Big East Preview

Two marquee games and upsets in the making are on this week's Big East schedule.


Pitt, Connecticut and Syracuse all failed to hold leads in dropping games last week. The Panthers' loss was perhaps the most egregious, as they frittered away a 17-point fourth quarter lead. West Virginia nearly suffered a similar fate, but managed to stave off a Maryland's comeback with a late field goal and an interception on the Terps' final drive.


The odd game of the week is USF hosting UTEP. A cross-country journey by the Miners has to be an expensive one, and unless the Bulls are trying to make inroads in West Texas recruiting, it would seem as if there were a lot of opponents that were closer and could make the trip to Tampa more easily. With the state of the league, however, this might be a sign of things to come. Big East schools have future trips to Dallas\Fort Worth for TCU in future seasons, and there could be other lengthy road trips when other schools are addedto the league.


Cincinnati running back Isaiah Pead is averaging 9.5 yards per carry,


  • Cincinnati's offense and the home field should be enough to help it hold off N.C. State.

  • Connecticut looks to be solid, if nothing else, under Paul Pasqualoni, and that will be sufficient to get a win over Buffalo.

  • Ohio is coming off a total beatdown of Marshall, and will give Rutgers all it can handle. We'll go with the Bobcats in what might be perceived as an upset, but in reality is a pairing of two comparable teams.

  • Syracuse-Toledo might be the toughest pick of the week, both have holes, but both have shown resilience in games so far this year. The Rockets have enough firepower to outscore the Orange, but will there be two MAC victories against Big East foes this week? The coin flip says it will be so.

  • USF is on an early season roll, and UTEP doesn't have enough to overcome the Bulls' offensive firepower and team speed.

    The two marquee games of the week feature West Virginia and Pitt. Both are working to install new offenses and have had success, just not to the level that their coaches are looking for. Notre Dame is the best 1-2 team in the nation (and it pains to say that), they'll likely even their season record with a win in Pittsburgh. West Virginia will have everything from a night start, ESPN GameDay and Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. going for it, but the LSU defense probably won't be impressed. The Tigers are the pick.

    CINCINNATI vs. N.C. State
    Thu 9/22
    8:00 PM
    Thursday's game will be just the second meeting between Cincinnati and North Carolina State in a series that began last season … The Wolfpack took a 30-19 win last year on a Thursday-night game in Raleigh, N.C., as each team's quarterback threw for more than 300 yards with three touchdown passes … NC State QB Russell Wilson (now the starter at Wisconsin) was 26-of-40 for 333 yards, while Cincinnati QB Zach Collaros was 19-of-31 for 310 yards.

    Cincinnati picked up its second win in three games with a 59-14 decision against Akron … The Bearcats have gone 2-0 at home and lost their only road game of the season … Cincinnati's three games have been decided by an average of 43 points … The Bearcats lead the Big East in scoring at 51.3 points per game and are fourth nationally … Cincinnati has outscored its opponents by a 104-28 margin in the first half … The Bearcats have forced 13 turnovers and committed just one this season, leading the nation with a 4.0 turnover margin … QB Zach Collaros has completed 43 of 69 passes for 521 yards and seven touchdowns without an interception, leading the Big East in pass efficiency (159.2) … WR D.J. Woods is fifth in the conference in receiving yards (77.3 per game) … RB Isaiah Pead is averaging 9.5 yards per carry and is fourth in the conference in rushing at 85.7 yards per game … LB J.K. Schaffer has team highs of 19 tackles and two interceptions and is the Big East leader in passed defended (five) … DT Derek Wolfe has a team-high three sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss … WR Ralph David Abernathy leads the Big East in kickoff returns with an average of 31.2 yards per return.

