Big East Preview

League games get underway this week, with the early season separator of USF-Pitt highlighting the slate. While the loser won't be out of the league title chase, the team on the short end of Saturday's score will have a lot of work to do to make up that ground.

TOP OF THE CHARTS

With 16 catches against , Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu moved to the top of the national charts in receiving. Sanu is averaging 12 catches per game as the primary wepon in the Scarlet Knights' attack. He is also eight in the nation in receiving yards with 121 per game.


OFF AND RUNNING, BUT...

USF has won its first four games for the fourth time in the last five years. The quesiton is, can the Bulls finish more strongly this time? The Tampa Toros have staggered down the stretch in several recent seasons, turning potential outstanding seasons into merely good ones.


ATTACKING DEFENSE

Rutgers and Louisville are tied for second nationally in tackles for loss. Both schools have 28 TFL in three games for an average of 9.3 per game. The Cardinals have not allowed a 2011 opponet to gain more than 300 yards of offense,


PICKS

  • Will Syracuse's egregiously unfair win against Toledo weigh on its collective psyche? Or will the Orange be ready to defend their home turf again? Rutgers Mohamed Sanu figures to be the difference for the visitors.

  • Cincinnati, despite a road trip, will overwhelm Miami (Oh.)

  • Connecticut's defense should be able to get another win against Western Michigan, but stiffer tests for the Huskie stoppers await.

  • Marshall is at a crossroads in its season, and will bring everything it has to Louisville, which is mired in a quarterback controversy. The Cards are a very narrow, and very shaky, pick.

  • WVU will round out its non-conference slate with a win over a solid Bowling Green squad.

  • The highlight of the week, USF-Pitt, comes down to offense. Pitt came into the season with high expectations offensively, but it's the Bulls that have been more productive. Even the typcially crappy turf at Heinz Field won't slow USF down.


    CINCINNATI at Miami (Oh)
    Sat 10/1
    1:00 PM
    ESPN3.com
    Cincinnati and Miami (Ohio) play in the nation's oldest nonconference rivalry — a series that dates to Dec. 8, 1888, in Oxford, Ohio … Saturday's game with be the 116th Battle for the Victory Bell … The RedHawks hold a 59-49-7 series lead, but Cincinnati has won the last five meetings, including a 45-3 decision last year at Nippert Stadium … RB Isaiah Pead rushed for 197 yards and a touchdown and QB Zach Collaros threw for 216 yards and three TDs for the Bearcats in last year's meeting … The series is the fifth most-played in FBS, behind only Minnesota-Wisconsin (120 meetings), Missouri-Kansas (118), Nebraska-Kansas (117) and Texas-Texas A&M (116).

    Cincinnati turned in what might have been its most impressive performance of the young season in last Thursday's 44-14 win against North Carolina State at Nippert Stadium … Cincinnati is 3-0 at home and 0-1 on the road … The Bearcats lead the nation with 16 takeaways … By comparison, Cincinnati had 13 takeaways in the 2010 season … The Bearcats have committed just two turnovers … RB Isaiah Pead enters Saturday's game ranked second in the BIG EAST in rushing (106.0 ypg) … Pead is averaging 7.9 yards per carry and has 424 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 54 carries … QB Zach Collaros is second in the BIG EAST in pass efficiency (156.9) after completing 68 of 103 passes for 784 yards and nine TDs with one interception … WR D.J. Woods has a team-high 24 receptions for 254 yards and a touchdown, while WR Anthony McClung has three TDs among his 17 catches … The defense is paced by LB JK Schaffer, who has team highs of 28 tackles and three interceptions … DT Derek Wolfe has a BIG EAST-leading four sacks with 5.5 tackles for loss … P Pat O'Donnell has averaged 47.6 yards per punt.

