Big East Fearless Predictions - Nov. 11
Posted Nov 8, 2006

Last week put the spotlight squarely on the Big East when Louisville beat West Virginia in a shootout. Now everyone will be watching to see if the Cardinals are the real deal against Mike Teel and a fired up Rutgers team looking to make a national statement.

Big East 
Cincinnati | Connecticut | Louisville | Pittsburgh | Rutgers
South Florida | Syracuse | West Virginia
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How'd we do so far? SU 41-6  ATS 23-18-1

Big East Game of the Week

Louisville (8-0) at Rutgers (8-0), 7:30 EST, ESPN, Thursday, November 9
Why to watch: It’s a battle of Big East unbeatens: Part 2.  For the second consecutive Thursday, the conference gets a national spotlight with monumental BCS ramifications hanging on the outcome.  Last week, Louisville handled West Virginia 44-34, thrusting itself to the prime real estate just behind Ohio State and Michigan in the rankings.  The Cardinals are on the doorstep of a berth in the national championship game after playing their most impressive game of the season.  This week, they’ll travel to New Jersey to face upstart Rutgers, a program that’s starting to emerge as the story of the 2006 season behind an undersized and underpublicized back and a relentless defense.  How often do you get a chance to witness a school’s most important game…ever?  If you like turmoil in the BCS system, root hard for the home team.  If Louisville loses on Thursday, you’ll need a private tutor to make sense of the chaos involving the Scarlet Knights and at least a half-dozen one-loss teams still gunning for Glendale.
Why Louisville might win: Last week showed that the Cardinal offense can play on a completely different level when QB Brian Brohm is healthy.  In his third game back from thumb surgery, he threw for 354 yards on just 19 completions.  Scarlet Knight corners—each 5-11 or shorter—will struggle to contain 6-6 Mario Urrutia and Harry Douglas, the Big East’s top two receivers.  The Scarlet Knights will need offensive balance to beat this Louisville team, but won’t get it from QB Mike Teel, who’s thrown more picks than touchdowns in 2006 and has yet to face the kind of pressure he’ll see from the speedy Cardinal D.
Why Rutgers might win: Isn’t this essentially the same Louisville team that struggled with Cincinnati and Syracuse just a few weeks ago?  West Virginia showed last week that you can pound the ball on Louisville, even without the threat of a prolific passing game.  The Mountaineers ran for 318 yards, which is exactly what Ray Rice and the nation’s 12th-ranked ground game will try to do in order to keep Brohm & Co. off the field.  Yes, this is the best offense the Scarlet Knights defense has faced this fall, but they’ll be up to the challenge.  Rutgers creates tremendous pressure on quarterbacks, has yet to allow more than 20 points in a game and boasts the No. 2 pass defense in America.  They’ll be in Brohm’s grill all night, forcing Louisville to lean more on a running game that’s been up and down all year.
Who to watch: Rice is going to get 30 carries unless Rutgers gets stuck in a big hole early, but keep an eye on his sidekick, Leonard.  The senior has been the consummate team player in 2006, relinquishing individual gains for the good of the team, however, he’ll be a key outlet for Teel on screen passes against an attacking Louisville defense that’ll be looking to rattle the sophomore quarterback.                     
What will happen: At a different time or a different place, this would be too tall of a hurdle for a Scarlet Knight team that doesn’t match the Cards’ depth or athleticism.  However, everything has lined up for an upset.  While Rutgers is well rested, the Cardinals must hit the road a week after winning one of its most emotional games in school history.  They’re saying all the right things, but it won’t be playing in front of a crowd that’ll be looking to exorcise more than a century worth of intercollegiate demons.  The Knight D will prove to be for real and a couple of late field goals from Jeremy Ito will make Louisville’s perfect season finito.
CFN Prediction: Rutgers 26 … Louisville 23 ...  Line: Louisville -5.5
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause) ... 4.5

Cincinnati (5-4) at West Virginia (7-1), 12:00 EST, Saturday, November 11
Why to watch: For the first time in more than a year, West Virginia flinched, losing a pivotal game to Louisville that ended its national championship dreams and severely damaged its quest for a second Big East title in-a-row.  The Mountaineers didn’t just lose Thursday night, they gagged in a big spot, coughing the ball up, tackling poorly and making uncharacteristic mistakes on special teams.  How quickly they regroup and put Papa John’s behind them will determine whether the nation’s No. 10 team can still cop an at-large BCS bowl berth.  The ‘eers will have their hands full with Cincinnati, which has subtly won four of its last five games, while giving Louisville more of a fight in a 23-17 loss than West Virginia did last week.  An upset in Morgantown would make the Bearcats bowl eligible, while giving Mark Dantonio the landmark win he’s come close to bagging a couple of times this year.
Why Cincinnati might win: Ever since wilting in the second half of the Ohio State game, the Bearcat defense has been sensational.  That was over two months ago.  Cincy has allowed just 17 points a game since Sept. 16, including just one touchdown over the last nine quarters.  At just 89 yards a game, no one in the Big East is giving up fewer yards on the ground than the Bearcats, which is essential to slowing down West Virginia’s second-ranked running game.
Why West Virginia might win: Fueled by the combustible combination of Pat White and Steve Slaton, West Virginia averages 40 points a game, so you better be prepared for a track meet if you want to beat these Mountaineers.  Cincinnati, however, hasn’t scored more than 24 points against a I-A school this year and lacks the offensive firepower to go stride-for-stride with West Virginia, especially in a hostile environment.  Once the Mountaineers jump ahead by double digits, ineffective QB Dustin Grutza won’t have the weapons to engineer a rally.
Who to watch: Slaton put up good numbers versus Louisville, but saw his Heisman chances fade when he had two momentum-changing fumbles in the pivotal third quarter.  With his confidence a little shaken for the first time in his college career, it’ll be interesting to see how he rebounds against the rugged Cincinnati run defense.
What will happen: Don’t be at all surprised if West Virginia starts slowly and needs to be chewed out by Rich Rodriguez at halftime.  One long touchdown scamper by White in the third quarter will be the spark it needs to fend off a feisty Cincinnati team and get back on the winning track.
CFN Prediction: West Virginia 34 … Cincinnati 17 ...  Line: West Virginia -18
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause) ... 3

