Big East Fearless Predictions, Nov. 4
Posted Nov 2, 2006

Here we go. The Big East game of the year we've all been waiting for is finally here with West Virginia battling Brian Brohm and a Louisville team looking to get front and center in the national title discussion. Check back tonight for Pete Fiutak's Stream of Consciousness notes and thoughts throughout the game.

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 | Week 8 | Week 9
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How'd we do so far? SU 41-4  ATS 23-16-1

Big East Game of the Week

West Virginia (7-0) at Louisville (7-0), 7:30 EST, ESPN, Thursday, November 2
Why to watch: What may be at stake Thursday night? The lead in the Big East Conference.  A spot in the National Championship game opposite the winner of that Buckeye-Wolverine game.  The Heisman Trophy.  World domination.  Sorry.  What’s being billed as the most important football game in Big East history has finally arrived.  Long before the season began, this match up between the league’s two power programs was pointed to as one of the pivotal contests of 2006, and each team has lived up to the growing hype. With USC losing in Corvallis last weekend, the door is now open for the winner to establish squatter’s rights behind Ohio State and Michigan in the BCS rankings, while a dominant win one way or another would likely assure a spot in the national title game if the winner can close out the year unbeaten.  Both offenses are fast, loaded with future NFL players and ranked in the top five nationally in both total and scoring offense.  Last year’s game was a 46-44, triple-overtime thriller won by the Mountaineers kick-starting their phenomenal season into overdrive. Louisville is hoping for the same thing to happen its way.  This week’s game has all the ingredients to be another classic, high-stakes showdown.  Giddyup.
Why West Virginia might win: For almost two years now, no one has been able to stop the Mountaineer tandem of QB Pat White and RB Steve Slaton, who fuel the nation’s No. 1 running attack.  Louisville has the top-ranked run defense in the Big East, but that’s largely due to big leads that have forced the opposition to abandon the run early.  When Cincinnati committed to the run two weeks ago, it gained 212 yards and nearly upset the Cardinals in Papa John’s.  White and Slaton can be contained for only so long before the smallest sliver of daylight leads to a momentum-changing 55-yard scamper becoming an inevitable part of every Mountaineer game.  Ever since beating Miami on Sept. 16, something has been missing from Louisville, who’s been unimpressive in wins over Middle Tennessee, Cincinnati and Syracuse. While the Mountaineers are cresting, the Cardinals are laboring.
Why Louisville might win: QB Brian Brohm was rusty in his first two games back from hand surgery, but he’s finally 100% and appearing to be ready to recapture the early season form that made him one of the most prolific passers in America.  He’ll get time against an average West Virginia pass rush to survey the field and play catch with TE Gary Barnidge and receivers Mario Urrutia and Harry Douglas.  With RB Kolby Smith coming off the best game of his career, the Cards are finally ready to rev up an offense that’s been idling since September.  On defense, Louisville is one of the few teams with the speed and quickness to counteract West Virginia’s mercurial skill position players and will pressure White into errant passes with the nation’s top sack-producing unit.  The Cardinals are nearly unbeatable at home, winning their last 15 games at Papa John’s.
Who to watch: Dan Mozes, Jeremy Sheffey, Ryan Stanchek, Jake Figner and Greg Isdaner.  Few units in the country run block better than Rick Trickett’s kids, which is where West Virginia is going to establish its most pronounced advantage.  The Mountaineers will dominate at the point of attack, allowing White to be White, Slaton to be Slaton and West Virginia’s running game to likely keep rumbling as long as the quick Louisville defensive front is getting shoved out of the way.
What will happen: The home crowd will be insane early, but that fevered pitch will gradually dissipate as West Virginia rips off big chunks of real estate a la Clemson against Georgia Tech two weeks ago.  An early Mountaineer lead will prevent the Cardinals from finding its offensive rhythm for the fifth consecutive week in what will deteriorate into a long night for the home team.  Either on a long play-action pass or on a long kickoff return, WR Darius Reynaud will hit the home run that breaks the game open for the Mountaineers.

CFN Prediction: West Virginia 37 ... Louisville 24 ... Line: Louisville -2
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Running with Scissors) ... 5

Pittsburgh (6-2) at South Florida (5-3), 12:00 EST, ESPN Plus, Saturday, November 4
Why to watch: Yes, there is another game in the Big East this week besides West Virginia at Louisville.  Actually, it’s a pretty good one between two bowl-thirsty teams looking to regroup from deflating losses.  Pittsburgh got knocked down a few pegs by Rutgers two weeks ago, its first conference loss of the year, but it’s still in the title hunt with games against Louisville and West Virginia left to play.  South Florida got waxed two weeks ago by Cincinnati, confirming once again that it doesn’t function well in cold weather.  The Bulls, too, must still face the league’s dynamic duo—on the road—so a home win Saturday is a must if they hope to go bowling for a second straight year.  Versatile freshman QB Matt Grothe leads USF in passing, rushing and scoring.
Why Pittsburgh might win: Grothe has been a revelation for South Florida this fall, however, it’ll take more than one player for an offense to have success against a Pittsburgh D that features All-America candidates in LB H.B. Blades and CB Darrelle Revis.  Only Michigan State has scored more than 20 points on the Panthers, who are 13th nationally in scoring defense and 22nd against the pass.  If Jim Leavitt is correct that takeaways dictate winners and losers, his Bulls are in trouble.  While Pitt is No. 9 in the country in turnover margin, South Florida is No. 99.
Why South Florida might win: The Pitt offense is at its best when it’s balanced, but that won’t happen against a Bull D that’s strong at linebacker and growing up in the secondary.  South Florida will contain Tyler Palko with a pass defense that’s No. 9 in the country and has allowed just four touchdown passes all year.  The Bulls are 4-1 in the state of Florida with the lone loss coming by two points to unbeaten Rutgers.
Who to watch: Blades has been one of the beasts of the East all year, leading the Panthers with 97 tackles.  Grothe likes to leave the pocket and make yards with his quick feet, but he better know where No. 51 is at all times or else he’s liable to spend part of the game being attended to by team trainers.
What will happen: Pitt isn’t as bad as it looked two weeks ago against Rutgers, and isn’t as dominant as it was in the four-game winning streak.  Somewhere in between, the Panthers will turn a couple of second-half takeaways into scores, leaving Tampa with a critical and hard-fought conference win.  
CFN Prediction: Pitt 26 ... South Florida 20 ... Line: Pitt -5 stream of consciousness
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Running with Scissors) ... 2.5

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