Big East Football Preview

The stretch run for the Big East championship heats up this week with a full slate of league contests.

PITT LEADS, BUT...

Despite Pittsburgh's lead in the standings, every Big East team remains alive in the championship race. Through 10 weeks of the season, the Big East is the only Bowl Subdivision conference in which every team still has a shot at the championship.


EYE ON BOWLS

With four Big East games on tap this week, some teams will begin to make their postseason plans as they reach bowl eligibility. The winner of Saturday's game between USF and Louisville (Noon, ESPNU) will become bowl-eligible, as would Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Syracuse if those teams win this weekend. West Virginia hosts Cincinnati (Noon, Big East Network), while Syracuse visits Rutgers (3:30 p.m., ESPNU).


EYE ON BOWLS II

In an effort to provide its fanbase with an interactive platform to share their experiences while attending its bowl games, the Big East Conference, has launched Big East Bowl Central online.


CINCINNATI at West Virginia
Sat 11/13
12:00 PM
Big East
Saturday's game is the 19th meeting between Cincinnati and West Virginia, with the Mountaineers holding a 14-3-1 series lead … The series dates to 1921 as the schools met five times between then and 1940 … West Virginia went 11-0-1 in the first 12 meetings, but the teams have split the last six … The last three meetings have been decided by a combined 11 points … Cincinnati has won the last two by a combined six points, including a 24-21 decision at Nippert Stadium last year … Bearcat QB Tony Pike came off the bench to throw two touchdown passes and RB Isaiah Pead ran for 175 yards and a TD last in last year's win.

Cincinnati hits the road looking to snap a two-game slide … The Bearcats were idle last week following a 31-7 setback to Syracuse … Cincinnati has scored 35, 40 and 45 points in its three wins and has gone 0-5 when it has scored 30 points or fewer … Cincinnati leads the Big East in total offense (425.2 yards per game) and ranks second in scoring (27.4 ppg), but is seventh in total defense (354.5 ypg) and eighth in scoring defense (24.4 ppg) … QB Zach Collaros missed the game against Syracuse with a knee injury, but is expected to return against West Virginia … Collaros leads the Big East in passing (274.0 yards per game) and total offense (285.4 ypg) … Collaros has thrown for 1,918 yards and 20 touchdowns against just four interceptions … RB Isaiah Pead is fifth in the Big East in rushing at 88.3 yards per game … LB J.K. Schaffer is third in the conference in tackles (9.2 per game) … Bearcat coach Butch Jones was an assistant coach at West Virginia from 2005-06.

West Virginia, which had a bye last week, has lost back-to-back games for the first time since the 2008 season after falling to Connecticut in overtime Oct. 29 … West Virginia remains the only team in the nation that has not allowed more than 21 points in a game this season … The Mountaineers rank fourth nationally in both total defense (249.8 ypg) and scoring defense (13.6 ppg) while leading the Big East in both categories … RB Noel Devine, who has been slowed by nagging injuries, has rushed for 693 yards and four touchdowns … QB Geno Smith has thrown for 1,696 yards and 15 touchdowns with five interceptions … WR Jock Sanders is second in the Big East in receptions (5.8 per game), while WR Tavon Austin is fourth (5.2 per game) … CB Keith Tandy is tied for the Big East lead with four interceptions … DE Bruce Irvin has registered seven sacks, while LB Najee Goode and DT Chris Neild have three each … S Terence Garvin has a team-high 52 tackles … West Virginia has back-to-back road games — at Louisville and Pittsburgh — up next.


CONNECTICUT vs. Pittsburgh
Thu 11/11
7:30 PM
ESPN
Thursday's game will be the seventh meeting between Pittsburgh and Connectcut in a series that began in 2004 … The series is tied 3-3, with Pittsburgh winning the last two matchups … Connecticut won three of the first four in the series … Connecticut is 2-1 at Rentschler Field against the Panthers … Last year's meeting at Heinz Field saw Pitt QB Bill Stull throw for 268 yards and two touchdowns as the Panthers won 24-21 … The Panthers overcame a 21-6 third-quarter deficit by scoring the last 18 points, including an 18-yard field goal at the gun by K Dan Hutchins.

