Seven of the eight BIG EAST teams won their season openers last week. In addition to the victories by Pitt and Cincinnati, Rutgers won at North Carolina, 21-16. Two other teams enjoyed comfortable wins over in-state rivals. Louisville thumped Kentucky, 59-28, and West Virginia handled Marshall, 42-10. Also, Connecticut beat Rhode Island, 52-7, and USF knocked off McNeese State, 41-10.
The National Polls Are Noticing
The BIG EAST has two teams ranked among the top 13 of the Associated Press and the USA Today polls and has two other clubs receiving votes. West Virginia is tied for fifth in USA Today and is sixth in AP. Louisville is ranked 12th in USA Today and 13th in AP. Pittsburgh and Rutgers are receiving votes in both polls.
BIG EAST Conference Play Starts Friday
Pittsburgh visits Cincinnati on Friday night in the first BIG EAST Conference game of the 2006 season. The game will be carried on ESPN2 at 8 p.m. Eastern time. Both teams were impressive in their season openers last week. The Panthers defeated Virginia, 38-13, behind the passing of quarterback Tyler Palko. Cincinnati blanked Eastern Kentucky, 31-0, which was the Bearcats' first shutout since 1995.
Rutgers-Illinois Headlines Saturday Schedule
Rutgers will host Illinois on ESPN2 at noon, Eastern time. Syracuse hosts Iowa in an ABC regional contest at 3:30. Florida International plays at South Florida. ESPN360, the customized broadband service, will carry the game. Also, Louisville travels to Temple and West Virginia hosts Eastern Washington.
Slaton, Rice Are The Nation's Top Rushers
West Virginia's Steve Slaton and Rutgers' Ray Rice, a pair of true sophomore running backs, are the leading rushers in the country after one week. Slaton ran for 203 yards on 33 carries and scored two touchdowns in the triumph over Marshall. Rice helped the Scarlet Knights win at North Carolina with a 201-yard effort on 31 carries. He scored three times. Both players shared BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Week honors and were among only four candidates for the Cingular All-America Player of the Week award. Rice was named the Walter Camp Football Foundation National Player of the Week.