Big East Football Preview

A look at the weekend's football action in the Big East Conference

CINCINNATI At Louisville
Sat 9/14
3:30 p.m.
ESPNU
Cincinnati and Louisville will face each other for the 46th time in what is known as the battle for the Keg of Nails. Cincinnati leads the series by a 26-18-1 margin, but Louisville has won the last three meetings. The Bearcats will travel to Louisville for the first time since 2004, when they lost by the score of 70-7.

The Cardinals have won their last 14 games at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Since Bobby Petrino took over as Louisville's head coach, the Cardinals have only lost one game at home. Last season, Louisville defeated Cincinnati, 46- 22, on Oct. 15, 2005, as the UofL rolled up 547 yards of total offense. Louisville's offensive output was the most given up by Cincinnati last year. The Cardinals come into this week's game against the Bearcats in hopes of extending its perfect record to 6-0, while Cincinnati attempts to win three straight for the first time since the 2004 season.

Last week, Louisville defeated Middle Tennessee, 44-17, while Cincinnati defeated Akron, 20-14. Louisville's offense leads the nation in scoring (44.0) and total offense (523.6), while ranking fifth in rushing (236.8) and 10th in passing (286.8). Defensively, the Cardinals are fifth in the nation against the run (58.6) and seventh nationally in scoring defense (11.6). Cincinnati's defense is 20th versus the run (91.0). The Bearcats are 3-1 when allowing less than 100 yards rushing.


CONNECTICUT vs. Army
Sat 10/14
Noon
No TV
Following a 38-16 loss at USF in its league opener on Oct. 7, Connecticut returns home to face Army. It will be the fifth meeting between the two schools. UConn holds a 3-1 advantage in the series. The teams last met on Oct. 1, 2005 in West Point, N.Y., with the Huskies defeating the Black Knights, 47-13.

In last season's meeting, UConn received a strong rushing output from tailback Terry Caulley, who carried the ball 22 times for 87 yards and two touchdowns. In addition, quarterback Matt Bonislawski threw for 180 yards and two touchdowns. In 2004, UConn beat Army, 40-3, at Rentschler Field.

In home games this season, Connecticut has a mark of 1-2. The Huskies are 16- 6 all-time at Rentschler Field. Its lone win at home this season came against Rhode Island, 52-7, in the first game of the season. UConn is 12th nationally in team rushing (205.8) behind Caulley, who leads the Huskies with 453 yards. Connecticut is also fifth in the nation in pass defense (138.2).

Last time out for Army, the Black Knights defeated VMI, 62-7, on Oct. 7 at Michie Stadium. Five different players rushed for a touchdown in the game for Army, including Wesley McMahand who posted 80 yards and two scores. McMahand leads the Black Knights in rushing this season with 456 yards and four touchdowns.


LOUISVILLE vs. Cincinnati
Sat 10/14
3:30 p.m.
FSN
Cincinnati and Louisville will face each other for the 46th time in what is known as the battle for the Keg of Nails. Cincinnati leads the series by a 26-18-1 margin, but Louisville has won the last three meetings. The Bearcats will travel to Louisville for the first time since 2004, when they lost by the score of 70-7.

The Cardinals have won their last 14 games at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Since Bobby Petrino took over as Louisville's head coach, the Cardinals have only lost one game at home. Last season, Louisville defeated Cincinnati, 46- 22, on Oct. 15, 2005, as the UofL rolled up 547 yards of total offense. Louisville's offensive output was the most given up by Cincinnati last year. The Cardinals come into this week's game against the Bearcats in hopes of extending its perfect record to 6-0, while Cincinnati attempts to win three straight for the first time since the 2004 season.

Last week, Louisville defeated Middle Tennessee, 44-17, while Cincinnati defeated Akron, 20-14. Louisville's offense leads the nation in scoring (44.0) and total offense (523.6), while ranking fifth in rushing (236.8) and 10th in passing (286.8). Defensively, the Cardinals are fifth in the nation against the run (58.6) and seventh nationally in scoring defense (11.6). Cincinnati's defense is 20th versus the run (91.0). The Bearcats are 3-1 when allowing less than 100 yards rushing.


