A potential for some good games this week in the Big East. While the favored teams look solid to win, the underdogs should be able to hang. The week is highlighted by a throwdown with an SEC opponent...though neither team is playing to potential. And can South Florida finally win at Louisville? On to the picks...
Last Week: 3-1
Cincinnati at UConn: The Huskies are struggling. Two losses in a row, and an offense that has gotten too one-dimensional. The Bearcats are surging, and are a win away from being ranked. Cincy has been looking for respect all year, and probably deserve it, considering their only loss was to Oklahoma. They are now the darkhorse to win the conference. They are doing it by forcing teams to throw the ball...that's not good for a Husky team that can't throw. The Bearcats also are number 2 in the conference in turnover margin, something that coach Brian Kelly strives for. UConn has to find a passing game. The problem is that they may be going to the bench yet again, because of an injury to backup Zack Frazer. There is no question that Cincy will stack the box to try to slow down Donald Brown, which they should be able to do. The Huskies have to find something through the air, which is highly doubtful. The Huskies losing streak continues.
Prediction: 20-10 Cincinnati
Rutgers at Pitt: Both teams coming off big wins, and Rutgers actually matches up pretty well with Pitt. The Knights run defense has been solid lately, especially against smaller backs. The major issue for the Knights has been defending the pass, but the Panthers are run first, pass second. If Pitt wants to end this game early their best bet is to hit some big passes first, than establish a rushing attack with Shady McCoy. The Knights offense is still incredibly sad, and shouldn't do any harm to the Panthers. Rutgers just doesn't have the team that their fans were hoping for this season, and the biggest story continues to be the naming rights of their stadium.
Prediction: 27-14 Pitt
South Florida at Louisville: This game will be closer than you may think. The Bulls have never won at Papa Johns Stadium, but if they want to keep up with Pitt that will have to change. South Florida has the number one offense and defense in the Big East, but are prone to the letdown. Matt Grothe continues to have a fantastic season both on the ground and in the air. Though it could be tough-going against an improved Louisville defense. The Cardinals do give up some points, but have been closing out games very well. The biggest issue with Louisville has been turnovers. If they lose that battle then forget about this being close. They can't afford to give the Bulls any help. Will it take a perfect game from Louisville to win? Pretty much. The Cardinals best bet will to establish a ground game early and control the clock. If the Bulls get up early, expect turnovers to come into play. The game will be tight, but South Florida's experience on both sides of the ball will be the decider.
Prediction: 28-24 USF
Game of the Week. Auburn at West Virginia: Wow, this game looked a hell of a lot better at the beginning of the year. Now neither team is ranked, and both can't find an identity offensively. However, when a team from the Big Eats goes up against an SEC opponent it's going to be a big game...especially when it's Thursday night. Pat White is expected to return for the Mountaineers, which is huge. White will love to take it to one of his home-state schools. As bad as the offense has been for both squads, the defense has been the complete opposite. WVU and Auburn are in the top 15 in scoring defense. The better defense has to be the Tigers, considering their schedule compared to West Virginia's. This game will be a battle of field position, as neither team has established a firm passing game. One big advantage for the Mountaineers has been the turnover margin. WVU has been very good at holding onto the ball, Auburn not so much. If WVU can force an early turnover that results in a score then expect more of the same. Auburn won't be able to play from behind. Add in the Thursday night crowd in Morgantown and it should be a recipe for success for the Mountaineers.
Prediction: 20-13 WVU