Big East Fearless Predictions, Nov. 18
Posted Nov 15, 2006

The Big East takes center stage on yet another Thursday night as LaRod Stephens-Howling and Pitt will try to keep pace with West Virginia and its high-powered ground attack to kickoff the biggest weekend of the season.

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 | Week 10 | Week 11
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How'd we do so far? SU 44-5  ATS 25-18-1

Big East Game of the Week

West Virginia (8-1) at Pittsburgh (6-4), 7:30 EST, ESPN, Thursday, November 16
Why to watch: The Backyard Brawl is more than just a catchy nickname for a rivalry game; these two schools genuinely do not like one another.  West Virginia rebounded from its first loss of the season with a tidy 42-24 disposal of Cincinnati.  With a win over the Panthers, the seventh-ranked Mountaineers can stay in the Big East and National Championship hunts with the showdown with Rutgers to follow.  Losers of three straight, the Panthers’ strong start is ancient history replaced by the prospects of a miserable 6-6 campaign with 8-1 Louisville still left on the schedule.  Having yet to beat a team with a winning record, Pitt’s double-overtime 46-45 loss to Connecticut last week was the low point of the season.
Why West Virginia might win: Two weeks ago, Pittsburgh couldn’t score.  Now it can’t seem to play defense, specifically, run defense.  That’s a real problem with Pat White and Steve Slaton visiting with the nation’s No. 2 running attack.  The Panthers couldn’t corral Connecticut freshman Donald Brown last weekend and have allowed at least 190 yards on the ground the last three weeks. To put it bluntly … uh oh.
Why Pittsburgh might win: Despite the recent losing skid, the Panthers have proven they can still create turnovers as rapidly as any Big East team and light up a scoreboard provided Tyler Palko gets support from the running game.  Last week in East Hartford, the offense cranked out 154 yards and two scores from LaRod Stephens-Howling, which opened things up for Palko to go 20-of-25 for 234 yards and three touchdowns versus an above average Husky pass defense.  The last time the Mountaineers faced a balanced offense, they allowed 468 yards and three touchdowns to Louisville.
Who to watch: While Pitt searches for defensive answers, White will be streaking into the secondary early and often.  The sophomore started slowly in September, but has caught fire in the second half, running for 643 yards and 13 touchdowns over the last five games. He’s not getting much in the way of national attention despite being third in the nation in scoring and third in the Big East in rushing.
What will happen: Pittsburgh is a mess.  West Virginia is rejuvenated.  With Slaton and White gashing the Panther defense for 250 yards and three touchdowns between them, a reversal of fortunes isn’t about to happen.
CFN Prediction: West Virginia 35 … Pitt 20 .. Line: West Virginia -10
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 The Bachelor: Rome) ... 3.5

South Florida (7-3) at Louisville (8-1), 7:30 EST, ESPNU, Saturday, November 18
Why to watch: Last week, everyone wondered if Louisville was worthy of the No. 3 hole in the BCS batting order.  After squandering a lead at Rutgers and losing for the first time, this week’s debate is whether the Cardinals can recover in time to win the Big East title or elevate high enough to warrant BCS at-large consideration.  They’ll have to shake off last Thursday’s game quickly because South Florida comes to town streaking and confident one year after pounding the Cards in Tampa.  Fueled by a suffocating defense, the Bulls have won four of five to secure a spot in the post-season for the second straight year.  A win this week or next week at West Virginia would elevate the program to an entirely new echelon of national respect and notoriety.
Why South Florida might win: The level of pressure Brian Brohm and Louisville felt in their scoreless second half last week is precisely what they’re going to face Saturday from a swarming South Florida D that’s getting better as the season progresses.  For all the attention the offense receives, they really haven’t been all that prolific in 2006 scoring less than 30 points in four of the last six games.  The unit will struggle versus a Bull defense that hasn’t allowed more than 23 points in a game all year and has twice as many picks as touchdown passes allowed.
Why Louisville might win: While it’s been three years since Louisville lost at Papa John’s, South Florida is not a very good team when it travels outside the Sunshine State, particularly if the weather is cold.  The forecast for Saturday?  Cool and wet.  The Bull offense is way too one-dimensional, leaning heavily on freshman QB Matt Grothe, to keep pace with the Cardinal offense or make a dent in a speedy defense that allows just 16 points a game.
Who to watch: Whether or not Michael Bush decides to return for his senior year, the Louisville running game will be just fine with current true freshman and future feature back Anthony Allen doing a little bit of everything this fall.  In the first quarter alone last Thursday, he had a touchdown run, a two-point conversion off a blocked extra point and a tackle on special teams.  He has the look and demeanor of a budding star.
What will happen: Do you think Louisville remembers getting blasted 45-14 last year in one of the embarrassing shockers of the first half of the season?  A motivated and focused Brohm will seal the victory with a fourth quarter touchdown pass to Mario Urrutia.    
CFN Prediction: Louisville 38 … South Florida 17 .. Line: Louisville -16.5
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 The Bachelor: Rome) ... 3