    Miami (Ohio) enters Saturday's game on the heels of a 37-23 setback to Bowling Green last week in its Mid-American Conference opener … The RedHawks are looking for their first win after falling to Missouri (17-6) and Minnesota (29-23) prior to last week's game … The RedHawks were one of the better stories in college football last season as Miami rebounded from a 1-11 season in 2009 to win the 2010 MAC title, finishing 10-4 … Miami is the 2011 favorite in the MAC East Division … First year head coach Don Treadwell was the offensive coordinator at Michigan State for the past four seasons, where he stepped in to coach the Spartans to two wins last year (against Northern Colorado and No. 11 Wisconsin) in the absence of coach Mark D'Antonio … QB Zac Dysert has completed 78 of 126 passes for 784 yards and two touchdowns with four interceptions … WR Nick Harwell has 20 receptions for 301 yards despite missing the season-opener against Missouri.


    CONNECTICUT vs. W Mich.
    Sat 10/1
    3:30 PM
    Big East
    Saturday's game will be the second meeting between Connecticut and Western Michigan … The only other time the teams played was Nov. 1, 2003, when the Huskies were 41-27 winners at Rentschler Field … Connecticut QB Dan Orlovsky threw for 363 yards and two touchdowns in that game, while RB Correll Brockington had 29 carries for 186 yards and four TDs … Western Michigan held a 17-0 lead in the first meeting before the Huskies outscored the Broncos 47-10 the rest of the way.

    Connecticut evened its record at 2-2 following a 17-3 win at Buffalo last Saturday … Saturday's game is the final nonconference game of the season for Connecticut and its second straight against an opponent from the Mid-American Conference … Connecticut's calling card has been its defense, which ranks 12th nationally in scoring (13.5 ppg), 14th in total defense (272.0 ypg) and 23rd in pass defense (180.8 ypg) … The Huskies lead the BIG EAST in all three categories … Connecticut is 14th nationally and second in the BIG EAST in sacks (3.25 per game) … Four players have at least two sacks this season, including LB Sio Moore, who has a team-leading 3.5 sacks, good for second in the BIG EAST … DE Teddy Jennings is second in the conference with six tackles for loss, while Moore is fourth at 5.5 TFL … The Huskies rank eighth in the BIG EAST in total offense (315.8 ypg) … QB Johnny McEntee has seen the most work of three signal-callers who play regularly … McEntee has completed 43 of 90 passes (47.8 percent) for 613 yards and two touchdowns and four interceptions … RB Lyle McCombs is third in the BIG EAST in rushing (91.5 ypg) … WR Isiah Moore is the top receiver with 16 catches for 246 yards.

    Western Michigan saw a modest two-game winning streak end with last Saturday's 23-20 setback at No. 24 Illinois … The Broncos opened the season with a 34-10 loss at Michigan, but have wins against Nicholls State (38-7) and Central Michigan (44-14) … The Broncos are 0-2 on the road and 2-0 at home this year … Western Michigan has outscored its opponents by a 38-7 margin in the first quarter … WR Jordan White is this week's MAC West Division Offensive Player of the Week after he had 14 catches for 134 yards and a touchdown in the loss to Illinois … White ranks third nationally in both receptions (10.3 per game) and receiving yards (125.3 ypg) and is the MAC leader in both categories … QB Alex Carder has completed 92 of 134 passes for 987 yards and seven touchdowns with four interceptions … LB Johnnie Simon has a team-high 33 tackles … DE Freddie Bishop leads the team with three sacks, while DT Drew Nowak has a team-high 4.5 tackles for loss.


    LOUISVILLE vs. Marshall
    Sat 10/1
    3:30 PM
    Big East
    Saturday's game will be the 28th meeting between Louisville and Marshall in a series that dates to the 1921 season … The Cardinals hold a 16-11 series lead, though Marshall has won the last three … Louisville is 8-2 against Marshall at home, though this year's matchup will be the first to be played at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium … The schools have met twice in the postseason, most recently in 2002, when Marshall was a 38-15 winner in the GMAC Bowl … Louisville coach Charlie Strong and Marshall coach Doc Holliday were on the staff at Florida together from 2005-07.

