2009 Big East Fearless Predictions
Week 12 ... Nov. 21 Games
Big East Fearless Predictions
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Game of the Week
Connecticut (4-5) at Notre Dame (6-4),2:30 EST, NBC, Saturday, November 21
Why to watch: If you don't like the match up on the field in South Bend, surely you'll find the off-field circus intriguing. Back-to-back high-profile losses to Navy and Pittsburgh have Notre Dame head man Charlie Weis clinging for his coaching life and fending off incessant questions about his future. Although the situation can't get much worse, a third straight defeat would certainly ratchet up the chatter to an all-time high. Connecticut comes out of its bye week with a three-game losing streak and in need of two wins in the final three games to qualify for the postseason. One of the nation's least fortunate teams of 2009, the Huskies have lost all five games by four points or less. It'll be a particularly compelling afternoon for Zach Frazer, who transferred out of Notre Dame after falling on the depth chart behind three quarterbacks, including current Irish starter Jimmy Clausen.
Why Connecticut might win: The Notre Dame defense is beatable on the ground, which is the Huskies' preferred method of travel. Well-rested after a couple of weeks off, Connecticut will feed the Irish a steady diet of Jordan Todman and Andre Dixon, one of the nation's best backfield duos. Each is averaging more than 80 yards a game on the ground, which means fresh legs for all 60 minutes. Frazer has the major league arm to give the offense balance, turn WR Marcus Easley into a downfield playmaker, and keep the defense from stacking the box on the backs.
Why Notre Dame might win: This has not been a typical Connecticut pass defense, in part because of the tragic death of starting CB Jasper Howard. The Huskies are 96th nationally in pass efficiency defense, allowing at least 250 yards through the air in the last four games. That won't cut it versus Clausen, who has a one-two punch at wide receiver that'll cause fits for the defensive backfield. Golden Tate and Michael Floyd are pro-caliber talents, with the ability to take games over with their big-play potential. If someone on that suspect Irish line can keep DE Lindsey Witten from collapsing the pocket, Clausen will have the time he needs to pick apart the secondary.
Who to watch: Irish true freshman LB Manti Te'o has been as good as advertised for the defense, stepping into the lineup in early October and playing like a veteran. Playing with great range and tenacity, the game has gradually started to slow down for the can't-miss recruit from Hawaii. With Connecticut determined to establish the run on Saturday, he'll get plenty of chances to make tackles and keep Todman and Dixon from getting past the second line of defense.
What will happen: Notre Dame is desperate and back home, a combination that'll help avert a nasty three-game losing streak. It won't be easy, however. Facing Connecticut rarely is. The Huskies will battle for all four quarters, like they always do, before succumbing to the Irish passing game and dropping yet another heartbreaker in the waning moments.
CFN Prediction: Notre Dame 27 … Connecticut 23 ... Line: Notre Dame -6
Must See Rating: (WWII in HD 5 … Old Dogs 1) … 4
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Louisville (4-6) at South Florida (6-3),12:00 EST, ESPN Gameplan, Saturday, November 14
Why to watch: Consistent with its personality under head coach Jim Leavitt, South Florida has started to plummet after raising expectations with a strong start. Since opening 5-0 and rising to No. 21 in the country, the Bulls have sunk back in the Big East hierarchy, losing to Cincinnati and getting badly exposed in recent road north to Pitt and Rutgers. All that's left now for the program is to win one of the final three games needed to secure bowl eligibility. Although it's not going to help improve season ticket sales or Steve Kragthorpe's job security, Louisville eked out a 10-9 win over Syracuse on Saturday to avoid the conference cellar. The Cards remain mathematically alive for bowl eligibility, though that's unlikely with game remaining against the Bulls and the Scarlet Knights.
Why Louisville might win: Considering the way South Florida is playing on both sides of the ball these days, anything is possible. The inconsistency of the Bulls is liable to open the door for the Cardinals to win a second straight league game. Although Louisville hasn't done any one thing especially well this season, it has tightened the screws on defense lately, yielding an average of 13 points over the last three games. USF has been up-and-down offensively, which will allow the Cards to attack with a front seven getting big plays from linebackers Chris Campa and Jon Dempsey, and linemen William Savoy and L.D. Scott.
