Big East Preview

WVU - BC is the highlight of the weekend, but other teams also have important games as they jockey for bowl position.

Since the Big East's inception as a football conference in 1991, Boston College hasn't beaten West Virginia in Morgantown. Coach Tom O'Brien hopes the Eagles can stop that trend in a battle between the league's only ranked teams on Saturday.

"There are some schools that seem to have a whammy over other ones," O'Brien said. "We had a similar streak where we hadn't lost to Rutgers for a long time. Sometimes the stars don't align and you just have trouble winning."

If No. 21 Boston College (6-2) were to beat No. 13 West Virginia (8-1), the Big East champion and eventual BCS representative might have to be determined by a tiebreaker. The first-place Mountaineers, however, could guarantee themselves at least a share of the title with a win this weekend.

In order to compete with West Virginia, which has won four straight games, Boston College must deliver on the ground. After a promising September, O'Brien's stable of backs -- L.V. Whitworth, Andre Callender and A.J. Brooks -- has cooled considerably.

The Eagles have failed to reach the 100-yard plateau as a team in their past three games. However, quarterback Paul Peterson has proven to be one of the Big East's best as the run game has stalled.

Peterson has thrown for 2,081 yards and 13 touchdowns against 10 interceptions this season and is 9-2 as a starter dating to 2003.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Eagles have averaged 66.7 rushing yards over the past three games. Boston College converted just 2 of 14 third-down opportunities in last Saturday's 21-10 win over Rutgers. QB Paul Peterson directs the Big East's third-ranked passing offense (262.1 ypg.).

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The league's top ranked defense -- 12.8 points and 295.4 yards per game -- limited the Scarlet Knights to just 10 points. Boston College has managed 12 interceptions, second in the league to West Virginia.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's the first time in the history of Boston College football that a team has won six games six years in a row. Obviously we're not satisfied. We have the opportunity to play West Virginia in Morgantown and it should be a heck of a football game." -- Boston College coach Tom O'Brien, on Saturday's impending matchup with the Mountaineers.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Boston College at West Virginia, Oct. 13 -- The Eagles defeated Rutgers 21-10 last weekend, while the Mountaineers thumped Temple 42-21. Last season West Virginia overcame a 14-0 deficit to beat Boston College 35-28 in Chestnut Hill, Mass.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: LB Brian Toal -- The true freshman was named Big East Defensive Player of the Week after he recorded a game-high 15 tackles -- 12 solos -- against Rutgers. Toal has started four straight games. WR Grant Adams -- The senior has fueled Boston College's aerial attack this season. He reeled in five receptions for 70 yards last Saturday and has caught at least one pass in 26 straight games.

ROSTER REPORT: No significant injuries or moves.

Connecticut quarterback Dan Orlovsky has been impressive this season (193 of 299 for 2,363 yards and 17 TDs), but coach Randy Edsall still expressed concern over the senior's tendency for turnovers.

Orlovsky leads the Big East in passing, but has been intercepted 12 times.

"He's played against people this year, on a week in and week out basis, that we hadn't played in previous years," Edsall said. "I would love for him to cut down on his interceptions. He has to do the things to play within himself. I think Dan thinks he has to make plays for his team all the time."

Connecticut (5-3) will return from a week off to face Georgia Tech (5-3) in Atlanta on Saturday. The Huskies, however, lost games at Boston College and Syracuse earlier this season. Taking into consideration that Connecticut played six of its first seven games at home, the unfriendly road has become an issue.

But if Orlovsky takes care of the ball more efficiently and sophomore running back Cornell Brockington continues to decimate defenses, the Huskies should at least be competitive against a good ACC opponent.

And remember, Connecticut has won seven straight games in the month of November. The program's last such loss was a 56-7 defeat at Temple on Nov. 24, 2001.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Senior QB Dan Orlovsky leads the Big East's top-ranked passing offense (297.9 ypg.). Orlovsky has thrown for 17 touchdowns against 12 interceptions in eight games. The Huskies are averaging 30.5 points per game, second in the conference behind West Virginia.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Huskies own the league's third-ranked scoring (23.1 ppg.) and second-ranked total (336.0 ypg.) defense. Alfred Fincher and Maurice Lloyd, both senior linebackers, have recorded 98 and 74 tackles, respectively.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Maybe we snuck up on some people before. People really didn't know us. Now we don't have the chance to sneak up a anybody." -- Connecticut coach Randy Edsall, on his team's first season as a Big East member.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: UConn at Georgia Tech, Nov. 13 -- The Huskies are coming off a 42-30 loss at Syracuse on Oct. 30, while the Yellow Jackets won at North Carolina State last weekend, 24-14.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: RB Cornell Brockington -- The leading rusher in the Big East (111.8 ypg.) delivered 123 yards on the ground and a second-quarter touchdown at Syracuse. QB Dan Orlovsky -- The senior completed 39 of 51 pass attempts for 445 yards and three touchdowns in a loss to Syracuse on Oct. 30. Orlovsky, who was also intercepted twice, hit 10 different receivers.

