Mid-week Big East Notes

The Big East continues its excellent out of conference play, but has four crucial games this week that will determine whether it is a record-setting one.


BIG EAST Conference teams are currently 28-8 (.778) versus non-conference opponents this season, including 10-7 (.588) against teams from other charter BCS conferences. That record and winning percentage are currently the best in league history.

However, conference members will have to continue their winning ways if they hope to establish a new standard. The previous record (28-9, .757), established in 1998, doesn't leave much margin for error. Rutgers, South Florida, Pitt and Connecticut carry the banner for the league this week in out of conference games.

The BIG EAST is still the only conference in the country with three undefeated teams. West Virginia, Louisville and Rutgers are all 5-0. WVU's 12-game winning streak dating back to last season is the second longest in the nation.


Rutgers tailback Ray Rice (161.2 ypg) and West Virginia running back Steve Slaton (153.6 ypg) are ranked second and third in the nation in rushing, respectively. Rice is also tied for second nationally in scoring (13.2). The Scarlet Knight sophomore leads the BIG EAST with 806 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns. Slaton has 768 yards rushing and seven scores on the year.


Pittsburgh quarterback Tyler Palko continued his string of nearly perfect passing performances on Oct. 7 in a 21-11 win at Syracuse. He completed 20- of-24 passes for 177 yards and one touchdown. In his last three games, Palko is 47-of-56 (83.9%) for 662 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions. He is second in the nation in passing efficiency (186.0).


The West Virginia rushing attack continued its dominance with 314 yards in a 42-14 victory at Mississippi State on Oct. 7. Running back Steve Slaton ran for 185 yards and one touchdown. In addition, quarterback Patrick White and fullback Owen Schmitt each ran for two touchdowns. Dating back to last year, WVU now has compiled 44 rushing touchdowns in its last 11 games. The Mountaineers have totaled 300 or more rushing yards in seven of their last eight games.


Louisville quarterback Hunter Cantwell, starting for the injured Brian Brohm, completed 17-of-32 passes for a career-high 340 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in the Cardinals' 44-17 win versus Middle Tennessee State on Oct. 7. In his two starts since the injury to Brohm on Sept. 16 versus Miami, Cantwell has completed 35-of-58 passes for 513 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.

The Cardinals are first in the country in scoring offense (44.0 pts./game) and total offense (523.6 yds./game) despite losing Brohm for two-plus games and running back Michael Bush for the season.


USF freshman quarterback Matt Grothe continued his stellar all-around play in the Bulls' 38-16 win over UConn on Oct. 7. Grothe completed 12-of- 15 passes for 146 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for 82 yards and three scores. For the season, Grothe has passed for 1,230 yards and eight touchdowns and run for 422 yards and seven scores. He is currently the BIG EAST league leader in total offense and ranks ninth in the nation in that category (275.3). He is the nation's top freshman in total offense.


BIG EAST teams are playing some of the best defense in the country. Three league squads rank in the top 10 nationally in scoring defense and a fourth team is in the top 20. Rutgers is third in the nation, giving up only 10.0 points per game. Louisville is seventh (11.6), West Virginia is ninth (12.2) and Pittsburgh is 20th (14.3).

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