Big East Fearless Predictions - Week 8
Posted Oct 18, 2006

Preview and predictions for the week eight Big East games

Big East 
Cincinnati | Connecticut | Louisville | Pittsburgh | Rutgers
South Florida | Syracuse | West Virginia
Past Big East Predictions
Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5
Week 6 | Week 7 | Get Tickets for These Games

How'd we do so far? SU 36-3  ATS 20-13-1

Big East Game of the Week

Rutgers (6-0) at Pittsburgh (6-1), 5:45 EST, ESPN2, Saturday, October 21
Why to watch: This undercard to the Nov. 2 game between West Virginia and Louisville will decide which streaking program remains firmly in the hunt for a Big East title.  Both Rutgers and Pittsburgh are on fire, meaning the winner is going to get a significant boost in the polls and the court of public opinion by the end of the weekend.  For Rutgers, this is arguably its biggest game in school history, with a chance to move to 7-0 against a quality opponent.  The Knights are emboldened by a 34-0 demolition of Navy last week, their most complete victory of 2006.  Since losing to Michigan State Sept. 16, Pittsburgh has not trailed in a game, regrouping with four wins by a combined score of 169-27.  In the most anticipated league game to date, something’s got to give when they meet at Heinz Field Saturday night.
Why Rutgers might win: Palko has gone virtually the entire season without being touched.  That’ll change this weekend.  Led by the inside push of Eric Foster and Ramel Meekins, Rutgers has gobbled up 49 tackles for loss and 19 sacks to help support a secondary that’s only allowed three touchdown passes all year.  Like most quarterbacks, Palko is a completely different player when he’s flushed out of the pocket.  Teel won’t win the game for the Knights, but then again, he won’t have to on Saturday.  That’ll be the responsibility of Ray Rice and Brian Leonard, one of the best tandems in America.
Why Pittsburgh might win
: Offensive balance and experience under center are two enormous advantages Pitt has in an otherwise evenly-matched game.  Tyler Palko is a senior, who’s won big games and played on large stages.  Mike Teel is an unproven sophomore, who’s still searching for his rhythm.  The presence of Palko, who leads the nation in passing efficiency, combined with the emergence of RB LaRod Stephens-Howling, gives the Panthers the balance needed to solve a Rutgers D that leads the nation in scoring defense.  Pitt’s corners will allow the defense to blitz Teel, forcing the first-year starter into costly mistakes.
Who to watch: This is one of those games that Pitt LB H.B. Blades could punctuate his All-American season with 15 tackles, a couple of forced fumbles and a handful of ferocious sticks that intimidate the Rutgers players.  Blades, who’s been fixated on the Scarlet Knights since last year’s 37-29 loss, finally gets a chance to release some pent up energy.
What will happen: The value of Palko will never be more evident than in this back-and-forth, 60-minute war.  The Rutgers defense will keep things tight, but when a drive for the winning field goal is needed, Teel and the offense will come up short.
CFN Prediction: Pitt 27 ... Rutgers 20 ... Line: Pitt -6
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Knights of Prosperity) ...

West Virginia (6-0) at Connecticut (3-3), 8:00 EST, ESPN, Friday, October 20
Why to watch: West Virginia could be looking for style points for the human polls when it travels to East Hartford for ESPN’s Friday night showcase.  The Mountaineers debuted at No. 5 in the BCS standings, ahead of three unbeaten teams, but behind one-loss Auburn, and they can’t afford any sort of a slip.  They’re coming off a 41-17 win over Syracuse in which the defense was unusually solid and the scary-good one-two punch of Patrick White and Heisman contender Steve Slaton delivered 410 yards rushing and five touchdowns.  Desperate for a win and reeling from the dismissal of five players, Connecticut grabbed a must-win game over Army Saturday, 21-7, getting big plays from Terry Caulley and Larry Taylor.  If only for one game, the controversy seemed to galvanize the struggling Huskies.
West Virginia might win: Everyone knows what’s coming, yet no one can stop a Mountaineer running game that ripped off 457 yards last week and now leads the country in rushing.  That’s bad news for a Connecticut run defense that’s allowed eight touchdowns on the ground the last three weeks and is next to last in the Big East.  Only one team has held the Mountaineers under 40 points in 2006, and considering how a healthy White has begun to percolate, the Huskies are not about to be the second.
Why Connecticut might win: West Virginia’s record may be perfect, but its play has not been.  The Mountaineers are still committing too many penalties, while allowing big plays through the air, which could catch up to them this week.  Behind Caulley, the Huskies’ ninth-ranked running attack will shorten the game, limiting White and Slaton’s touches.
Who to watch: White was relatively quiet before last weekend, owing his slow start to sore ribs and the stellar play of his supporting cast.  However, he’s begun running like the open field terror he was in 2005, scoring six times in two weeks, which is making the Mountaineer attack virtually unstoppable.
What will happen: In anticipation of its Nov. 2 showdown with Louisville, West Virginia has begun to gradually perfect its game.  That’ll be on display Friday night against a Connecticut team that simply doesn’t have the speed or the offensive playmakers to keep up with the Mounties.

