Big East Week 12 Preview
Just when you think you've got it figured out, it eludes you. Always on the tip of your tongue, it's that concept you just can't quite ever grasp. It, my friends, is the world of sports and trying to predict them. Just one week after West Virginia looked to have a chokehold on another Big East title, little old Cincinnati stepped up and said, "Uhh, not so fast Pat White and Company." College football, in general, over the last few years has become increasingly more of a crapshoot to predict with the BCS in shambles after Ohio State lost in mid-November 2007 and still managed to claw their way back to the national title game, thanks to chaos being unleashed on every favored team for the last few weeks of the regular season.
The spirit of "any given Sunday" doesn't only apply to one day of the week now. The playing field is leveling at a rapid pace and no longer can one bank on the traditional college football powers being in the big-name bowls at the end of the year. With all that in mind, let's try to use some logic and reason to break down what the Big East has to offer us this week.
First up, Cincinnati (tied for the conference lead now) visits Papa John's Stadium for a Friday night clash with Louisville. The Cardinals have been disappointing as of late, to say the least but have a history of playing the Bearcats tough. Louisville has won nine of the last ten meetings and pulled off an upset last season. Cincy was ranked #15 at that time last season and was surprisingly close to a Big East title. This year, the circumstances are nearly identical; except Cincinnati is ranked a bit lower and they'll have to go on the road to get it done this time. That being said, Louisville has an incredible amount of obstacles to overcome. They have looked awful in the last two weeks, getting waylaid by Syracuse and Pittsburgh. In the Panthers game, freshman Matt Simms saw playing time in the second half, establishing a possible quarterback controversy. Expect Cincy to try to establish the run game early in this one, especially if the weather conditions are unfavorable which is looking likely. Louisville had one of the top ten run defenses in the nation just two weeks ago, but has fallen from grace. The Bearcats' strength lies in their defense, particularly the secondary. This would lead one to believe that the Cardinals will try to establish their dominance on the ground with Victor Anderson and possibly Brock Bolen. While Cincy isn't known for its pass rush, Hunter Cantwell is one of the least mobile QBs in the conference and SU sacked him on more than one occasion in their meeting last year. If Cincy can put all of the distractions out of their head and come out and play their game, realizing they are the superior team with more talent, this one will be a cakewalk. But it never is as it appears. For Louisville to win, they need to win the turnover battle (they are last in the conference in turning the ball over) and they'll need a powerful running game and a couple of bounces their way. Expect this one to go down to the wire, but the Bearcat defense will step up and make a statement in the second half. Cincinnati 26, Louisville 20.
Further south, the Bulls are a-ragin' and looking to save their season when they welcome the streaking Rutgers Scarlet Knights to town. This contest will come down to a battle of who is able to impose their will on the other team. Rutgers would like to throw the ball all day, while USF would be more comfortable running the ball with either Matt Grothe or their stable of tailbacks. Expect this game to follow a simple rule of science: Newton's first law (An object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force). Rutgers has momentum and has molded itself into a team over the last month, while USF has been overcome by a mix of injuries, too much talent clashing on the field and terrible luck. While on paper, this matchup would appear to favor the Bulls, especially at home; it will play out much differently on the gridiron. Rutgers remains motivated and hungry, seeking a bowl berth. USF has crashed and burned from its great expectations in the pre-season, so don't expect the descent to stop here. Mike Teel finds Kenny Britt for a tiebreaking touchdown in the fourth quarter, as Rutgers takes the cake 24-17.
In the Carrier Dome, the Randy Edsall homecoming storyline will likely dominate the news, as fans are left to wonder if this will be Greg Robinson's last home game as head coach of the ‘Cuse. While the vultures will circle around this, the headlines should be about two standout running backs: Donald Brown and Curtis Brinkley. Or maybe even about how UConn and SU share more similarities than what first meets the eye? Instead, SU fans get to rejoice at the chance to play spoiler for what seems like the hundredth game in a row and try not to worry about whether two certain student-athletes are at the game or the hookah bar they own. Expect anything when it comes to this game. UConn will likely be missing its starting QB and best defensive playmaker. This game will be heavily predicated on the run, but the difference will be in the defense. The Huskies will stack eight men in the box, forcing Cam Dantley (or whoever's out there) to air it out. I see Donald Brown outshining Curtis Brinkley, but both topping 100 yards as UConn pulls away in the second half for a 27-20 victory.
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