The West Virginia Mountaineers were ranked 17th in the first Bowl Championship Series Poll, which was released on Monday. WVU, 6-1 overall and 3-0 in the Big East, is one spot behind Notre Dame and one ahead of Auburn. The Mountaineers' only loss is to a team ranked in the top three of the BCS standings.
WVU's Steve Slaton Earns National Player of the Week Honors
Steve Slaton, the Mountaineers' true freshman running back, was named the Walter Camp Football Foundation's Offensive Player of the Week and the USA Today.com Player of the Week after his six-touchdown performance in WVU's 46-44 triple-overtime victory over Louisville. Slaton, who rushed for 188 yards while scoring five times, also caught a 14-yard scoring toss. His touchdown total set a school record and tied a Big East mark.
Now that the second half of the season is here, some teams are aiming to reach six wins and become bowl eligible. Rutgers travels to Connecticut on Saturday in a battle of teams with 4-2 records. The Scarlet Knights are coming off a 31-9 victory at Syracuse. They have been fueled, in part, by outstanding special teams. In the win at Syracuse, cornerback Corey Barnes scored on a blocked punt and on a fumble return. Rutgers is eighth nationally in kickoff returns (26.8) and 16th in punt returns (14.8). Connecticut is still first in the country in total defense, allowing only 227.9 yards per game. The Huskies are 25-9 over their last 34 games.
Every Big East Game Is Televised
On Saturday, all three Big East games will be televised. The Big East Game of the Week, produced by ESPN Regional, is Syracuse at Pittsburgh at noon, Eastern time. Also at noon, Louisville at Cincinnati will be carried by ESPNU. The Rutgers-Connecticut contest will be televised regionally on MSG Network and the New England Sports Network (NESN) at 3 p.m. West Virginia at USF, which is still pending a reschedule date, will be televised in some form.
Syracue vs. Pittsburgh
This will be the 61st meeting between the Orange and the Panthers. Syracuse leads the all-time series by a 30-27-3 margin. Pittsburgh has won two of the last three meetings, but SU has taken 12 of the last 14. Pitt holds a 16-10 edge in games played in Pittsburgh.
The last Panther win in the series came in 2003 when Pittsburgh defeated SU, 34-14, at Heinz Field. Last season, Syracuse defeated the Panthers, 38-31 in double overtime, on Nov. 6, at the Carrier Dome. Linebacker Tommy Harris and safety Diamond Ferry stuffed a fourth and one attempt by Pitt in the second overtime to seal the SU victory. Orange RB Walter Reyes rushed for 123 yards and one touchdown. Quarterback Perry Patterson was 15-of-28 for 170 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Patterson also rushed for a touchdown. For the Panthers, quarterback Tyler Palko was 28-of-42 for 342 yards and three touchdowns.
This season, Syracuse ranks 17th in the nation in pass defense (165.20), led by safety Anthony Smith who is tied for the national lead in passes defended (11) and is tied for fourth in interceptions per game (.67). Pittsburgh ia 11th nationally in pass defense (154.33).
Cornerback Darrelle Revis is tied for ninth in the nation in passes defended (10). Pitt linebacker H.B. Blades is tied for 17th nationally in tackles per game (11.0). Panther wideout Greg Lee is ninth in the nation in receiving yards (664).
Louisville vs. Cincinnati
Cincinnati leads the all-time series versus Louisville by a 26-18-1 margin. The Cardinals have taken the last two games overall and the last three played at Nippert Stadium.
Last season, Louisville defeated Cincinnati, 70- 7, on Nov. 27 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. The Cardinals rushed for 357 yards in the game on 31 carries. Eric Shelton (10 rushes, 158 yards, 1 TD) and Michael Bush (12 rushes, 106 yards) both rushed for over 100 yards for UL. Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm came off the bench to complete 2-of-4 passes for 55 yards and two touchdowns. Wideout Montrell Jones caught two touchdowns. Butler Benton scored Cincinnati's lone touchddown on a one-yard run.
Louisville has one of the nation's most potent offenses once again this season. The Cardinals are third in the nation in scoring offense (47.0), ninth in total offense (492.0) and 13th in passing offense (312.8). UL quarterback Brian Brohm ranks sixth nationally in passing efficiency (165.1). Running back Michael Bush leads the nation in scoring (16.0 ppg) and is 10th in rushing (114.33 ypg). Defensive end Elvis Dumervil is first nationally in sacks (2.58), forced fumbles (1.17) and tackles for loss (2.83).
Cincinnati is tied for 22nd in the nation in fumbles recovered (7). The Bearcats have forced 13 turnovers in six games.
Rutgers vs. Connecticut
Rutgers holds a 16-8 lead versus Connecticut in the all-time series, but the Huskies have taken each of the last three meetings dating back to 2001. The series is split 5-5 in contests played in Connecticut.
In last season's meeting, UConn defeated Rutgers by the score of 41-35 in a game played on Thanksgiving (Nov. 25) in Piscataway. Husky running back Cornell Brockington rushed for 73 yards and two touchdowns. Connecticut QB Dan Orlovsky was 19-of-30 for 254 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. For RU, quarterback Ryan Hart completed 26-of-34 passes for 279 yards and two scores. Wideout Tres Moses caught seven passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns.
This season, Rutgers is tied for sixth in the nation in sacks per game (3.80). Defensive end Ryan Neill is second nationally in tackles for loss (2.5) and tied for 11th in sacks (1.0). The Scarlet Knights possess some of the nation's best special teams. RU is eighth in the nation in kickoff returns (26.80) and 16th in punt returns (14.83). Willie Foster is 10th among NCAA leaders in kickoff returns (30.33).
Connecticut's defense is ranked first nationally in total defense (227.80) and pass defense (129.90) and third in scoring defense (9.6). Defensive back Darius Butler is tied for 16th in the nation in interceptions (.50).
West Virginia vs. South Florida
This will be the first-ever meeting between West Virginia and USF. The Mountaineers are 6-2 on the road since the start of the 2004 season, including 3-0 on the road this season. The Bulls are a perfect 3-0 at Raymond James Stadium in 2005. Since the start of its program in 1997, USF is 5-3 versus current Big East Conference schools.
This season, West Virginia ranks among the national leaders in a number of offensive and defensive categories. The Mountaineers are 15th in rushing (229.43). WVU is also ninth in total defense (262.83), 17th in scoring defense (16.0), 19th in pass defense (167.67) and 22nd in rushing defense (106.7). Despite not currently being listed among Big East leaders (because he has only played in 5 of 7 games in 2005 - the minimum is 75% of team's games), running back Steve Slaton would rank second in touchdown scoring (8.4 ppg), fourth in rushing yards per game (91.8) and sixth in rushing yards (459).
USF is 20th in the nation in rushing offense (216.33), behind running back Andre Hall who is tied for 23rd nationally in rushing (100.0 ypg). Hall is second in the Big East in rushing. The Bulls are also 18th in the nation in scoring defense (16.2) and 26th in total defense (307.20).