana for 257 yards, 152 from Terry Caulley.  In a game that figures to be very tight, return man extraordinaire, Larry Taylor, will give the Huskies a short field to navigate whenever he gets a chance to field a kick.                       
Who to watch: Beginning this week, UConn needs to get something from its 111th-ranked passing game.  Enter Matt Bonislawski, who started the first five games of 2005 before breaking his collarbone and will be taking over for the wildly inconsistent D.J. Hernandez.  Navy is extremely vulnerable in pass defense, so it’s up to Bones to step up and expose that deficiency. If not, Navy should roll.  
What will happen: In a game that’ll be played as if it's 1939, both teams will rush for more than 250 yards, but won’t throw for more than 100.  Navy will hold on when UConn’s Matt Nuzie hooks a potential game-winning field goal in the waning seconds. 
CFN Prediction: Navy 21 ... Connecticut 20 ... Line: Connecticut -2.5
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) ...

Toledo (2-2) at Pitt (3-1)  12:00 PM EST  ESPNU Saturday September 30th
Why to watch: Pittsburgh rebounded from a disappointing loss to Michigan State by disposing of The Citadel 51-6 to be in a position after this week to be 4-1 for the first time since 2002.  The Panthers have owned the MAC through the years but have dropped two of their last three against the conference including a shocking 35-31 loss to Toledo in 2003 that then-freshmen, such as H.B. Blades, Clint Session and Sam Bryant still haven’t forgotten.  After opening with a league game and two Big 12 road trips, Toledo finally got a breather last week against I-AA McNeese State.  With starting QB Clint Cochran nursing injuries and the Rockets trying to fuel their running game, the Cowboys wound up being a welcomed remedy. A confidence boost would be nice this week before diving back into MAC play against Central Michigan.
Why Toledo might win:  No matter who’s under center, the Rockets can light up a scoreboard.  In games against Iowa State and Kansas, both of which are no worse defensively than Pitt, Toledo averaged 40 points a game.  In their only game against a challenging offense, the Panthers were abused by Michigan State two weeks ago for 533 yards and 38 points.  In other words, Toledo will score. However …
Why Pittsburgh might win: … the pitch-and-catch combo of Tyler Palko to Derek Kinder has been one of the most prolific in the month of September and should get more than enough time to work against a shaky Rocket secondary.  The nation’s top rated passer has only been sacked three times so far, and Toledo shouldn’t be able to apply too much pressure. If Cochran can’t go again Saturday, Toledo will be forced to lean on freshmen QBs Brandon Summers and Aaron Opelt along with a stagnant running game that’s ranked 80th in the country.
Who to watch: Toledo’s answer to Pitt’s Blades and Session is All-MAC LB Mike Alston, a fierce defender, who’ll be asked to rally the youngsters around him on defense, while trying to make Palko uncomfortable on pass plays.  He has a knack for making plays in the opposing backfield, leading the Rockets with 5½ tackles for loss and three sacks.
will happen
: Toledo has already shown it can play with BCS schools, taking Iowa State to double overtime and beating Kansas in overtime.  The Rockets will hang with Pitt, but fall short with a second-half rally.                      

CFN Prediction
: Pitt 34 ... Toledo 24 ... Line: Pitt -14
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) ... 2.5