Pittsburgh, which was idle last week, has a two-game cushion in the Big East loss column with four games remaining … A finish of 2-2 or better in the final four games would give the Panthers at least a share of the Big East title … If Pittsburgh wins at least three of its last four games, it would win the conference title outright for the first time … The Panthers are 1-2 in road games this season … Head coach Dave Wannstedt said Monday that DE Greg Romeus — the 2009 Big East Defensive Player of the Year — would be listed as questionable with a back injury that has kept him out of the last seven games … QB Tino Sunseri has completed 65.9 percent of his passes (141 of 214) and has thrown for 1,672 yards and 12 touchdowns with just four interceptions … RB Ray Graham (97.9 yards per game, seven touchdowns) and RB Dion Lewis (68.4 ypg, five touchdowns) make for one of the top backfield tandems in the nation … WR Jon Baldwin has 33 receptions for 546 yards and four touchdowns … DE Jabaal Sheard leads the Big East with nine sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss … K/P Dan Hutchins is the conference's top-scoring kicker (8.5 ppg) and the leading punter (47.0 avg.).

Connecticut returns from a bye week that followed the Huskies' best win of the season — a 16-13 overtime decision against West Virginia … The win lifted Connecticut to 4-0 at home, while the Huskies are 0-4 on the road in 2010 … Connecticut ranks eighth in the Big East in total defense (364.2 yards per game) … The Huskies lead the Big East in defensive interceptions (nine) and have allowed the fewest sacks of any league member (nine) … RB Jordan Todman enters the game ranked fourth nationally in rushing (136.3 yards per game) … Todman has rushed for 954 yards and nine touchdowns on 174 carries … QB Zach Frazer has thrown for 771 yards and two touchdowns with just one interception in six games … WR Michael Smith has 30 receptions for 470 yards and two touchdowns, while WR Kashif Moore has 26 catches for 315 yards and three TDs … LB Lawrence Wilson leads the Big East in tackles (84 total, 10.5 per game) … DE Jesse Joseph has 5.5 sacks, good for fifth in the Big East, while LB Sio Moore is fourth in the conference with 10 tackles for loss.


LOUISVILLE vs. USF
Sat 11/13
12:00 PM
ESPNU
USF and Louisville first met in the 2003 season, when both were members of Conference USA, and have played each year since … USF holds a 4-3 series lead … The home team has won all seven games in the series … Last year's meeting saw USF take a 34-22 win at Raymond James Stadium behind a career day by Bulls QB B.J. Daniels … Daniels threw for 304 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 141 yards and two TDs, becoming the first Big East player in history to surpass 300 passing yards and 100 rushing yards in the same game … USF coach Skip Holtz and Louisville coach Charlie Strong were coordinators together at South Carolina from 1999-2002.

USF has won back-to-back games and stands one win away from bowl eligibility for a sixth straight year entering Saturday's game … The Bulls are 5-0 when they have scored more than 14 points and 0-3 when they have been held to 14 points or fewer … USF is 1-2 on the road and plays its third road date in a four-game stretch … QB B.J. Daniels has thrown for 1,238 yards and eight touchdowns with 11 interceptions … Daniels has rushed for four touchdowns as well, tying RB Moise Plancher for the team lead … Plancher is the leading rusher with 498 yards on 101 carries … WR Dontavia Bogan has team highs with 29 receptions, 432 yards and three touchdown catches … LB Sam Barrington leads the team with 47 tackles … DE Craig Marshall has a team-high four sacks and seven tackles for loss, but did not play against Rutgers due to a foot injury … K Maikon Bonani has made 8-of-9 field goal attempts since taking over as the regular placekicker.

Louisville snapped an 11-game losing streak in Big East road games and moved to .500 in the conference standings with last week's 28-20 win at Syracuse … The Cardinals need one win in their last three games to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2007 … The Cardinals are 3-2 at home this season … As of Monday, head coach Charlie Strong did not have an update on the status of RB Bilal Powell and QB Adam Froman, who missed the game against Syraucse with injuries … Powell, the nation's fifth-leading rusher at 133.4 yards per game, has rushed for 1,067 yards and nine touchdowns … Froman has thrown for 1,633 yards and 11 touchdowns … QB Justin Burke got the start against Syracuse and has thrown for 183 yards and three touchdowns with just one interception … Three different players have at least three touchdown receptions, with WR Josh Bellamy entering with four TD catches … SS Hakeem Smith has a team-high 60 tackles … LB Daniel Brown has four sacks and a team-leading 10 tackles for loss … DT Rodney Gnat is third in the Big East with seven sacks …CB Johnny Patrick has a team-high three interceptions.