    The Tar Heels enter Thursday's game on the heels of a 35-13 win against South Alabama Saturday in Raleigh, N.C. … The game against Cincinnati will be just the second game against a Bowl Subdivision opponent this season … The Wolfpack opened with a 43-21 win against Liberty and dropped a 34-27 decision to Wake Forest prior to the South Alabama game … QB Mike Glennon has thrown for 745 yards and eight touchdowns against just one interception and has completed 64.1 percent of his passes … The primary targets have been WR Tobias Palmer (13 rec., 170 yards, 1 TD) and WR T.J. Graham (12 rec., 252 yards, 2 TDs) … RB Curtis Underwood is averaging 73.3 rushing yards per game, while RB James Washington has scored three rushing touchdowns … CB David Amerson has three interceptions and is second on the team with 22 tackles … DE Daryl Cato-Bishop has a team-high three sacks with four tackles for loss.

    CONNECTICUT at Buffalo
    Sat 9/24
    3:30 PM
    Big East
    Saturday's game will be the 19th meeting between Connecticut and Buffalo in a series that dates to 1939 … The Huskies are 14-4 against Buffalo and have won the last six matchups … Connecticut was a 45-21 winner last year at Rentschler Field behind two touchdown passes off the bench by QB Cody Endres and a 112-yard, one-touchdown performance by RB Robbie Frey … The schools also met in the 2008-09 International Bowl, when Connecticut was a 38-20 winner.

    Connecticut suffered its second straight loss as the Huskies fell 24-20 to Iowa State last Friday at Rentschler Field … The loss followed a 24-21 setback at Vanderbilt … The two schools that have defeated the Huskies are a combined 6-0 … Connecticut's lone win came in the season-opener against Fordham (35-3) … The Huskies have held their first three opponents to an average of just 256.3 yards per game, leading the Big East in total defense … Connecticut has committed eight turnovers in three games and has converted just 28 percent of its third-down chances (11 of 40) … QB Johnny McEntee has started all three games for the Huskies, who have also used Mike Nebrich and Scott McCummings on situational downs … McEntee has completed 44.9 percent of his passes (31 of 69) for 400 yards and four interceptions … RB Lyle McCombs is second in the Big East in rushing at 101.7 yards per game … McCombs has rushed for 305 yards and four touchdowns on 69 carries … LB Jory Johnson has team highs of 29 tackles and two interceptions … LB Sio Moore leads the Big East with 3.5 sacks, while DT Kendall Reyes is first in the conference with 5.5 tackles for loss … K Dave Teggart has hit 4 of 6 field goal attempts, including a 2-for-2 showing from 50 yards or more.

    Buffalo enters Saturday's game following a 28-25 loss at Ball State in Muncie, Ind. … The Bulls have already faced a Big East opponent, falling at Pittsbugh, 35-16, in the season-opener … The lone win came at home, when the Bulls defeated Stony Brook 35-7 … Buffalo went 2-10 last year under first-year head coach Jeff Quinn, the former offensive coordinator at Cincinnati … QB Chazz Anderson is a transfer from Cincinnati who is eligible this season under NCAA postgraduate transfer rules … Anderson has completed 60 of 94 passes for 589 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions … RB Branden Oliver has averaged 119.3 yards per game and has five rushing touchdowns … WR Alex Neutz is the top receiver with 17 catches for 210 yards and a touchdown … LB Khalil Mack leads the team with 24 tackles and two sacks.

    LOUISVILLE Open Date
    Next Game
    Sat Oct. 1
    at Marshall

    PITTSBURGH vs. Notre Dame
    Sat 9/25
    12:00 PM
    Pittsburgh and Notre Dame have a long history on the gridiron as Saturday's game will be the teams' 67th meeting since 1909 … The Irish hold a 45-20-1 series lead after taking a 23-17 decision in South Bend last season … Pittsburgh was a 27-22 winner in 2009 in the last matchup at Heinz Field … The 2008 game in South Bend stands as the longest game in either school's history as Pitt was a 36-33 winner in four overtimes.

