Big East Preview

The Big East looks to continue its excellent start with several important out-of-conference matchups.

Cincinnati plays its first road game of the season on Saturday, meeting No. 1 Ohio State. Last week, the Bearcats fell 33-15 at home against Pittsburgh. Despite the loss, the Bearcats received strong performances from wide receiver Dominick Goodman, who caught eight passes for 70 yards. In addition, tight end Brent Celek totaled three catches and has nine receptions in his first two games.

Cincinnati also received an solid contributions from quarterback Dustin Grutza, who was 21-of-34 for 189 yards and one touchdown pass. Ohio State comes into the contest No. 1 in both national polls after a 24-7 victory at Texas. Senior quarterback Troy Smith led the way for the Buckeyes, as he threw for 269 yards and two touchdowns. The only other time that the Bearcats have faced a No. 1 team was on Oct. 18, 1986, when UC lost to Miami, Fla., 45-13, at home.

Bearcat head coach Mark Dantonio came to UC after three seasons as the defensive coordinator at Ohio State (2001-03). His first game at UC was a 27-6 loss to the Buckeyes.

After a bye week, Connecticut returns to action to host Wake Forest. The Huskies will look to build off of their 52-7 seasonopening triumph over Rhode Island. In the game, Connecticut racked up 567 yards of total offense; 418 of those yards came on the ground, which is the second-highest single game output in the program's history and the best total since UConn moved to Division I-A in 2002. The one-game average of 418 yards leads the nation in rushing offense.

In addition, senior running back Terry Caulley's 95 yards moved him into second place on the Connecticut all-time rushing list. Wake Forest comes into the contest after winning a 14-13 nail-biter over Duke. The Demon Deacons blocked kicker Joe Surgan's 27-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the game to seal the win. In its season opener, Wake Forest defeated Syracuse, 20-10, in Winston-Salem.

No. 12 Louisville resumes its home schedule on Saturday when the No. 17 Miami Hurricanes visit Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. The Cardinals, who lead the NCAA in total offense (651.0 ypg) and scoring offense (60.50 avg.) will look to build off their 62-0 win over Temple on the road.

Despite the loss of running back Michael Bush in the previous week against Kentucky, the Cardinals still managed to gain 312 yards on the ground against the Owls. Cardinal running backs George Stripling and Sergio Spencer each ran for two touchdowns. The shutout victory over Temple was Louisville's first shutout since its 34-0 win over North Carolina in 2004.

Miami will make its first road trip of the season after its 51-10 victory at home over Florida A&M. In the last meeting between UM and the U of L, the Cardinals, who were ranked No. 17, fell 41-38 in the Orange Bowl in a 2004 contest. The thenranked No. 3 Hurricanes erased a 17-point deficit over the final 20 minutes and came from behind twice in the fourth quarter to win.

Pittsburgh will look to earn its first 3-0 start since 2000 when it meets Michigan State on Saturday. Last Friday, the Panthers won at Cincinnati, 33-14. Quarterback Tyler Palko guided the Panthers to their first 2-0 start since 2003 as he went 11-of-21 for 267 yards and passed for three touchdowns. Two of Palko's touchdown passes were to Derrick Kinder. The scoring tosses were 80 and 55 yards and both came in the third quarter. Three of Palko's six touchdown passes this season have gone for over 70 yards.

Palko also is ranked second in the NCAA in passing efficiency (214.0). In addition, the senior quarterback is ranked fifth all-time for passing yards in a career at Pittsburgh, he also is just 445 yards behind current BIG EAST Game of the Week analyst John Congemi (1983-86).

Michigan State will look to improve upon its 2-0 record as it travels to Pittsburgh for the first time since 1960. Wide receiver Matt Trannon had a school record 14 receptions for 145 yards and two touchdowns en route to earning Big Ten Player of the Week honors and helping MSU beat Eastern Michigan, 52- 20. In the last meeting between the two teams, the Panthers and Spartans played to a 7-7 tie.

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights will be in search of its first 3-0 start since 1981 when it hosts Ohio. It is Homecoming weekend at Rutgers. Last week against Illinois, the Scarlet Knights won, 33- 0, to collect their first shutout since 2002 when they defeated Army 44-0.

With the win over Illinois, the Scarlet Knights moved to 2-0 for the first time since 2000. The RU defense did not allow the Illini to advance the ball into Scarlet Knight territory. In addition, Rutgers running back Ray Rice rushed for 108 yards on 23 carries and scored a touchdown. This season, Rice leads the conference in rushing and is ranked fourth in the NCAA with an average of 154.5 yards per game. He has compiled four straight 100- yard games.

Ohio enters the contest in the hopes of improving upon its 2-0 record. The Bobcats won their only game against the BIG EAST last season. Ohio beat visiting Pittsburgh 16-10 in overtime. Last week, the Bobcats defeated Northern Illinois, 35-23.

The USF Bulls posted another strong second half performance in its 21-20 win over Florida International. The Bulls trailed 20-7 at halftime before scoring a pair of touchdowns in the second half. This season the Bulls have outscored their opponents 48-0 in the second half.

This week, the Bulls face UCF in Orlando, Fla. In two games this season, USF has held its opponents to a total of 30 points. Leading the charge for the Bulls is redshirt freshman defensive end George Selvie, who is third in the nation in tackles for loss (2.75). The Bulls also feature punt return specialist Ean Randolph, who is tied for first in the NCAA for return average (31.40).

Against FIU, Randolph scored on a 76-yard punt return for the Bulls first score of the game. He also had two other returns for touchdowns that were called back because of penalties. UCF comes into the game in the hopes of rebounding from a 42- 0 loss to Florida on the road.

Syracuse will face its second straight Big Ten opponent Saturday when it meets Illinois in Champaign. Last week against Iowa, the Orange pushed the then-No. 14 ranked Hawkeyes to double overtime, but fell 20-13, in the Carrier Dome.

In that game, quarterback Perry Patterson moved into eighth at SU in career total offense. He had 211 total yards in the game, raising his career total to 3,890 yards. Against Iowa, Brendan Carney punted seven times for a 46.9 average. As the holder, he saved a bad snap that allowed SU to kick a field goal to tie the game, 10-10, with six seconds left in regulartion.

Syracuse has proven to be efficient in taking care of the ball this season in that they are one of only 20 teams in the country not to have thrown an interception. Syracuse also is one of five schools in the country with at least six takeaways. Illinois enters the game in the hopes of rebounding from 33-0 loss to Rutgers.

No. 5 West Virginia will lay its five-game home winning streak on the line against Maryland on Thursday. In 44 games against Maryland, the series is tied at 21-21-2. West Virginia has won the last two contests.

Last week against Eastern Washington, West Virginia took a 52-3 decision to improve to 2-0 and extend its winning streak to nine games, which is the second longest streak in the nation. With the win, the Mountaineers also have won 27 of their last 31 regular-season games and 28 of their last 32 overall. The win over Eastern Washington also marked the 38th consecutive game that West Virginia has won when scoring over 30 points.

The Mountaineers were led by running back Steve Slaton, who rushed for a game-high 104 yards on just eight carries (13.1 yards per carry) to post his seventh career 100-yard rushing effort. In his last three games, Slaton has rushed for 512 yards and is ranked fifth in the NCAA for rushing yards per game this season with a 154.0 average. Maryland also enters the game with a 2-0 mark after defeating Middle Tennessee 24-10 last week.

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