PITTSBURGH at UConn
Thu 11/11
7:30 PM
ESPN
Thursday's game will be the seventh meeting between Pittsburgh and Connectcut in a series that began in 2004 … The series is tied 3-3, with Pittsburgh winning the last two matchups … Connecticut won three of the first four in the series … Connecticut is 2-1 at Rentschler Field against the Panthers … Last year's meeting at Heinz Field saw Pitt QB Bill Stull throw for 268 yards and two touchdowns as the Panthers won 24-21 … The Panthers overcame a 21-6 third-quarter deficit by scoring the last 18 points, including an 18-yard field goal at the gun by K Dan Hutchins.

Pittsburgh, which was idle last week, has a two-game cushion in the Big East loss column with four games remaining … A finish of 2-2 or better in the final four games would give the Panthers at least a share of the Big East title … If Pittsburgh wins at least three of its last four games, it would win the conference title outright for the first time … The Panthers are 1-2 in road games this season … Head coach Dave Wannstedt said Monday that DE Greg Romeus — the 2009 Big East Defensive Player of the Year — would be listed as questionable with a back injury that has kept him out of the last seven games … QB Tino Sunseri has completed 65.9 percent of his passes (141 of 214) and has thrown for 1,672 yards and 12 touchdowns with just four interceptions … RB Ray Graham (97.9 yards per game, seven touchdowns) and RB Dion Lewis (68.4 ypg, five touchdowns) make for one of the top backfield tandems in the nation … WR Jon Baldwin has 33 receptions for 546 yards and four touchdowns … DE Jabaal Sheard leads the Big East with nine sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss … K/P Dan Hutchins is the conference's top-scoring kicker (8.5 ppg) and the leading punter (47.0 avg.).

Connecticut returns from a bye week that followed the Huskies' best win of the season — a 16-13 overtime decision against West Virginia … The win lifted Connecticut to 4-0 at home, while the Huskies are 0-4 on the road in 2010 … Connecticut ranks eighth in the Big East in total defense (364.2 yards per game) … The Huskies lead the Big East in defensive interceptions (nine) and have allowed the fewest sacks of any league member (nine) … RB Jordan Todman enters the game ranked fourth nationally in rushing (136.3 yards per game) … Todman has rushed for 954 yards and nine touchdowns on 174 carries … QB Zach Frazer has thrown for 771 yards and two touchdowns with just one interception in six games … WR Michael Smith has 30 receptions for 470 yards and two touchdowns, while WR Kashif Moore has 26 catches for 315 yards and three TDs … LB Lawrence Wilson leads the Big East in tackles (84 total, 10.5 per game) … DE Jesse Joseph has 5.5 sacks, good for fifth in the Big East, while LB Sio Moore is fourth in the conference with 10 tackles for loss.


RUTGERS vs. Syracuse
Sat 11/13
3:30 PM
ESPNU
The Syracuse-Rutgers series dates to the 1914 season and is the second-oldest active rivalry among Big East members (only Pittsburgh-West Virginia, which began in 1895, is older) … The schools have met each year since 1980 after intermittent games from 1914-75 … Syracuse holds a 29-10-1 series lead after the Orange took a 31-13 win last year at the Carrier Dome … Syracuse won 12 straight in the series from 1987-98 … Rutgers' best run was a string of four wins from 2005-08 … The Syracuse defense keyed last year's win with nine sacks and two interceptions.

Syracuse needs one win in its last three games to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2004 … The Orange have won six games for the first time since that 2004 season and have won four road games for the first time since 1996 … Syracuse is one of nine Bowl Subdivision teams with four road wins … Syracuse is receiving votes in the Associated Press and Harris Interactive polls … Syracuse ranks 10th nationally in total defense (299.0 yards per game) and 16th in scoring defense (18.7 ppg) … RB Delone Carter is fourth in the Big East in rushing at 94.8 yards per game … Carter has rushed for 853 yards and seven touchdowns on 161 carries and ranks fifth on Syracuse's career rushing chart (2,724 yards) … QB Ryan Nassib has thrown for 1,563 yards and 15 touchdowns with five interceptions … WR Van Chew has 33 catches for 519 yards and five touchdowns … The defense is led by LB Derrell Smith, who is fifth in the Big East in tackles (75) and has team highs of two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries … DE Chandler Jones has a team-high four sacks.