Connecticut (4-5) at Syracuse (3-7), 12:00 EST, ESPN Plus, Saturday, November 18
Why to watch: Connecticut gave this game a pulse by upsetting Pitt 46-45 last Saturday in a double-overtime shootout.  The win pulled the Huskies to within two wins of bowl eligibility with three games left, making this week’s visit to the Carrier Dome a must-win situation.  Sophomore QB D.J. Hernandez and redshirt freshman RB Donald Brown, a tandem Randy Edsall hopes will produce plenty more wins over the next two seasons, ripped apart the Panthers and need to build on the big performances.  Losers of five straight games, Syracuse will be in the spoiler role the next two weekends.  If the Orange is going to break its 12-game Big East losing streak under Greg Robinson, this will be the program’s best chance until 2007.
Why Connecticut might win: In Hernandez and Brown, the Huskies have finally unearthed an offensive combination that can make plays on a Syracuse defense that’s become increasingly hideous in the second half of the season.  The Orange has allowed more than 500 yards in half of its last six games, making South Florida QB Matt Grothe look like a Heisman candidate a week ago.  Hernandez was crisp and confident leading Connecticut to victory, while Brown exploded for 231 total yards and three scores. If there’s a repeat of last week, SU doesn’t have the firepower to keep up.
Why Syracuse might win: Turnovers.  Along with Pitt, the Orange has the best turnover margin in the Big East, while Connecticut has been prone to too many careless mistakes.  Look for Syracuse to successfully pound the ball with Delone Carter and Curtis Brinkley, who’ll see lots of daylight against a Connecticut run defense that’s 105th nationally.
Who to watch: Brown has infused new life into a Connecticut program that was wilting before the Rutgers game two weeks ago.  He’s flashed a nice blend of power, speed and vision, running for 404 yards and four touchdowns the last two weeks, leaving no doubt he’s the heir apparent to all-time leading rusher Terry Caulley, who’s trying to recover from a broken hand.
What will happen: Needing the game more and smelling a December bowl game, Connecticut will keep the Syracuse offense sputtering, getting enough out of its offense to reach .500.
CFN Prediction: Connecticut 21 … Syracuse 17 .. Line: Syracuse -3
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 The Bachelor: Rome) ... 2

Rutgers (9-0) at Cincinnati (5-5), 7:45 EST, ESPN, Saturday, November 18
Why to watch: Okay, Rutgers, what do you have for an encore? The Scarlet Knights were the darlings of college football for about 48 hours until Kansas State shocked Texas Saturday night, but they’re about to enter bizarre territory … national title talk.  Now ranked sixth in the latest BCS rankings after beating Louisville, the hunters have become the hunted.  How well this young team manages high expectations and the glare of the spotlight will determine how much gas is in this magic carpet ride.  Cincinnati appears just a little less dangerous after getting humbled by West Virginia in a game that was more one-sided than the 42-24 final score indicated, but the defense is still there to make this interesting. With a win Saturday night, Cincy will return to the postseason about a year earlier than expected.
Why Rutgers might win: Ray Rice and the running game get most of the headlines, but without the play of the defense, Rutgers might be a three-loss team.  The unit has been sensational all year long, capped by a dominant scoreless second half that kept Louisville from pulling away.  Cincinnati averages just 19 points a game and struggles in pass protection, which is going to leave QB Dustin Grutza in a world of hurt come Sunday morning.
Why Cincinnati might win: No matter what anyone says, it’s extremely difficult to avoid a letdown the week after you’ve won the biggest game in school history in front of a jubilant home crowd.  Just ask Louisville.  As tough as it was to beat the Cardinals, getting on the road this week and beating Cincinnati might be harder on some levels for Rutgers.  The Bearcats have been tough on opposing quarterbacks all year, which could force young and erratic QB Mike Teel to make costly mistakes in the passing game.
Who to watch: At 5-11, Ramel Meekins certainly lacks the size pro scouts demand in a defensive tackle, but don’t expect head coach Greg Schiano to throw him back.  Meekins has incredible quickness and lateral speed, which is often too much for most offensive linemen to handle.  He was everywhere against Louisville, racking up eight tackles, two sacks and a pair of hurries in a dominant one-man performance.
What will happen: Cincinnati and Nippert Stadium will be all jacked up over the prospects of beating a top 10 team, so a slow start from Rutgers is pretty much a given.  However, when the Scarlet Knights need a boost, they’ll get it from Rice and the defense, which will keep the perfect season going for another week.
CFN Prediction: Rutgers 24 … Cincinnati 16 .. Line: Rutgers -7
Must See Rating: (5 skip the birth of your first born - 1 The Bachelor: Rome) ... 3

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