    Louisville returns from a bye week Saturday against Marshall … The Cardinals most recently defeated Kentucky 24-17 in Lexington Sept. 17 … Louisville opened with a 21-9 win against Murray State and fell to Florida International 24-17 in the second week of the season … The Cardinals rank 11th nationally in rushing defense, surrendering an average of just 74.3 yards per game … QB Will Stein has started all three games behind center and has completed 49 of 79 passes for 615 yards and five touchdowns with one interception … QB Teddy Bridgewater came off the bench against Kentucky to throw for 106 yards and two TDs after Stein was injured in the second quarter … Four Cardinal players have nine receptions each, with TE Josh Chichester leading the team in receiving yards (155) … WR DeVante Parker has a team-high three touchdown catches … LB Dexter Heyman leads the BIG EAST in tackles (10.0 per game) … Heyman has registered 30 stops with 5.5 tackles for loss …DE Greg Scruggs has a team-high three sacks …. Louisville plays its next two games on the road, facing North Carolina and Cincinnati in the next two weeks.

    Marshall has won just once in its first four games as the Thundering Herd defeated Southern Mississippi 26-20 in the second week of the season … The three losses have been to teams that are a combined 10-2 on the year, including two setbacks to top-25 teams … Marshall lost a 34-13 decision to West Virginia in the seasonopener and have dropped back-to-back games to Ohio (44-7) and Virginia Tech (30-10) … The Herd have been outscored by a 24-2 margin in the fourth quarter … DE Vinny Curry was an All-Conference USA First Team pick who was the national leader in tackles among defensive linemen last season (94) … Curry has team highs of three sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss in 2011 … Marshall does not have a rushing touchdown this season … QB Rakeem Cato has thrown for 751 yards and five touchdowns with seven interceptions … WR Aaron Dobson has 20 catches for 245 yards and four TDs … Coach Doc Holliday had been an assistant at West Virginia before taking over at Marshall.


    PITTSBURGH vs. USF
    Thu 9/29
    8:00 PM
    ESPN
    USF and Pittsburgh meet for the ninth time Thursday … Pittsburgh holds a 5-3 series lead and has won four of the six BIG EAST matchups … The Panthers have won three straight in the series, including a 17-10 decision last year at Raymond James Stadium … The schools have split four prior meetings at Heinz Field … USF's last win in Pittsburgh was a 48-37 victory in 2007.

    USF stands at 4-0 for the fourth time in the last five years following last week's 52-24 win against UTEP … The Bulls play on the road for just the second time this season and the first time since their 23-20 win at Notre Dame in the first week … USF is ranked 10th nationally in both total offense (523.3 ypg) and scoring offense (45.5 ppg) … The Bulls have outscored their opponents by a 65-7 margin in the first quarter … QB B.J. Daniels enters Thursday's game as the BIG EAST leader in pass efficiency (158.4) … Daniels has completed 82 of 124 passes for 1,071 yards and eight touchdowns with just one interception … Daniels also ranks sixth in the BIG EAST in rushing at 53.8 yards per game … RB Darrell Scott is the leading rusher and is fourth in the BIG EAST at 87.0 ypg … The top receiver is WR Sterling Griffin, who has 22 catches for 248 yards and a touchdown, good for sixth in the BIG EAST in receptions (5.5 rpg) and eighth in receiving yards (62.0 ypg) … The Bulls are tied for fourth nationally in turnover margin (2.0 per game) … USF has seven interceptions and six fumble recoveries through four games … LB Michael Lanaris has a team-high 27 tackles.

