Around the League

The Big East has a number of high-profile games on tap this weekend. It all gets underway Friday evening as West Virginia's Mountaineers travel to Tampa to take on the South Florida Bulls.

5/5 West Virginia at 18/18 South Florida
West Virginia (4-0) and USF (3-0) have met just 3 times prior to this Friday's contest. The series between the pair of schools initiated with the Bulls' joining the Big East in 2004. USF traveled to Morgantown last year and amassed 326 yards of total offense from Conference Rookie of The Year Matt Grothe as the Bulls upset 7 WVU. The previous year the Mountaineers won in Tampa. During this short series, the road team has come on top each time.

This week's rankings mark the 31st straight time that WVU has been in the national polls. WVU has also been etched in stone in the Top 10 rankings, as the Big East power has been placed in the Top 10, 20 of the last 22 weeks. West Virginia is averaging 47.2 points per game, which ranks ninth nationally. The Mountaineers are ranked No. 2 in the nation in rushing (357.0 yards per game), trailing only Navy (360.0). With a win on Friday evening, Head Coach Rich Rodriguez will notch victory number 100 of his career (a win would increase his total to 55 victories as head man at WVU).

For the first time in school history, USF has entered both national polls, coming in at 18 after a convincving victory versus North Carolina. Playing against the vaunted offense of WVU, the Bulls bring in their own version of domination as their conference leading rushing defense has permitted the opposition only 79 yards/game thus far. Additionally, The Bulls are ranked second in the Big East and seventh nationally in total defense (237.7 yards per game). Offensively, super-sophomore Matt Grothe has yet to throw an interception, while defensively, So. DE George Selvie is the national leader in both sacks (8.5) and has more than twice as many tackles for loss (15) than any other BIG EAST player this season.

Time: Friday, Sept. 28 8 p.m.
Location: Raymond James stadium (65,000/natural grass), Tampa, Fla.
Television: ESPN2

Akron at Connecticut

The series between these pair of schools dates back to 2000 and this Saturday's contest marks the 3rd meeting between the schools. UConn has won both meetings thus far - the Huskies won by a field goal in 2000 and by a single point in 2003. Following their second victory of the season, versus Kent State, Akron (2-2) comes into this contest sporting a 2-2 record. Despite being on the losing end, Akron presented itself well at 11 Ohio State, trailing only 3-2 at halftime. Akron will feature two quarterbacks this Saturday Chris Jacquemain has made three starts and completed 32 of 54 passes for 236 yards and one touchdown, while Carlton Jackson has completed 30 of 56 passes for 346 yards and three TDs and has rushed for two scores.

The Big East's most positive surprise of the 2007 campaign thus far, Connecticut comes in sporting a 4-0 record after handling Pittsburgh 34-14 last week. Despite previous close calls against Akron, UConn has won nine straight games against opponents from the Mid-American Conference. Joining other Big East schools boasting stout defenses (see USF, above), UConn comes into this game with a defense that ranks 12th nationally in total defense through four weeks. Additionally, UConn is also ranked among the national leaders in scoring defense (7th, 11.3 points per game), rushing defense (16th, 85.0 ypg), and pass defense (19th, 165.5 ypg). Connecticut has allowed an average of 250.5 yards per game.

Time: Saturday, Sept. 29 Noon
Location: Rentschler Field (40,000/natural grass) East Hartford, Conn.
Television: ERT

Syracuse at Miami (Ohio)

Syracuse holds a 3-0 edge in the series played between both schools with the Orange notching a 34-14 decision last year. While last year's contest was played at the Carrier Dome, this week's game will be the first between the pair of schools to be played in Ohio.

Syracuse (1-3) recorded the biggest victory of the Greg Robinson era last week by defeating then-No. 18 Louisville, on the road, 38-35. The victory was Syracuses first against a ranked opponent since the Orange gained a share of the 2004 Big East Conference title with a 43-17 decision at 17/19 Boston College Nov. 27, 2004. So. QB Andrew Robinson and Fr. Max Suter each had standout performances versus the Cardinals. However, Jr. WR Taj Smith had several ESPN-reel plays and is currently ranked 6th in the Big East in receiving yards per game (62.5).