Why South Florida might win: Reaching the end zone will be a huge concern for Louisville, as it's been all season. Riddled with injuries and a revolving door behind center, the Cards are averaging a league-low 18 points a game. No one at the skill positions is going to threaten a veteran unit that features a bunch of potential next-level performers, like ends George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul, LB Kion Wilson, S Nate Allen, and CB Jerome Murphy. After getting whooped recently by the league's better schools, this is a chance for South Florida to dominate on defense and create turnovers for a needy offense.
Who to watch: B.J. Daniels has been your typical rookie quarterback for South Florida, outstanding one week and outclassed the next. He has the raw ability to be special and an opponent that'll allow him to deliver one of those positive games on Saturday afternoon. This is the same kid, who torched a good West Virginia defense for three touchdown passes just a couple of weeks ago.
What will happen: After struggling of late, South Florida is poised to take full advantage of a weaker opponent for the first time since the trip to Syracuse on Oct. 3. With absolutely no worries from the Louisville offense, the Bulls will pull away early behind the running of Moise Plancher and Mike Ford, and the dual-threat potential from Daniels. The Cards simply don't have the athletes to compete for four quarters in Tampa.
CFN Prediction: South Florida 28 … Louisville 10 ... Line: South Florida -12.5
Must See Rating: (WWII in HD 5 … Old Dogs 1) … 2
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Rutgers (7-2) at Syracuse (3-7),3:30 EST, Saturday, November 21
Why to watch: For the first time since 2007, Rutgers is ranked, an unexpected turnaround for a team that began the campaign with a thud and didn't really adopt an identity until after the midway point of the season. However, since losing a close one to Pitt on Oct. 16, the Scarlet Knights have handled Army, stunned Connecticut in the waning seconds, and floored South Florida, 31-0, in a validation moment last Thursday in front of a national audience. For about 59 minutes of last weekend's game with Louisville, Syracuse fought the good fight before succumbing, 10-9, in another deflating loss for the program. The outcome means the Orange will spend another year looking up at the rest of the Big East and watching form home as more than half of the conference goes bowling.
Why Rutgers might win: Where will the points come from for Syracuse? The Orange is averaging a mere 12 points in league games and the situation is deteriorating as the season wears down. It won't get better versus the Scarlet Knights, which lead the Big East in scoring and total defense, yielding just 15 points a game and coming off an impressive shutout. The unit has started to coalesce around a front seven that's getting consistent production out of ends George Johnson and Alex Silvestro, and linebackers Ryan D'Imperio and Damaso Munoz. There may not be any household names, but this group doesn't give up much ground and is clearly peaking at the right time.
Why Syracuse might win: Even without star NT Arthur Jones, head coach Doug Marrone still has his defense playing relatively well. The Orange allow under 100 yards a game on the ground and kept Louisville out of the end zone until the final minute of last weekend's game. If it can neutralize RB Joe Martinek, it'll heap extra pressure on Rutgers rookie QB Tom Savage to step up, especially on third-and-long. Syracuse has quietly gotten an all-star season from LB Derrell Smith and support from DE Chandler Jones, Arthur's younger brother, and LB Doug Hogue, a former running back making a successful switch to the other side of the ball.
Who to watch: That Rutgers has made this run with a true freshman behind center makes it doubly remarkable. Savage just keeps getting better, throwing five touchdown passes over the last two games and just a pair of picks all year. With the help of receivers Tim Brown and Mohamed Sanu, he'll stay hot at the expense of a Syracuse secondary that's given up 21 touchdown passes and is 116th nationally in pass efficiency defense.
What will happen: Rutgers is rolling. Syracuse is reeling. There's no evidence to believe either trend will be altered this week in the Carrier Dome, especially considering the Orange's problems getting into the end zone. The Scarlet Knights will dominate on defense, offsetting a workmanlike effort from Savage, Martinek, and the rest of the offense.
CFN Prediction: Rutgers 27 … Syracuse 9 ... Line: Rutgers -8.5
Must See Rating: (WWII in HD 5 … Old Dogs 1) … 2.5
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