    Pittsburgh looks to rebound from back-to-back losses following a 15-12 setback to Notre Dame last Saturday at Heinz Field … The Panthers opened the season with wins against Buffalo (35-16) and Maine (35-29), but lost to Iowa (31-27) and Notre Dame (15-12) … The Panthers held fourth-quarter leads in both of their losses only to see their opponents rally down the stretch … RB Ray Graham leads the BIG EAST and is ranked eighth nationally in rushing at 127.0 yards per game … Graham has rushed for 508 yards and six touchdowns on 100 carries … Graham was held below 100 yards for the first time this season against Notre Dame (89 yards) … QB Tino Sunseri has completed 65.1 percent of his passes (82 of 126) for 823 yards and four touchdowns with four interceptions … Graham has a team-high 21 receptions, while WR Devin Street has 17 catches for 257 yards and a touchdown … LB Max Gruder has a team-high 35 tackles, while LB Brandon Lindsey leads the team with three sacks.


    RUTGERS at Syracuse
    Sat 10/1
    12:00 PM
    Big East
    The Rutgers-Syracuse series dates to a 14-14 tie at Archbold Stadium in the 1914 season … Syracuse holds a 30-10-1 series lead and has won two straight against the Scarlet Knights … Rutgers had won four straight prior to Syracuse's current two-game run … Syracuse K Ross Krautman hit a pair of second-half field goals last year, which proved to be the difference in the Orange's 13-10 win in Piscataway, N.J.

    Rutgers returned from a bye week with a 38-26 win against previously unbeaten Ohio at High Point Solutions Stadium … The Scarlet Knights opened with a 48-0 win against North Carolina Central and a 24-22 loss at North Carolina … Rutgers is looking to snap a six-game losing streak in road games — the last road win was a 19-14 decision at Florida International Sept. 11, 2010 … The young season is proving to be a breakout year for WR Mohamed Sanu, who enters Saturday's game as the national leader in receptions (12.0 per game) … Sanu has 36 receptions for 363 yards and four touchdowns following a BIG EAST-record 16-catch outing against Ohio … Sanu leads the BIG EAST and ranks eighth nationally in receiving yards (121.0 ypg) … QB Chas Dodd has thrown six touchdown passes and two interceptions and has completed 55 of 96 passes for 588 yards … RB Jawan Jamison has emerged as the featured tailback after he registered 29 carries for 97 yards against Ohio … Rutgers' defense has forced 13 turnovers, while the Scarlet Knights rank second nationally in turnover margin (3.3 per game) … The defense ranks third nationally in sacks (4.0 per game) with DT Scott Vallone and DE Justin Francis entering Saturday's game with 2.5 sacks each … S Duron Harmon has a team-high three interceptions.

    Syracuse improved to 3-1 with its second overtime win of the season — a 33-30 decision against Toledo at the Carrier Dome … The Orange opened the year with an overtime win against Wake Forest (36-29) … The lone loss was a 38-17 setback at Southern California Sept. 17 … Syracuse has been outscored by its opponent in each of the first three quarters this season, but has a 49-29 scoring advantage after the start of the fourth quarter … QB Ryan Nassib ranks third in the BIG EAST in passing at 234.8 yards per game … Nassib has completed 71.4 percent of his passes (90 of 126) — the best mark of any BIG EAST starter this year — for 939 yards and nine touchdowns with just one interception … RB Antwon Bailey ranks fifth in the BIG EAST in rushing (79.5 yards per game) … Bailey has rushed for 318 yards and three touchdowns on 77 carries … The top receivers are WR Alec Lemon (25 rec., 236 yards, 3 TDs) and WR Van Chew (18 rec., 279 yards, 3 TDs) … S Phillip Thomas has a team-high 30 tackles with two interceptions … DT Deon Goggins leads the squad with four tackles for loss.


    SYRACUSE vs.
    Sat 10/1
    12:00 PM
    Big East
    The Rutgers-Syracuse series dates to a 14-14 tie at Archbold Stadium in the 1914 season … Syracuse holds a 30-10-1 series lead and has won two straight against the Scarlet Knights … Rutgers had won four straight prior to Syracuse's current two-game run … Syracuse K Ross Krautman hit a pair of second-half field goals last year, which proved to be the difference in the Orange's 13-10 win in Piscataway, N.J.

