Big East Preview

The college football world will begin to take a much more formidable shape after this weekend with some fantastic conference battles of ranked teams.

All Irish fans will have their eyes on the Stanford game and hopefully a 5-1 start to this season. The Big East does have two top 10 teams in action, but the chances for upset aren't as high as other conferences. Here's what's going on in the Big East this weekend.

WEST VIRGINIA vs. MISSISSIPPI STATE

Sylvester Croom and company welcome the Mountaineers to Starkville. I don't believe there is a more overrated team in the nation than the Mountaineers, but the Bulldogs will have to find an offense if they are to compete in this game. MSU QB Omarr Conner must become a more efficient and effective passer or this game will be out of reach in the first half. The Bulldog defense has shown sporadic glimpses of brilliance, but the lack of consistency could haunt them in this game. Pat White and Steve Slaton lead the Mountaineers after a week off, and looked mortal against a much lesser Eastern Carolina team. To add insult to injury, WVU WR Jeremy Bruce was suspended from the team indefinitely after a DUI charge.

The Mountaineers should be able to score in this game and hold State. I wonder if the NCAA compliance department has looked into a possible infraction with West Virginia. I believe the Mountaineers must be getting some benefits from Hostess after all the creampuffs they've faced to this point. Chalk up another one. I'll be rooting for the Bulldogs until West Virginia shows some cajones and plays some teams worthy of a No. 4 ranking.

My Prediction: WVU 34 - 7

LOUISVILLE vs. MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE

Louisville comes in after a week off to face the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State. The injuries to the Cardinals have been detrimental, but the team is rallying nicely around QB Hunter Cantwell and the RB duo of George Stripling and Kolby Smith. Cantwell has stepped in and played well for Louisville, who doesn't ask much of their QB as of late with a 50 percent rush and 50 percent pass offense.

The key will be for Louisville to avoid looking ahead to conference play. The Blue Raiders are not the worst of teams they will play and could provide some bumps in the road, especially after a mediocre win at Kansas State. The Blue Raiders have their own two-headed monster at tailback with Eugene Gross and DeMarco "I'm Not Steve" McNair. Both have comparable rushing totals to the Cardinals duo and this game will be won on defense and the ability of each team to stop the pass. The problem is that their simply isn't enough offensive balance for the Blue Raiders, who suffered a 59-0 shellacking at the hands of Oklahoma not more than two weeks ago. While I would love for the Blue Raiders to pull of the upset to help the Irish, I just don't see it happening. But I would love to be wrong!

My Prediction: Louisville 42-0

PITTSBURGH vs. SYRACUSE

The Wannstache attack and Uber-QB Tyler Palko travel to the Carrier Dome to take on a revived Syracuse Orange team with a three-game winning streak. Pitt WR Derek Kinder is averaging nearly 100 yards per game and a touchdown, while Palko's numbers are shadows of a 2005 Brady Quinn. The Orange QB Perry Patterson has grown up as of late and is putting some fire into an offense that was dismal in the first two games of the season.

Syracuse's defense will be the key to this game. They have proven that they can play well, just ask Iowa. I believe the Orange have a solid rushing attack with Curtis Brinkley and Delone Carter. Add to that the mobile aspect of Patterson's game and I think the Pitt defense could have a little trouble with this match-up. The Panthers are coming off of two consecutive 40-point plus wins over inferior talent. While I think Pitt will win this game in the end, I do think this is the game most poised for an upset. My mind is telling me Pitt, but my heart says Syracuse. I'll be logical today over emotional.

My Prediction: Pitt 31 – 28

UCONN – SOUTH FLORIDA

UCONN will face off this week against a much disappointed South Florida team that nearly upset No. 23 Rutgers last week. The question will be can South Florida shake off that loss and return to form against the Huskies? This game should display a potent offensive attack of USF QB Matt Grothe, as he looks to rally his team around him and push for a bowl bid.

My concern is that the Bulls will not find another consistent rushing threat other than Grothe and teams can attempt to load up to stop him. It hasn't worked as of late, but Rutgers provided the blueprint on how to beat this team.

UCONN, however, is literally walking with their tails between their legs after the spanking they got from Navy. The stat of that game will come back to haunt the Huskies this week. UCONN surrendered 603 yards of offense to Navy. That will kill them in this game. On top of that Husky RB Terry Caulley again was held scoreless and this offense is becoming more and more one dimensional. Combine that with a quarterback shuffle as Matt Bonislawski should again start over D.J. Hernandez, and this UCONN team could be in a tailspin. I think the Bulls come out and dominate this game at home.

My Prediction: USF 37 – 13

CINCINNATI vs. AKRON

The Bearcats take on a MAC school for the second straight week in hopes of rejuvenating their bowl hopes. Cincinnati has to win four of their last seven to be bowl eligible. They face off with three ranked teams and will have to pull an upset over a conference foe to achieve that feat. The road to bowl eligibility begins against the Zips and I think that Dantonio's crew starts off on the right foot. The Bearcats have this game to iron out any kinks before they take on Louisville, and they will be focused as they know that they need all the wins they can get for a bowl berth. The Zips have looked very pedestrian alternating wins and losses.

If I were a superstitious man I would say look out as the Zips are due for another win. Zips QB Luke Getsy can throw the ball and will look for WR Jabari Arthur. Akron has no real consistent run game, but they will give the ball to Dennis Kennedy and see what he can do. On the other hand, Dustin Grutza has played admirably against some very tough competition this season. The Bearcats post a little more fluidity with a less potent passing game but a more consistent rushing attack. Combine the offense of the Bearcats with the defense they've been playing and the last two weeks of victory (one moral and one outright): I smell victory.

My Prediction: Cincy 28 – 24

RUTGERS - BYE


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