Miami (Ohio) (1-3) has lost three consecutive games on the year, including a 42-0 loss at Colorado last week. The Redhawks faced off against another Big East foe earlier in the year, losing to the Cincinnati Bearcats 47-10 on Sep. 15. Miami (Ohio) has enjoyed a superb winning tradition, including 12 consecutive winning seasons and four straight years of a division title championship or an outright MAC Title Championship. The winning ways came to an end last year as Miami (Ohio) won 2 games. Offensively, the Redhawks feature Senior RB Brandon Murphy, who is enjoying a fine season, averaging 100.5 rushing yards per game with a pair of touchdowns.

Time: Saturday, Sept. 29 3 p.m.
Location: Yager stadium (24,286/Fieldturf) Oxford, Ohio
Television: ERT/Ohio News Network

Pittsburgh at Virginia

Pittsburgh holds a 3-1 advantage in a series that dates back to 1953. Pitt and UVA battled at Heinz Field last year and the Panthers enjoyed a 38-13 decision. This game will mark Pitt's first road game versus an opponent from the ACC Conference since 1992 and will be the first meeting between the pair of schools in Charlottesville since the initial 1953 matchup.

Pitt (2-2) opened the 2007 campaign with a pair of victories but has since seen itself on a two-game skid, including a home loss in the conference opener last week. Pitt will be starting their third signal-caller of the year on Saturday as the highly touted recruit Pat Bostick is expected to see his first collegiate start. Bostick did play during last week's loss to UConn, completing 27 of 41 passes for 230 yards and a touchdown, all in the second half. True Freshman RB LeSean McCoy ranks fourth in the Big East in rushing with an average of 104.2 yards per game. McCoy has also recorded five rushing touchdowns on the year so far.

After a season-opening loss to Wyoming, Virginia (3-1) has enjoyed 3 straight victories, including an impressive performance versus Georgia Tech last week. UVA has been bouyed by a balanced offense that has averaged 112 yards rushing and 170 yards passing thus far. Jr. RB Cedric Peerman leads the way for UVA - he enters Saturdays game as the ACCs rushing leader (479 yards and three touchdowns on 84 carries, and ranks 16th nationally with an average of 119.8 rushing yards per game). The defense is spearheaded by senior DE Chris Long. Long has registered six sacks through four games, trailing only USFs George Selvie in that category.

Time: Saturday, Sept. 29 7 p.m.
Location: Scott Stadium (61,500/Artificial Turf) Charlottesville, Va.
Television: ESPNU

24/NA Cincinnati at San Diego State

These two schools have never met before on the gridiron, thus marking Saturday night's contest the initial meeting between the pair of schools. This game will be the Bearcats' first game in California in 49 years.

Cincinnati (4-0) has garnered their first AP ranking since 1976, coming in at #24 this week. The Bearcats are also the first team in the receiving votes column in the Coaches Poll. The Bearcats currently enjoy the longest active winning streak in the Big East, dating back to last year, and a streak that has reached 7 games. Cincinnati has rocked its initial four opponents of the season, outscoring them by a whopping 150 points (37.5 point margin of victory). The Bearcats stifling defense is ranked fourth nationally in scoring defense (7.5 points per game) and has allowed just three touchdowns in 2007. Additionally, Cincinnati also leads the nation in turnover margin averaging a net of 3.75 takeaways per game and 19 forced turovers (seven recovered fumbles, 12 interceptions) which have led to to 79 points.

San Diego State (1-2) defeated Portland State last week, recording their first victory of the 2007 campaign. The Aztecs' two losses were both Pac-10 road losses (Washington State and Arizona State). San Diego State boasts a deep WR corp - 8 different Aztecs have recorded passes this year and the passing offense amasses 313 yards per game (ranked 15th nationally). Senior QB Kevin OConnell has been the chief offensive cog for San Diego State, amassing 896 passing yards to go along with six TD passes. The Sr. signal-caller also ranks 16th nationally in total offense (323.3 yards per game), making this contest an interesting match-up of offensive (Aztecs) VS defensive (Bearcats) prowess.

Time: Saturday, Sept. 29 10 p.m.
Location: Qualcomm stadium (54,000/natural grass) San Diego, Calif.
Television: Versus

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