    Rutgers returned from a bye week with a 38-26 win against previously unbeaten Ohio at High Point Solutions Stadium … The Scarlet Knights opened with a 48-0 win against North Carolina Central and a 24-22 loss at North Carolina … Rutgers is looking to snap a six-game losing streak in road games — the last road win was a 19-14 decision at Florida International Sept. 11, 2010 … The young season is proving to be a breakout year for WR Mohamed Sanu, who enters Saturday's game as the national leader in receptions (12.0 per game) … Sanu has 36 receptions for 363 yards and four touchdowns following a BIG EAST-record 16-catch outing against Ohio … Sanu leads the BIG EAST and ranks eighth nationally in receiving yards (121.0 ypg) … QB Chas Dodd has thrown six touchdown passes and two interceptions and has completed 55 of 96 passes for 588 yards … RB Jawan Jamison has emerged as the featured tailback after he registered 29 carries for 97 yards against Ohio … Rutgers' defense has forced 13 turnovers, while the Scarlet Knights rank second nationally in turnover margin (3.3 per game) … The defense ranks third nationally in sacks (4.0 per game) with DT Scott Vallone and DE Justin Francis entering Saturday's game with 2.5 sacks each … S Duron Harmon has a team-high three interceptions.

    Syracuse improved to 3-1 with its second overtime win of the season — a 33-30 decision against Toledo at the Carrier Dome … The Orange opened the year with an overtime win against Wake Forest (36-29) … The lone loss was a 38-17 setback at Southern California Sept. 17 … Syracuse has been outscored by its opponent in each of the first three quarters this season, but has a 49-29 scoring advantage after the start of the fourth quarter … QB Ryan Nassib ranks third in the BIG EAST in passing at 234.8 yards per game … Nassib has completed 71.4 percent of his passes (90 of 126) — the best mark of any BIG EAST starter this year — for 939 yards and nine touchdowns with just one interception … RB Antwon Bailey ranks fifth in the BIG EAST in rushing (79.5 yards per game) … Bailey has rushed for 318 yards and three touchdowns on 77 carries … The top receivers are WR Alec Lemon (25 rec., 236 yards, 3 TDs) and WR Van Chew (18 rec., 279 yards, 3 TDs) … S Phillip Thomas has a team-high 30 tackles with two interceptions … DT Deon Goggins leads the squad with four tackles for loss.


    USF at Pittsburgh
    Thu 9/29
    8:00 PM
    ESPN
    USF and Pittsburgh meet for the ninth time Thursday … Pittsburgh holds a 5-3 series lead and has won four of the six BIG EAST matchups … The Panthers have won three straight in the series, including a 17-10 decision last year at Raymond James Stadium … The schools have split four prior meetings at Heinz Field … USF's last win in Pittsburgh was a 48-37 victory in 2007.

    USF stands at 4-0 for the fourth time in the last five years following last week's 52-24 win against UTEP … The Bulls play on the road for just the second time this season and the first time since their 23-20 win at Notre Dame in the first week … USF is ranked 10th nationally in both total offense (523.3 ypg) and scoring offense (45.5 ppg) … The Bulls have outscored their opponents by a 65-7 margin in the first quarter … QB B.J. Daniels enters Thursday's game as the BIG EAST leader in pass efficiency (158.4) … Daniels has completed 82 of 124 passes for 1,071 yards and eight touchdowns with just one interception … Daniels also ranks sixth in the BIG EAST in rushing at 53.8 yards per game … RB Darrell Scott is the leading rusher and is fourth in the BIG EAST at 87.0 ypg … The top receiver is WR Sterling Griffin, who has 22 catches for 248 yards and a touchdown, good for sixth in the BIG EAST in receptions (5.5 rpg) and eighth in receiving yards (62.0 ypg) … The Bulls are tied for fourth nationally in turnover margin (2.0 per game) … USF has seven interceptions and six fumble recoveries through four games … LB Michael Lanaris has a team-high 27 tackles.