ROSTER REPORT: Freshman TB Larry Taylor (ankle) may be available against Georgia Tech. DE Tyler King (broken leg) is out indefinitely.

The Panthers are going to have to leave last Saturday's double-overtime loss at Syracuse in the past if they hope to upset No. 24 Notre Dame on Saturday on the road.

Junior quarterback Tyler Palko orchestrated an 18-point rally and put Pittsburgh in position to win its fourth straight game, but Syracuse pulled out a 38-31 victory at the Carrier Dome.

Orange running back Damien Rhodes ran for a 2-yard touchdown on the first possession of the second overtime. On the Panthers' ensuing possession, running back Raymond Kirkley was stopped on a fourth-down rush, ending the game.

"It was a great game if you're a fan of football," Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris said. "For us, it was tough to lose."

The Panthers (5-3) haven't won in South Bend, Ind., since 1986. They have dropped 11 of the last 12 meetings overall and will face a 6-3 Notre Dame team coming off a crucial 17-13 win at Tennessee last Saturday.

Pittsburgh is confronting an unenviable situation, but Harris' young group has surprised many detractors this season. The Panthers are running fourth in the seven-team Big East and are still very much in the hunt for a bowl opportunity.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE:Sophomore wideout Greg Lee leads the Big East in receiving yards per game (104.0). A Pittsburgh player has finished first in the league in receiving yards in six of the past seven seasons. The Panthers, however, have struggled on the ground, gaining only 107.8 yards per game, ranking sixth in the conference.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Pittsburgh owns the Big East's worst pass defense (265.6 ypg.). The secondary has surrendered 14 touchdowns. Overall, the unit has delivered middle-of-the-pack numbers (23.5 points and 391.2 yards per game).

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Yup, we could (be 7-1). It's a tremendous disappointment, but it's reality when you have so many new players. It takes time for it all to sink in." -- Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris, on this season's missed opportunities.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Pittsburgh at Notre Dame, Oct. 13 -- The Panthers are coming off a 38-31 double-overtime loss at Syracuse last Saturday, while the Irish edged Tennessee 17-13. Emotional edge to the Irish? Notre Dame outgained Pittsburgh 352-8 on the ground last season in a 20-14 victory.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Tyler Palko -- The junior completed 28 of 42 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns at Syracuse. Even more impressive was the fact that Palko didn't throw an interception. WR Greg Lee -- The sophomore caught a career-high nine passes for 188 yards last week and reeled in a 57-yard touchdown reception from Palko. No other Big East receiver has posted a better single-game total this season.

ROSTER REPORT: No significant injuries or moves.

Rutgers' Greg Schiano is troubled by his quarterback's turnover problems.

Junior Ryan Hart passed for 302 yards in Saturday's 21-10 loss at Boston College, but he was picked off three times. Hart has accounted for 14 turnovers in Rutgers' last four games and is on pace to pass his own single-season interception record of 19.

"I think he's close to being a really productive quarterback," Schiano said. "He is racking up some great numbers yardage-wise, but what's getting us is the interceptions. It's hard to win when you have multiple-interception games. We have to find a way to cut those out or at least cut them down when we're throwing the ball."

The Scarlet Knights, who have dropped three straight against Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Boston College, will take the week off before heading to Navy for a non-conference game on Nov. 20.

Rutgers (4-5) needs to win its final two games (Connecticut on Nov. 25) to become bowl eligible. The Scarlet Knights own a 1-6 record in post-bye week games under Schiano.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Rutgers owns the Big East's second-ranked passing game (295.6 ypg.) and the last-ranked rushing attack (88.6). The Scarlet Knights have rushed for 100 or more yards just once in the past eight games.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The unit turned in what was perhaps its most impressive performance of the season at Boston College last Saturday. The Scarlet Knights surrendered two defensive touchdowns and forced four turnovers.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have to keep working, go back to the drawing board. We have a bye week and we'll address some fundamental issues and get some guys healthy and feeling well." -- Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, on his plans for the open week.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Rutgers (4-5) will take the week off before traveling to Navy on Nov. 20.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: WR Tres Moses -- The senior caught six passes for 98 yards in a 21-10 loss to Boston College on Saturday. Moses needs one more reception to tie Rutgers' single-season record of 69. He has managed 56 catches for 659 yards in the last six games. CB Joe Porter -- The sophomore leads the Big East with four interceptions. He picked off Boston College quarterback Paul Peterson in the third quarter last Saturday. No Rutgers player has delivered more than four interceptions since 1983.

ROSTER REPORT: LG Brian Duffy (knee) and DT Gary Gibson (knee) missed the Boston College game and are questionable for Navy. LB Berkeley Hutchinson (shoulder) returned from a two-game absence on Saturday, but injured his wrist. He finished the game wearing a cast. TE Sam Johnson (concussion) and LB Kenny Gillespie (knee) are also nursing ailments.

