The conference play begins deep in coach Dantonio's backyard. Cincinnati must win this game for a possibility at bowl contention. With a tough schedule ahead (games against No.1 OSU, No.16 Virginia Tech, No.13 Louisville, No. 6 West Virginia, and Rutgers), the Bearcast will need all the help they can get and a win against the Panthers would help. Pittsburgh is not quite as worried as they have two tough games against Louisville and West Virginia at home. But beware Irish fans…..the Pitt Panthers play at home against Michigan State in week three and should provide the Irish with some key film to attack the Spartans.
In regards to this game, the young defense of the Bearcats simply cannot contain Tyler Palko and the Wannstache passing attack. Pitt dispatched a young and talented Virginia team rather easily, and I would expect the talent level to take a drop here. With a two QB system, Cincinnati still has not solidified a field general and this game could be the first major push towards reconciling that issue. Cincy gave up 177 passing yards to Eastern Kentucky, and that spells trouble for the Bearcats. Look for this to get ugly in the first three quarters and Cincy will score late in the game to make it look a little more reasonable.
Prediction: Pitt 38 – 13
RUTGERS vs. ILLINOIS
This game will be intriguing to Irish fans for a couple of reasons. First, a loss by the Fightin' Zookies will give way to the recruiting whirlwind. If the Illini cannot beat Rutgers, will that turn recruits toward ND, or have the adverse effect? Also, if Rutgers is to win this game, could they begin progressing toward another bowl season and possibly begin contending with the Irish for New Jersey recruits?
This game will be a test for both teams. Both the Knights and the Illini have QB's that have mediocre stats but are very efficient. Both teams boast a dual-back system that can eat up yardage and the clock. Rutgers defense did surrender over 400 yards to North Carolina, but it is a safe argument that the Tar Heels are a little more talented than this current Illinois team. Illinois allowed 293 total yards against Eastern Illinois, and this defense will have its hands full with a capable Rutgers offense. If Illinois is to contain the Rutgers offense, it all begins up front with stopping Ray Rice and Brian Leonard, the two-headed rushing monster of SUNJ. This game will come down to three main keys:
First, which team can run the football? Rutgers has the better experience and is coming off a big win over an ACC opponent. Second, the time of possession will be a large factor. Illinois, although having won the game, lost the time of possession battle with Eastern Illinois. Rutgers controlled the ball almost seven minutes more than the Tar Heels. Third, the game is in Piscataway, NJ. All point to the Knights.
Prediction: Rutgers 24 – 17
No. 13 LOUISVILLE vs. TEMPLE
The Cardinal's post Michael Bush era begins as he sits out this year with the broken leg. This will be the first major start for the young but talented Cardinals backfield and will be an effort, no doubt, to get them game experience before the Week three match-up against Miami.
No surprise here, as Brian Brohm should pick apart a dreadful Owls team that was recently booted from their conference. This game will be an audition for RB George Stripling to become the new leading back for Louisville.
Prediction: Louisville 42 – 3
EASTERN WASHINGTON vs. No. 6 WEST VIRGINIA
There just isn't much to say about a weak Eagles team trying to stop the Mountaineers Super Sophomore duo. Pat White and Steve Slaton should both have big days and for those that like blowouts, definitely tune in.
Prediction: WVU 55 – 9
SYRACUSE vs. No.16 IOWA
Greg Robinson is only a couple years into his tenure, and after this match, will likely be on the hot seat and an 11-game losing streak. After dropping the opening game to Wake Forest, the ‘Cuse will be a launching pad for Iowa QB Drew Tate's dark horse Heisman campaign. Albert Young is the best RB you don't hear about. This game will be ugly. QB Perry Patterson is simply not the answer and Orange fans are crying for Donovan McNabb back. Those tears continue Saturday with a healthy spanking from the Hawkeyes.
Prediction: Iowa 47 – 6
USF vs. FLORIDA INT'L
Prediction: USF 39 – 13
UCONN – bye