Big East Week 8 Preview

Through seven weeks of the college football season, the Big East still has four teams unbeaten in conference play and four teams with just one loss overall.

Through seven weeks of the college football season, the Big East still has four teams unbeaten in conference play and four teams with just one loss overall. While it does not still have an undefeated team that will enter the national title fray, the conference will likely play out like a CSI episode: with many harrowing twists and turns that will leave us eagerly watching until the first weekend of December for a champion to be crowned. While there are only four games this weekend and two of them are out of conference, this weekend could still prove to be one of the most critical in the entire season.

Highly-touted South Florida kicks off the weekend, hosting the Orange in Tampa. While they'll likely play second fiddle to the ALCS festivities over the weekend, the Bulls will be looking to make a statement of their own. Jim Leavitt's team last played sixteen days ago, when it suffered an embarrassing letdown loss to Pittsburgh on national television. With plenty of rest under their belts and new motivation, it's hard to fathom USF could be in a trap game situation, but it may be so. Syracuse has, gasp, been playing a little bit better than the final scores indicate lately, taking West Virginia's best punches for 55 full minutes in Morgantown last Saturday. USF simply has too many playmakers to be stymied for long though. They will rely heavily on the arm and legs of quarterback Matt Grothe, who could wind up as the Big East Offensive Player of the Year, if USF can win the conference (he, Pitt's LeSean McCoy and UConn's Donald Brown appear to be head and shoulders above the rest of the pack right now). Expect USF's athletes to make the plays to stymie Curtis Brinkley. Syracuse will be forced to play catch up via the downfield passing game, one of their glaring weaknesses. This is a game that should be interesting for a bit more than a half, but one that won't likely be a nail-biter. The pick: USF 31, SU 17.

In a battle of two teams going entirely different directions, UConn travels to Piscataway to challenge the once-again lowly Scarlet Knights. After a brief stay amongst the Big East's elite, Rutgers has once again fallen upon hard times with the graduation of Ray Rice and other internal problems. A UConn team running for over 240 yards per game shouldn't face much of a challenge from the Scarlet Knights' defense. Randy Edsall will utilize Donald Brown as a major part of his gameplan to get his stud running back on track again and to take the crowd out of the game. While the Huskies have looked shaky at best since Tyler Lorenzen's injury, the Rutgers' offense won't quite have the necessary firepower to stretch UConn's defense. Connecticut should surge ahead early and then rely on their defense in this contest. The pick: Connecticut 27, Rutgers 13.

While some Louisville Cardinals fans might write off Middle Tennessee State as an automatic win, college football diehards know better. This is the MTSU team that put up 42 points on Louisville not too long ago when the Cardinals were a top 10 team in the country. This is an MTSU team that beat Maryland by 10 and lost only by 6 to Kentucky earlier this year. This MTSU team has rock-solid senior leadership at the helm in senior QB Joe Craddock, who has thrown for over 1,300 yards while completing approximately sixty five percent of his passes so far this year. For Louisville, this could be a big trap game. The Cardinals are getting geared up for a shot at USF at home next weekend, but as long as they emphasize a ground attack spearheaded by Victor Anderson, they should be fine. But expect a close shave for the Cardinals this week. The final tally: Louisville 24, Middle Tennessee State 21.

Pittsburgh has an interesting challenge on its hands, after returning to the AP top 25 after a month-long hiatus. The Panthers will matchup up with the Midshipmen of Navy, in a battle of two of the nation's most potent ground attacks. Obviously, who is able to impose their will on the ground and grind the clock will be a huge factor in deciding the game's outcome, but there are some other less obvious ones as well. Pitt QB Bill Stull is slowly settling in to become a nice game-managing quarterback that doesn't make many mistakes. He'll likely have a few chances to beat Navy's secondary deep in one-on-one coverage. Taking advantage of this early in the game will free up some running lanes for LeSean McCoy & Co. Meanwhile, Navy will look to use its special teams to its advantage. In a recent 33-27 victory over Air Force, the Midshipmen blocked two punts and returned them both for touchdowns. Navy will need to win the battle of turnovers and get a special teams play or two to bounce their way if they are going to pull the upset this weekend. In the end, Pittsburgh's superior talent, speed and athleticism should win out, but a fifth straight win over Navy won't be particularly easy. The pick: Pittsburgh 30, Navy 20.

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