Syracuse will face Temple on Saturday without the services of running back Walter Reyes. The senior rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown in last weekend's 38-31 victory over Pittsburgh, but injured his shoulder in the third quarter.

"Walter is out for this week," coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "It just piles on the adversity. But we've faced adversity all year. We don't have our star player, so Damien Rhodes will have to do the job and the reserve tailbacks will have to do the job."

Rhodes, a junior, rushed for 103 yards and scored a game-winning 2-yard touchdown in the second overtime to lift Syracuse past Pittsburgh. He is averaging 61.0 rushing yards per game.

Early-season losses to four ranked opponents -- Purdue, Virginia, Florida State and West Virginia -- apparently prepared Syracuse well for the stretch run. The Orange have won two straight games and are in second place in the Big East standings.

Syracuse (5-4), which is fighting to earn its first postseason appearance since 2001, will close the season at Boston College on Nov. 27.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Junior TB Damien Rhodes and sophomore QB Perry Patterson will have to compensate for the loss of Walter Reyes. Patterson completed 15 of 28 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown in the win over Pittsburgh.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Orange will field the Big East's fifth-ranked scoring (26.9 ppg.) and sixth-ranked total (430.1 ypg.) defense. Junior DE James Wyche leads the league in tackles for loss with 13.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "This has been the kind of season for us, with the schedule we've played, that we've had to draw on emotion every single week. In this game you have to draw on emotion. But this is Week 10. Can you do it every single week?" -- Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni, on the hardships his team has battled through this season.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Syracuse at Temple, Oct. 13 -- The Orange are coming off a 38-31 win over Pittsburgh last weekend, while Temple dropped a 42-21 decision to West Virginia. Syracuse leads the series 12-1 in Big East play.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: SS Diamond Ferri -- The senior anticipated a weak-side toss to Pittsburgh running back Raymond Kirkley and made the fourth-down stop to lock up the double-overtime victory. Ferri leads the Big East in fumbles forced (5) and has picked off three passes. TB Damien Rhodes -- The junior rushed for 103 yards on 23 carries, including 81 yards on 16 carries after halftime, and scored the game-winning touchdown on a 2-yard rush to lead Syracuse past Pittsburgh. Rhodes accounted for all 25 yards on Syracuse's final drive in the second extra session.

ROSTER REPORT: TB Walter Reyes (shoulder), Syracuse's top rusher, won't be available against Temple.

Frustrating losses continue to mount for Temple. Coach Bobby Wallace can, however, take satisfaction in knowing the Owls outgained three of their four Big East opponents this season.

But Temple's offensive strides haven't produced victories. The Owls have dropped six straight games, including last Saturday's 42-21 loss at West Virginia.

"It's very frustrating," Wallace said. "What's a hard thing to do is to try to get the kids to believe they're going to win and not have doubt in the back of their minds because we haven't won in a while."

Junior quarterback Walter Washington completed 16 of 24 pass attempts for 206 yards and rushed for an additional 117 last week. But as usual, his heroics weren't enough to lift the Owls (1-8) to victory.

Wide receiver Phil Goodman reeled in four receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown in defeat. Running back Umar Ferguson chipped in with 82 rushing yards.

Temple, which will leave the Big East after this season, will have two chances to sneak away with a victory. The Owls will host Syracuse (5-4) on Saturday and Boston College (6-2) on Nov. 20.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: QB Walter Washington is the focal point of Temple's offense. He is averaging 199.3 yards passing and 70.1 rushing yards, and leads the conference with 12 rushing touchdowns. The Owls own the Big East's worst scoring offense (20.8 ppg.).

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Temple owns the conference's last-ranked scoring (37.9 ppg.) and total (437.6) defense. LB Rian Wallace leads the team with 83 tackles.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's a lot of character in this team as far as playing hard and trying to win. I'm thankful that there is. If they weren't, it would really be demoralizing." -- Temple coach Bobby Wallace, on his team's makeup.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Syracuse at Temple, Nov. 13 -- The Owls are coming off a 42-21 loss at West Virginia last weekend, while the Orange pulled out a 38-31 win in double-overtime against Pittsburgh. Temple has beaten Syracuse only once in Big East play (2002).

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Walter Washington -- The junior completed 16 of 24 pass attempts for 206 yards and rushed for an additional 117 in defeat on Saturday. Even though he was fighting a sore throwing shoulder and a case of tonsillitis, Washington played a part in all three Temple touchdowns. LB Rian Wallace -- The junior recorded 14 tackles (nine solo), including two for loss, against West Virginia. He moved into ninth place on Temple's career tackle list with 307 stops.

ROSTER REPORT: DL Antwon Burton (foot) is out indefinitely.

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