    Pittsburgh was in excellent shape in its bid for a 3-0 start to the season, but the Panthers saw Iowa rally for a 31-27 win last week … The Panthers began the season with wins against Buffalo (35-16) and Maine (35-29) … Pittsburgh has not allowed a point in the first quarter this season … Pitt has averaged 404.3 yards of offense per game (fourth in the Big East) and allowed an average of 416.3 yards (eighth) …The Panthers rank eighth in the Big East in turnover margin, (-1.33 per game) and have allowed a league-high 12 sacks … RB Ray Graham enters Saturday's game ranked fifth nationally in rushing at 139.7 yards per game … Graham has rushed for 419 yards and six touchdowns on 79 carries … QB Tino Sunseri is fourth in the Big East in passing (219.3 ypg) and sixth in pass efficiency rating (122.1) … Sunseri has completed 60 of 96 passes for 658 yards and three touchdowns with four interceptions … WR Devin Street is tied for third in the Big East in receiving yards (78.7) … LB Max Gruder has a team-high 27 tackles … DT Chas Alecxih leads the team with 3.5 tackles for loss.

    Notre Dame picked up its first win of the season by scoring a 31-13 decision against Michigan State last week … The Irish had a pair of heartbreaking losses to open the season, falling 23-20 to USF and 35-31 at Michigan … Notre Dame ranks last nationally in turnover margin, losing an average of 2.67 turnovers per game … The player to watch on offense is WR Michael Floyd, who ranks fourth nationally in receiving yards at 132.3 yards per game … Floyd has 31 receptions for 397 yards and two touchdowns … QB Tommy Rees has started the last two games and has completed 69.7 percent of his passes (69 of 99) for 772 yards and six touchdowns with five interceptions … RB Cierre Wood has all four of Notre Dame's rushing touchdowns and is averaging 99.7 yards per game … LB Manti Te'o leads the team with 31 tackles, while CB Robert Blanton has an unusual combination of team highs with four tackles for loss and two interceptions … The Irish have registered five sacks through three games and have allowed just three.

    RUTGERS vs. Ohio
    Sat 9/24
    2:00 PM
    Rutgers and Ohio have met twice prior to Saturday's matchup — a 1937 win for the Bobcats and a 2006 win by the Scarlet Knights … The 2006 game saw Rutgers RB Ray Rice rush for 190 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-7 decision as the Scarlet Knights finished with a 300-119 advantage in total offense.

    Rutgers returns from an early bye week with a 1-1 record … The Scarlet Knights opened with a 48-0 win against North Carolina Central and followed with a 24-22 setback at North Carolina … The whitewash of North Carolina Central makes Rutgers the only Bowl Subdivision school to shut an opponent out in each of the last six years … Rutgers enters the game as the national leader (tied with Cincinnati) in turnover margin (4.0 per game) … The Scarlet Knights have nine takeaways through two games … QB Chas Dodd has thrown for 356 yards and three touchdowns with one interception this year … Rutgers has averaged 69.0 yards rushing yards per game … Coach Greg Schiano suggested plans to rotate carries between running backs Jeremy Deering, Savon Huggins and Jawan Jamison … WR Mohamed Sanu has 20 catches —exactly half of Rutgers' team total — for 187 yards and two touchdowns … Sanu had career highs of 13 receptions and 119 receiving yards in the loss to North Carolina … LB Khaseem Greene has a team-high 17 tackles … S Duron Harmon has a team-high three interceptions … The Scarlet Knights have registered 21 tackles for loss and nine sacks … K San San Te has made all five of his field goal attempts this season and ranks seventh on the Big East career chart (49) … Rutgers is 28-18-1 all-time against schools from the Mid-American Conference.

    Ohio is enjoying its best start in 35 years after the Bobcats scored a 44-7 win against Marshall last Saturday … The Bobcats opened with a 44-24 win against New Mexico State and a 30-3 win against Gardner-Webb … Ohio is averaging 440.7 yards per game and has allowed an average of 247.7 yards … The Bobcats have outscored their opponents by a 64-0 margin in the second quarter … QB Tyler Tettleton has thrown for 577 yards and seven touchdowns with just one interception and has completed 61.7 percent of his passes (50 of 81) … RB Donte Harden has rushed for 217 yards as Ohio as averaged 217.0 rushing yards per game this season … WR LaVon Brazill leads a balanced group of receivers with 11 catches for 123 yards and three touchdowns … The defense is paced by NG Neal Huynh, who has a team-high 20 tackles with three tackles for loss … DE Nic Barber leads the team with two sacks, while three players have two interceptions each … P Paul Hershey was the All-MAC First Team punter last year and is averaging 40.8 yards per punt this season.