Syracuse (3-6) at South Florida (6-3), 12:00 EST, ESPN Plus, Saturday, November 11
Why to watch: With one enormous win over Pittsburgh last Saturday, South Florida is suddenly bowl eligible for the second straight year and in the mix to contend for a respectable fourth-place finish behind the league’s three ranked teams.  With key trips to Louisville and West Virginia still looming, this is the Bulls’ final chance to work on some of their offensive issues before facing the Big East’s two headline programs.  Syracuse has lost more than just four games over the past month.  It’s lost all of the equity it enjoyed after getting to 3-2 with a double-overtime win against Wyoming.  The Orange can still win out to reach bowl eligibility, but more realistically will spend the last month of the season getting good looks at underclassmen, such as RBs Delone Carter and Curtis Brinkley and WR Mike Williams.
Why Syracuse might win: The last thing you want to be against this Syracuse defense is gimpy, which is exactly how South Florida QB Matt Grothe left last week’s game with Pitt.  If the freshman loses his mobility, he’ll be at the mercy of an Orange D that is ninth nationally in sacks and creates more turnovers than any other Big East team, a major shortcoming for the careless Bulls.
Why South Florida might win: A very good Bull defense is getting stingier as the season wears on.  It hasn’t allowed more than 23 points in a game all year, a trend Syracuse’s 112th-ranked offense is in no position to buck.  South Florida, which held Tyler Palko and Pittsburgh to a season-low 219 yards in Tampa last week, will have no problems containing QB Perry Patterson or the Orange’s league-worst running game.  The Bulls are 4-1 at home, losing only to unbeaten Rutgers by two points.
Who to watch: Stephen Nicholas and the USF linebackers have been as good as advertised this year, but they’ve gotten support by CB Trae Williams in the secondary and NT Allen Cray, a pair of juniors that’ll be back next year.  Williams picked off his Big East-leading sixth pass last week, while Cray has plugged the middle with 24 tackles, eight tackles for loss and the first four sacks of his career.
What will happen: South Florida will continue to sizzle defensively, stifling the Syracuse offense, while pushing the Bulls four games over .500.
CFN Prediction: South Florida 24 … Syracuse 13 ...  Line: South Florida -9.5
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause) ... 2.5

Pittsburgh (6-3) at Connecticut (3-5), 3:30 EST, ESPN Plus, Saturday, November 11
Why to watch:  Pittsburgh is at a crossroads in the 2006 season.  Just three weeks ago, the Panthers were 6-1 and generating chatter that they, not Rutgers, could be the real fly in the Big East ointment.  Two lethargic losses later, Pitt is on the verge of a complete collapse.  With West Virginia and Louisville waiting in the on-deck circle, it’s imperative the Panthers use this week’s trip to Hartford to cut down on silly mistakes and relocate the offensive execution that disappeared when the Scarlet Knights visited.  Connecticut has lost four of its last five games and is still seeking its first Big East win of 2006.  The Huskies did get a jolt of excitement two weeks ago when freshman Donald Brown, filling in for injured Terry Caulley, raced for 199 yards and two scores in a loss to Rutgers.
Why Pittsburgh might win: The Panthers have been at their best this year when they can establish the run with LaRod Stephens-Howling, something they’ll be able to do against Connecticut’s 105th-ranked run defense.  With some help from the running game, QB Tyler Palko will get back to be being one of the nation’s most efficient passers.  The Huskies, on the other hand, will continue to struggle on offense with a two-quarterback system that hasn’t worked since the I-AA portion of the schedule ended.
Why Connecticut might win: The Huskies showed plenty of fight in recent losses to West Virginia and Rutgers, a sign they haven’t quit on this season.  The Connecticut pass defense is No. 5 in the country, which will present problems for a Pittsburgh offense that’s scored just 22 points over the last two weekends.  As sloppy as the Panthers have played the last two weeks, they wouldn’t be a sure thing against any I-A team at this stage of the season.
Who to watch: Derek Kinder gets more pub and has the better numbers, but freshman Oderick Turner has steadily emerged as a reliable receiver for Palko in the second half of the year.  He’s had some drops, but has also had 30 catches for 465 yards and five touchdowns, a harbinger of bigger things to come in the next few years.
What will happen: The calendar may say November, but the quality of play at Rentschler Field will make it seem like it’s early August.  Desperate for a win, Pittsburgh will parlay a couple of costly Connecticut turnovers into points and a much-needed seventh victory.
CFN Prediction: Pittsburgh 26... Connecticut 16 ...  Line: Pitt -8.5
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause) ... 2

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