Rutgers returns home following back-to-back road losses, including a 28-27 setback at USF Nov. 3 … Aside from a season-opening win against Norfolk State (31-0) and a Oct. 23 loss to Pittsburgh (41-21), each of Rutgers' other six games has been decided by no more than five points … The Scarlet Knights are 3-2 at home this season … Head coach Greg Schiano has not announced his starting quarterback for Saturday … QB Chas Dodd (77-for-132, 956 yards, 5 TD, 3 INT) has started the last four games after QB Tom Savage (37-for-71, 445 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT) started the first four … Rutgers ranks eighth in the Big East in rushing (104.9 yards per game) … WR Mohamed Sanu is the leading receiver (40 receptions, 389 yards) and rusher (54 carries, 285 yards, four TDs) … LB Antonio Lowery has a team-high 74 tackles, good for second in the Big East … The Scarlet Knights have registered just seven sacks of opposing quarterbacks, but have been sacked 35 times … Rutgers leads the Big East in turnover margin (0.75 per game) … The Scarlet Knights have scored three special teams touchdowns and have blocked five kicks this season … SS Joe Lefeged has three blocks.


SYRACUSE at Rutgers
Sat 11/13
3:30 PM
ESPNU
The Syracuse-Rutgers series dates to the 1914 season and is the second-oldest active rivalry among Big East members (only Pittsburgh-West Virginia, which began in 1895, is older) … The schools have met each year since 1980 after intermittent games from 1914-75 … Syracuse holds a 29-10-1 series lead after the Orange took a 31-13 win last year at the Carrier Dome … Syracuse won 12 straight in the series from 1987-98 … Rutgers' best run was a string of four wins from 2005-08 … The Syracuse defense keyed last year's win with nine sacks and two interceptions.

Syracuse needs one win in its last three games to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2004 … The Orange have won six games for the first time since that 2004 season and have won four road games for the first time since 1996 … Syracuse is one of nine Bowl Subdivision teams with four road wins … Syracuse is receiving votes in the Associated Press and Harris Interactive polls … Syracuse ranks 10th nationally in total defense (299.0 yards per game) and 16th in scoring defense (18.7 ppg) … RB Delone Carter is fourth in the Big East in rushing at 94.8 yards per game … Carter has rushed for 853 yards and seven touchdowns on 161 carries and ranks fifth on Syracuse's career rushing chart (2,724 yards) … QB Ryan Nassib has thrown for 1,563 yards and 15 touchdowns with five interceptions … WR Van Chew has 33 catches for 519 yards and five touchdowns … The defense is led by LB Derrell Smith, who is fifth in the Big East in tackles (75) and has team highs of two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries … DE Chandler Jones has a team-high four sacks.

Rutgers returns home following back-to-back road losses, including a 28-27 setback at USF Nov. 3 … Aside from a season-opening win against Norfolk State (31-0) and a Oct. 23 loss to Pittsburgh (41-21), each of Rutgers' other six games has been decided by no more than five points … The Scarlet Knights are 3-2 at home this season … Head coach Greg Schiano has not announced his starting quarterback for Saturday … QB Chas Dodd (77-for-132, 956 yards, 5 TD, 3 INT) has started the last four games after QB Tom Savage (37-for-71, 445 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT) started the first four … Rutgers ranks eighth in the Big East in rushing (104.9 yards per game) … WR Mohamed Sanu is the leading receiver (40 receptions, 389 yards) and rusher (54 carries, 285 yards, four TDs) … LB Antonio Lowery has a team-high 74 tackles, good for second in the Big East … The Scarlet Knights have registered just seven sacks of opposing quarterbacks, but have been sacked 35 times … Rutgers leads the Big East in turnover margin (0.75 per game) … The Scarlet Knights have scored three special teams touchdowns and have blocked five kicks this season … SS Joe Lefeged has three blocks.


USF at Louisville
Sat 11/13
12:00 PM
ESPNU
USF and Louisville first met in the 2003 season, when both were members of Conference USA, and have played each year since … USF holds a 4-3 series lead … The home team has won all seven games in the series … Last year's meeting saw USF take a 34-22 win at Raymond James Stadium behind a career day by Bulls QB B.J. Daniels … Daniels threw for 304 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 141 yards and two TDs, becoming the first Big East player in history to surpass 300 passing yards and 100 rushing yards in the same game … USF coach Skip Holtz and Louisville coach Charlie Strong were coordinators together at South Carolina from 1999-2002.