CFN Prediction
: West Virginia 41... Connecticut 16 ... Line: West Virginia -22
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Knights of Prosperity) ... 2.5

Louisville (6-0) at Syracuse (3-4), 12:00 EST, ESPN GamePlan, Saturday, October 21
Why to watch: Louisville is 6-0 for the first time since 1972, but getting there sure wasn’t easy.  The inspirational return of QB Brian Brohm less than a month after thumb surgery was overshadowed by a surprisingly close call with Cincinnati on Saturday, but the Cards remained in the national title hunt despite their lowest scoring home game in almost three years.  After winning three straight games, Syracuse is in danger of losing three straight during its toughest stretch of 2006.  The Orange got roughed up last week in Morgantown, needing an upset here to regain some of the momentum it built in September.
Why Louisville might win: In his return, Brohm was predictably rusty, but he’ll be a lot more polished this Saturday in the Carrier Dome. He’ll also get help from a running game that’ll get the boost it’s seeking versus an Orange D that’s been garroted for nearly 900 yards on the ground over the last three weeks.  This is the Cardinals’ final tune-up before West Virginia visits, which they’ll use to get the offense cranking like it did earlier in the season.
Why Syracuse might win: The Orange will plagiarize Cincinnati’s blueprint for staying with Louisville, pounding the ball between the tackles and milking the clock to keep the opposing offense on the sidelines.  Syracuse has the young horses to keep the chains moving and a tenacious, sack-happy front seven to force Brohm from the pocket and out of his comfort zone.
Who to watch: If Louisville is going to play a bowl game in January, it has got to become more effective in the running game.  The passing attack makes most of the headlines, but Bobby Petrino’s offense really hums when it has balance.  The onus is on Kolby Smith, George Stripling and Anthony Allen this week to provide that balance against a Syracuse D that’s been getting utterly shamed against the run.
What will happen: Ever since beating Miami last month, something just hasn’t been right with Louisville.  The Cards will pick up the win at Syracuse, but fail to recapture that aura of invincibility that existed early in September.
CFN Prediction: Louisville 33 .... Syracuse 17 ... Line: Louisville -17
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Knights of Prosperity) ... 2.5

South Florida (5-2) at Cincinnati (3-4), 8:00 EST, ESPN, Sunday, October 22
Why to watch: For the first time in five years, South Florida won a non-conference game against a BCS team, pounding North Carolina 37-20 in Chapel Hill.  It was a validation victory for a program that’s getting lost in the shadow of the Big East’s ranked teams.  Winners of two straight, the Bulls are now within a game of bowl eligibility for the second consecutive year.  The standings will say otherwise, however, Cincinnati is playing very good football these days.  Fueled by a very fast defense and a vastly improved running game, the Bearcats have beaten two MAC teams and spooked Ohio State, Virginia Tech and Louisville over the past month.  They’ll need to hold serve at home Sunday night to realistically remain in the hunt for a post-season game.
Why South Florida might win: It’s alive—the Bulls running game, that is.  For the first time in eight years, USF has had back-to-back 100-yard rushers, complementing the dual-threat capabilities of QB Matt Grothe.  Not coincidentally, the offense has scored 75 points in those games, wins over Connecticut and North Carolina.  Cincinnati averages just 18 points a game, lacking the offensive punch to out score the revamped South Florida offense.
Why Cincinnati might win
: Over the last three games, the Bearcats have started controlling the line of scrimmage, something they’ll have to do to beat surging South Florida.  Over that span, Cincy has out rushed opponents by an average of 220 to 60 yards, thanks to an improving front seven and the running of senior Greg Moore.  The young program that’s come close all year to getting a signature win is finally ready to handle a beatable team.
Who to watch
: While the hits are beginning to accumulate for most college players, South Florida RB Ricky Ponton is well-rested and just getting started in 2006.  Ponton returned from a six-game suspension last week to rush for 101 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries.  His physical presence makes the offense more diverse, especially in play action.
What will happen
: South Florida’s cresting, while Cincinnati is still learning how to win close games, a trend that’ll continue Sunday night when Mike Benzer boots the game-winner late in the fourth quarter.

CFN Prediction
: South Florida 23 ... Cincinnati 20 ... Line: Cincinnati -1.5
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Knights of Prosperity) ... 2.5

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