    SYRACUSE vs. Toledo
    Sat 9/24
    12:00 PM
    Big East Network
    Saturday's game will be the third meeting between Syracuse and Toledo as the Orange look to remain unbeaten against the Rockets … The last meeting was a 34-7 Syracuse win in the 2003 season.

    Syracuse has won both of its home games and lost its only road date of the season as the Orange enter Saturday's game at 2-1 following a 38-17 setback at Southern California … Syracuse has a winning record despite being outscored by a combined 81-74 margin this year and being outgained by an average 391-328 margin … The Orange opened the season with a come-from-behind win against Wake Forest (36- 29 in overtime) and a 21-14 decision against Rhode Island … QB Ryan Nassib had a streak of 22 consecutive completed passes broken in the game against USC … Nassib has completed 74 of 102 passes (72.5 percent) for 726 yards and seven touchdowns and just one interception … WR Van Chew ranks second in the Big East in receiving yards (80.0 per game) and has a team-high three touchown receptions … WR Alec Lemon, meanwhile, is second in the conference in receptions (8.0 per game) with two TD catches … RB Antwon Bailey has rushed for 204 yards and two touchdowns on 49 carries … S Phillip Thomas has two of the Orange's three interceptions, while LB Dyshawn Davis has a team-high two sacks … S Shamarko Thomas leads the team with 23 tackles … Syracuse has only attempted two field goals this season, with K Ross Krautman going 1-for 2.

    Toledo looks to regroup after a 40-15 loss to No. 4 Boise State last Friday at the Glass Bowl in Toledo, Ohio … Two of Toledo's first three opponents were ranked among the nation's top 15 … The Rockets opened with a 58-22 win against New Hampshire and a 27-22 setback at then-No. 15 Ohio State when the would-be go-ahead drive stalled on the Buckeye 16-yard line in the final minute … The Rockets have 18 starting positional players back from last year's team that went 8-5 overall and finished 7-1 in the Mid-American Conference … Toledo played in the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl last year, falling 34-32 to Florida International … High-profile wins for Toledo in recent years include decisions against Purdue (31-20 in 2010), Colorado (54-38 in 2009), Michigan (13-10 in 2008) and Iowa State (36-35 in 2007) … The Rockets have outscored their opponents 95-89 and outgained their opponents by an average margin of 423-414.3 … The Rockets have used two primary quarterbacks this season … QB Terrance Ownes has thrown for 460 yards and three touchdowns, while QB Austin Dantin has five TD passes and 366 passing yards … RB Adonis Thomas, an All-MAC Second Team pick last year, has rushed for 227 yards and three touchdowns … WR Eric Page has 25 receptions for 274 yards and three touchdowns.

    USF vs. UTEP
    Sat 9/24
    7:00 PM
    Saturday's game will be the first meeting between USF and UTEP … Bulls head coach Skip Holtz went 2-0 against the Miners as coach at East Carolina … Saturday's game will be the first between UTEP and a Big East member … USF has played a game in UTEP's stadium, however, as the Bulls fell to Oregon in the 2007 Sun Bowl.

    USF has looked progressively more impressive in each game on its way to a 3-0 start to the season … The Bulls enter Saturday's game on the heels of a 70-17 win against Florida A&M in which the Bulls held a 49-14 halftime lead … USF opened the season with a 23-20 win at Notre Dame and cruised to a 37-7 win against Ball State in its home opener … The Bulls have outscored their opponents by a 44-0 margin in the first quarter and a 95-14 margin in the first half … USF leads the Big East in total offense, averaging 506.0 yards per game … QB B.J. Daniels ranks second in the conference in passing (289.7 yards per game) and pass efficiency rating (159.1) … Daniels has completed 67 of 100 passes for 869 yards and six touchdowns against one interception … RB Darrell Scott and RB Demetris Murray have shared the workload in the backfield, with Scott entering Saturday's game with a team-high 261 rushing yards and four touchdowns … WR Sterling Griffin has 20 receptions for 224 yards and a touchdown … Scott ranks third in the Big East in rushing, while Griffin is third in receptions … LB Michael Lanaris has a team-high 20 tackles, while DT Claude Davis leads the team with three sacks … K Maikon Bonani has made 6 of 9 field goal attempts.