USF has won back-to-back games and stands one win away from bowl eligibility for a sixth straight year entering Saturday's game … The Bulls are 5-0 when they have scored more than 14 points and 0-3 when they have been held to 14 points or fewer … USF is 1-2 on the road and plays its third road date in a four-game stretch … QB B.J. Daniels has thrown for 1,238 yards and eight touchdowns with 11 interceptions … Daniels has rushed for four touchdowns as well, tying RB Moise Plancher for the team lead … Plancher is the leading rusher with 498 yards on 101 carries … WR Dontavia Bogan has team highs with 29 receptions, 432 yards and three touchdown catches … LB Sam Barrington leads the team with 47 tackles … DE Craig Marshall has a team-high four sacks and seven tackles for loss, but did not play against Rutgers due to a foot injury … K Maikon Bonani has made 8-of-9 field goal attempts since taking over as the regular placekicker.

Louisville snapped an 11-game losing streak in Big East road games and moved to .500 in the conference standings with last week's 28-20 win at Syracuse … The Cardinals need one win in their last three games to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2007 … The Cardinals are 3-2 at home this season … As of Monday, head coach Charlie Strong did not have an update on the status of RB Bilal Powell and QB Adam Froman, who missed the game against Syraucse with injuries … Powell, the nation's fifth-leading rusher at 133.4 yards per game, has rushed for 1,067 yards and nine touchdowns … Froman has thrown for 1,633 yards and 11 touchdowns … QB Justin Burke got the start against Syracuse and has thrown for 183 yards and three touchdowns with just one interception … Three different players have at least three touchdown receptions, with WR Josh Bellamy entering with four TD catches … SS Hakeem Smith has a team-high 60 tackles … LB Daniel Brown has four sacks and a team-leading 10 tackles for loss … DT Rodney Gnat is third in the Big East with seven sacks …CB Johnny Patrick has a team-high three interceptions.


WEST VIRGINIA vs. Cincinnati
Sat 11/13
12:00 PM
Big East
Saturday's game is the 19th meeting between Cincinnati and West Virginia, with the Mountaineers holding a 14-3-1 series lead … The series dates to 1921 as the schools met five times between then and 1940 … West Virginia went 11-0-1 in the first 12 meetings, but the teams have split the last six … The last three meetings have been decided by a combined 11 points … Cincinnati has won the last two by a combined six points, including a 24-21 decision at Nippert Stadium last year … Bearcat QB Tony Pike came off the bench to throw two touchdown passes and RB Isaiah Pead ran for 175 yards and a TD last in last year's win.

Cincinnati hits the road looking to snap a two-game slide … The Bearcats were idle last week following a 31-7 setback to Syracuse … Cincinnati has scored 35, 40 and 45 points in its three wins and has gone 0-5 when it has scored 30 points or fewer … Cincinnati leads the Big East in total offense (425.2 yards per game) and ranks second in scoring (27.4 ppg), but is seventh in total defense (354.5 ypg) and eighth in scoring defense (24.4 ppg) … QB Zach Collaros missed the game against Syracuse with a knee injury, but is expected to return against West Virginia … Collaros leads the Big East in passing (274.0 yards per game) and total offense (285.4 ypg) … Collaros has thrown for 1,918 yards and 20 touchdowns against just four interceptions … RB Isaiah Pead is fifth in the Big East in rushing at 88.3 yards per game … LB J.K. Schaffer is third in the conference in tackles (9.2 per game) … Bearcat coach Butch Jones was an assistant coach at West Virginia from 2005-06.

West Virginia, which had a bye last week, has lost back-to-back games for the first time since the 2008 season after falling to Connecticut in overtime Oct. 29 … West Virginia remains the only team in the nation that has not allowed more than 21 points in a game this season … The Mountaineers rank fourth nationally in both total defense (249.8 ypg) and scoring defense (13.6 ppg) while leading the Big East in both categories … RB Noel Devine, who has been slowed by nagging injuries, has rushed for 693 yards and four touchdowns … QB Geno Smith has thrown for 1,696 yards and 15 touchdowns with five interceptions … WR Jock Sanders is second in the Big East in receptions (5.8 per game), while WR Tavon Austin is fourth (5.2 per game) … CB Keith Tandy is tied for the Big East lead with four interceptions … DE Bruce Irvin has registered seven sacks, while LB Najee Goode and DT Chris Neild have three each … S Terence Garvin has a team-high 52 tackles … West Virginia has back-to-back road games — at Louisville and Pittsburgh — up next.


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