Wyoming (1-3) at Syracuse (2-2)  1:30 PM EST  Saturday September 30th
Why to watch: Suddenly and very unexpectedly, there’s a reason to go to Syracuse home games again.  The dregs of college football just three weeks ago, the Orange have delivered three respectable performances in-a-row, capped by tight wins over Illinois and Miami University. A third straight victory means the program can seriously start shooting for a much-needed bowl invite with enough winnable games ahead to make it happen.  For the second consecutive year, Wyoming has been a disappointment, sort of, playing better than it did last year, but still only coming up with one win so far. Now it needs an upstate upset Saturday to halt a three-game losing streak before the season slips away like it did in 2005.  Thanks to the play of the defense, the Cowboys have been close every weekend, but the methodical offense has yet to carry its load. 
Why Wyoming might win
: Three weeks ago the Cowboys traveled cross-country taking Virginia to overtime in a loss.  Two weeks ago they held Boise State to only 17 points and 246 yards, but again, it was a loss.  Bill Cockhill has created a tough, no-nonsense, 14th-ranked unit that’s poised to put an end to Syracuse’s recent offensive prosperity. It’s not like the Orange attack is going to throw 45 on the board, so this should be close for four quarters.
Why Syracuse might win: The Orange defense is playing with passion and ferocity, which spells trouble for a vanilla Wyoming offense that has yet to do anything special.  No one in the nation has more sacks than Syracuse, a troubling development for a Cowboy offensive line that has been unable to keep QB Jacob Doss on his feet allowing eight sacks in the first four games. The Orange will continue creating turnovers versus an offense that’s had a horrible time protecting the ball this month.
Who to watch
: In his first season out of Bakersfield Community College, Taj Smith had emerged as the big-play receiver the Syracuse offense has yearned for since Greg Robinson was hired.  Over the last three weeks, the 6-1 junior had caught 12 balls for 227 yards and three touchdowns to go along with a 48-yard touchdown run, but he is likely out for the season with a broken collarbone. That means it'll take a variety of players to pick up the slack with Tim Lane and Rice Moss needing to make more big plays.
What will happen:  The veteran Wyoming D will keep Syracuse from running away and hiding, but the Orange have too much momentum on both sides of the ball to fumble a game to a team lacking a killer instinct.                          
CFN Prediction
: Syracuse 23 ... Wyoming 14 ... Line: Syracuse -6.5
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) ... 2.5
Miami University (0-4) at Cincinnati (1-3) 3:30 PM EST  Saturday September 30th
Why to Watch: The battle for Ohio might not be at stake, but this is an important battle for the survival of each team's season thanks to a combined 0-7 record against D-I teams this year. A high scoring series in recent years, Miami has done the MAC proud winning four of the last five including a 44-16 thumping last year in Oxford. Unfortunately for the RedHawks, things are getting worse over the first month of the season with losses to Syracuse and Kent State after battling Purdue in overtime. With a MAC showdown against Northern Illinois coming up, this is a vital game for the team's confidence. Cincinnati finishes up its MAC World Tour with Akron next week before dealing with a trip to Louisville, so it desperately needs this win to get in the hunt for bowl eligibility.
Why Miami Might Win: The matchup works out well. MU's biggest weakness over the first four games has been run defense, and Cincinnati can't run, while the biggest strength has been passing, and the Bearcats can't stop anyone through the air. Cincinnati's biggest issue has been the offensive line with no pass protection and no push for the running game, so Miami has to find a way to disrupt the UC offense. However ...
Why Cincinnati Might Win:  ... as bad as the Cincinnati offensive line has been, Miami's has been far worse allowing a nation high 23 sacks in four games and doing nothing to open holes for the decent RedHawk backs. While each team is having problem, at least Cincinnati lost to Virginia Tech, Pitt and Ohio State. Cincinnati's most respectable loss was to Purdue followed up by last week's drubbing from Syracuse.
Who to Watch: It's all up to the offensive lines. Cincinnati QB Dustin Grutza has been a productive passer when he's had time to operate, but he hasn't had the luxury all that often. The same goes for Miami's Mike Kokal, who's a talented passer when he gets the chance to throw. Syracuse tagged him for seven sacks last week, and while he held on to the ball a bit too long at times, the offensive problems can't be pinned on him. In other words, the team that gets the better offensive line play will win the game.
What Will Happen: Cincinnati will get a bit more offensive balance to take the pressure off Grutza and come away with an ugly win. Don't expect any fireworks like in past seasons.
CFN Prediction
: Cincinnati 26 ... Miami University 20 ... Line: Cincinnati -8
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) ... 2

Big East Week Four Fearless Predictions, Part 2