    Pittsburgh looks to rebound from back-to-back losses following a 15-12 setback to Notre Dame last Saturday at Heinz Field … The Panthers opened the season with wins against Buffalo (35-16) and Maine (35-29), but lost to Iowa (31-27) and Notre Dame (15-12) … The Panthers held fourth-quarter leads in both of their losses only to see their opponents rally down the stretch … RB Ray Graham leads the BIG EAST and is ranked eighth nationally in rushing at 127.0 yards per game … Graham has rushed for 508 yards and six touchdowns on 100 carries … Graham was held below 100 yards for the first time this season against Notre Dame (89 yards) … QB Tino Sunseri has completed 65.1 percent of his passes (82 of 126) for 823 yards and four touchdowns with four interceptions … Graham has a team-high 21 receptions, while WR Devin Street has 17 catches for 257 yards and a touchdown … LB Max Gruder has a team-high 35 tackles, while LB Brandon Lindsey leads the team with three sacks.


    WEST VIRGINIA vs. Bowl. Green
    Sat 10/1
    3:30 PM
    ROOT
    Saturday's game will be the third meeting between West Virginia and Bowling Green … The only previous meetings were in 1988 (a 62-14 Mountaineer win) and 1991 (a 24-17 West Virginia win) … The Mountaineers are 54-16-1 all-time against schools from the Mid-American Conference … The game will be West Virginia's annual homecoming game.

    West Virginia plays its final nonconference game of the season after the Mountaineers fell to 3-1 with a 47-21 setback to an LSU team that has since moved to No. 1 in the Associated Press poll … The loss snapped an 18-game home winning streak against nonconference opponents … West Virginia's last nonconference loss at home was a 34-17 setback to Virginia Tech Oct. 1, 2005 … The Mountaineers are ranked third nationally in passing offense and reeled off 533 yards against LSU's top-flight defense… QB Geno Smith, meanwhile, ranks third nationally in passing (367.8 yards per game) and fourth in total offense (368.3 ypg), leading the BIG EAST in both categories … Smith has completed 120 of 183 passes for 1,471 yards and nine touchdowns with three interceptions … The primary beneficiary has been WR Tavon Austin, who is second in the BIG EAST in both receptions (7.8 rpg) and receiving yards (105.8 ypg) … WR Stedman Bailey is not far off the pace, ranking fourth in receptions (5.8 rpg) and third in receiving yards (86.0 ypg) … The defense is led by LB Najee Goode, who has 31 tackles on the year … DE Bruce Irvin has registered West Virginia's lone sack of the season and has a team-high 4.5 tackles for loss … K Tyler Bitancurt has made 7 of 8 field goal attempts.

    Bowling Green is off to a 3-1 start after the Falcons won their MAC opener last Saturday — a 37-23 decision against Miami (Ohio) … Bowling Green has registered 23 nonconference wins since 2001 — the most in the Mid-American Conference — and scored a 27-17 win against Pittsburgh in its last game against a BIG EAST opponent (in 2008) … The lone setback thus far was a 28-27 loss to Wyoming Sept. 17 … The Falcons are playing the second of three straight road games … Bowling Green has scored at least 27 points in all four games this year …The Falcons average 468.5 yards per game and rank as the national leader in net punting (45.3 avg) … QB Matt Schilz has thrown 14 touchdown passes, tying Washington's Keith Price for the most in the nation in 2011 … Schilz has completed 88 of 134 passes for 1,169 yards and has thrown four interceptions … WR Eugene Cooper has six touchdown receptions and is averaging 93.5 receiving yards per game … RB Anthony Samuel is averaging 107.0 rushing yards per game … P Brian Schmiedebusch leads the nation in punting, averaging 49.1 yards per punt.


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