    UTEP improved to 2-1 on the season with a 16-10 win at New Mexico State last Saturday … The Miners began the season with a 31-24 overtime win against Stony Brook and followed with a 28-17 loss at SMU … The trip to USF will be the Miners' third straight road game … UTEP is 4-47 all-time against teams ranked in the Associated Press poll and 0-20 since 1998 against schools from automatic-qualifying Bowl Championship Series conferences … The Miners have never won a game in the Eastern time zone (0-15-1) … Three different players have started at quarterback in the Miners' first three games … QB Nick Lamaison has taken most of the snaps and has thrown for 507 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions … RB Joe Banyard has rushed for 125 yards and one touchdown, while RB Leilyon Myers has three rushing touchdowns … WR Mike Edwards leads the team with 15 receptions for 244 yards … SS Travaun Nixon has a team-high 19 tackles with two interceptions … The Miners have nine sacks and six takeaways this season.

    Sat 9/24
    8:00 PM
    Saturday's game will be just the second meeting between West Virginia and LSU … The teams met for the first time last season, when the Tigers tok a 20-14 win in Baton Rouge, La. … Last year's game was largely dictated by the respective defenses as each team forced two turnovers … LSU RB Stevan Ridley was the difference on offense as he finished with 116 rushing yards and a touchdown on 20 carries … QB Geno Smith threw two touchdown passes for West Virginia.

    West Virginia is 3-0 for the second time in as many years after the Mountaineers scored a 37-31 win at Maryland last Saturday … West Virginia opened with a 34-13 win against Marshall and a 55-12 win against Norfolk State … West Virginia is 21-2 at home since 2008 … After gaining 291 yards in a weather-shortened season-opener against Marshall, the Mountaineers have finished with 533 and 480 yards in their last two games … QB Geno Smith leads the Big East and ranks sixth nationally in passing yards, averaging 336.0 yards per game … Smith has completed 82 of 118 passes for 1,008 yards and seven touchdowns with one interception … RB Vernard Roberts has three rushing touchdowns to go with a team-high 112 yards on 36 carries … Receivers Tavon Austin, Ivan McCartney and Stedman Bailey all have between 211 and 236 receiving yards … West Virginia has allowed just one touchdown pass … LB Najee Goode leads the defense with 23 tackles, while DE Bruce Irvin has West Virginia's lone sack of the year to go with a team-high three tackles for loss … K Tyler Bitancurt has hit 7 of 8 field goal attempts..

    LSU improved to 3-0 in impressive fashion last Thursday as the Tigers scored a 19-6 win at No. 25 Mississippi State in their SEC opener … The game against West Virginia will be LSU's third game against a top-25 opponent thus far — LSU opened with a 40-27 win against then-No. 3 Oregon … LSU's defense held Mississippi State to 193 yards of offense, registered four sacks and had 15 tackles for loss … The Tigers have won 20 consecutive games in September … LSU's quarterbacks coach is former Louisville head coach Steve Kragthorpe … With last year's starter, Jordan Jefferson, suspended for disciplinary reasons, Kragthorpe and head coach Les Miles turned to QB Jarrett Lee, who has started all three games this year and completed 67.8 percent of his passes for 444 yards and three touchdowns and one interception … RB Spencer Ware (226 yards, 3 TDs) and RB Michael Ford (218 yards, 4 TDs) comprise a solid tandem in the backfield … WR Rueben Randle has 12 catches for 229 yards and three TDs … The leading tackler is CB Tyran Mathieu, who has 24 stops and a team-high three pass breakups … DT Bennie Logan and DT Michael Brockers have 3.5 tackles for loss each.

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