Big East Week 6 Preview
The South Florida Bulls (5-0) are far and away the class of the Big East right now and will look to improve on their #10 ranking in the country when they host Pitt. Meanwhile, Cincinnati hopes its fourth-string quarterback will be able to guide the ‘Cats to victory over Marshall before the Big East grind starts. Over in Morgantown, West Virginia will look to re-establish themselves as players in the conference race when they entertain Rutgers in a battle of two disappointing, overhyped teams (thus far). Lastly, UConn has to go to its backup quarterback for a critical basketball game at the Dean Dome (wait…it's October and the Huskies and Tar Heels are playing a game of significance? Whodathunkit?!?)
USF will look to use the playmaking abilities of its variety of skill position players to strike early and often. Dual threat Matt Grothe will likely be rolling out early and often to stretch a Panther defense that was recently bullied by Syracuse for one half plus. Grothe says this year's team is "more mature" and it will have to be, with defensive bookend George Selvie questionable for the game. Expect both teams to excel on the ground, but whomever has a better passing game should come out the victor. In this case I like South Florida for two reasons: Matt Grothe's dual threat opening up receivers downfield and the underrated USF secondary. USF wins it 31-23.
It seems like Cincinnati has been able to plug in anyone, including a random person off the street, and he's had success at the quarterback slot. All indications are that the man this week will be Zach Collaros. He finished with two yards passing in relief of Tony Pike last week, but more importantly is also a dual threat, totaling eighteen yards on four ground attempts in the fourth quarter of last week's game versus Akron. This week, the Bearcats draw a frustrated Marshall team that was just humbled 27-3 by in-state rival WVU. Expect Marshall to try to establish the running game early but take a few deep shots on Cincy's stout secondary. This will be an ugly, ball-control sort of game where defense should excel. I see Cincy escaping another close contest unscathed in terms of losses, but who knows in terms of further injuries. The pick: Cincinnati 20, Marshall 17.
West Virginia has a nice game to begin Big East play against a Rutgers club in turmoil. Don't let the 38-0 romp over Morgan State last week fool you; this Scarlet Knight ballclub has plenty of work to do just to become bowl-eligible this season. West Virginia will rely on its superior athleticism, focusing its gameplan around the dynamic backfield combo of Pat White and Noel Devine. Expect the running game to set up a long strike from the aforementioned White to his favorite target, Jock Sanders. Rutgers' only hope in this game lies in somehow improving upon their awful yards per carry average and being able to control the ball. Mike Teel does have a great set of wideouts, but the Mountaineers will likely drop seven or eight men into coverage and make the run game beat them. West Virginia coasts 38-20.
In my mind, the Huskies-Heels game is the most intriguing of the week. Both are working with backup quarterbacks and if not for a UNC mental breakdown against Va. Tech late, both would be surprising unbeatens. This game could come down to coaching. Randy Edsall and Butch Davis are two of the brighter minds in college football, though Davis is known more for his recruiting prowess. Expect him to employ an eight man in the box scheme to slow the nation's leading rusher, Donald Brown. Brown, however, has faced this all season and should still be able to bust a big run or two. UConn seeks its first 6-0 start since 1995 when, coincidentally, Skip Holtz was the head coach. UNC, meanwhile, looks to end a nine-game losing streak against ranked opponents. Though I don't like to rag on UConn (who I vastly misjudged in the preseason…duly noted), this game will likely come down to who the home team is. I expect a late Tar Heel drive, pushed by a frenzied crowd, to culminate in a game-ending field goal. Tar Heels 20, Huskies 17.
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