PITTSBURGH at Central Fla.
Fri 10/13
8:00 p.m.
ESPN
Pittsburgh will attempt to keep its perfect season road record (2-0) intact as it travels to UCF. Last year in road games, the Panthers were 0-5. The game against the Golden Knights will mark the first ever meeting between the two teams. It will also be the first time the Panthers have played back-to-back road games since early last season (at Ohio on 9/9 and at Nebraska on 9/17).

Pittsburgh enters its contest against the UCF after improving to 2-0 in conference play with a 21-11 win over Syracuse on Oct. 7. Panther running back LaRod Stephens-Howling rushed for a career-high 221 yards on 27 carries and scored on a 70-yard touchdown run. The 221 yards was the fifth-best rushing performance in the nation this season. The last time a Pitt running back surpassed the 200-yard mark was in 2000 when Kevan Barlow rushed for 272 yards and four touchdowns against West Virginia.

Pittsburgh quarterback Tyler Palko, who entered the game as the nation's most efficient passer, also posted an impressive offensive showing. He threw just four incomplete passes in the game. Palko was 20-of-24 for 177 yards and one score. Currently, Palko (186.0) is the nation's second most efficient passer behind Ball State's Nate Davis (195.2). He is also tied for ninth nationally in points responsible for (16.0) and 17th in the nation in total offense (256.3). In addition, wideout Derek Kinder is 12th nationally in receiving yards (514) and linebacker H.B. Blades is sixth in the nation in tackles (11.3). As a team, Pitt is 11th among NCAA leaders in scoring offense (35.2).

Last time out for UCF, the Golden Knights defeated Marshall, 23-22, on Oct. 4. A 22-yard field by Michael Torres with seven seconds remaining won the game for UCF.


RUTGERS at Navy
Sat 10/14
1:30 p.m.
CSTV
After a week off, Rutgers returns to action against Navy. The Scarlet Knights are attempting to improve to 6-0 for the first time since 1976. Rutgers and Navy have faced each other 20 times, with the Midshipmen holding a slim 10- 9-1 advantage. The last time the two teams met, Rutgers came away with a 31-21 victory on Oct. 29, 2005 in Piscataway. Running back Ray Rice and fullback Brian Leonard each rushed for two touchdowns.

In road games this season the Scarlet Knights are 2-0. RU is 5-2 on the road dating back to last season. Rice is second nationally in rushing yards per game (161.6). The sophomore has 806 yards rushing (5.7 avg) and 11 touchdowns. As a team, Rutgers is 10th in the nation in rushing (208.2). Rutgers also possesses a stingy defensive unit that is ranked third nationally in total defense (233.4). Rutgers also ranks in the top 10 among NCAA leaders in several other statistical categories: scoring defense (3rd, 10.0), pass efficiency defense (96.3), turnover margin (9th, 1.2) and turnovers gained (t-5th, 16).

Navy is ranked first nationally in rushing yards per game (350.5). Quarterback Brian Hampton leads the rushing attack with 645 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has also passed for 302 yards and two scores. Last week, the Midshipmen won at Air Force, 24-17, on Oct. 7. Hampton rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns, while running back Adam Ballard posted 134 yards. Two weeks ago, on Sept. 30, Navy won at Connecticut, 41-17. The Midshipmen rushed for 464 yards in the game and totaled 605 yards of offense.


SOUTH FLORIDA At North Carolina
Sat 10/14
Noon
ESPNU
USF travels to Chapel Hill, N.C., to face North Carolina for the first time. This will be the Bulls' third meeting against a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference. The two previous games against ACC opponents came last season. USF lost at Miami, 27-7, on Oct. 1, 2005 and lost to North Carolina State, 14-0, in the Meineke Car Care Bowl on Dec. 31, 2005.

USF quarterback Matt Grothe is the top freshman in the nation in total offense (275.3) and is ranked ninth among all players. For the season, Grothe has passed for 1,230 yards and eight touchdowns and run for 422 yards and seven scores.

Last week, the Bulls defeated Connecticut, 38-16, in Oct. 7 at Raymond James Stadium. In the game, Grothe accounted for four of the Bulls' five touchdowns. He threw for 146 yards (on 12-of-15 passing) and one touchdown and rushed 15 times for 82 yards and three scores. In addition, Benjamin Williams ran for a career-best 108 yards on 15 carries, including a touchdown. The 100-yard game was the first of the sophomore's career. The Bulls' defense limited the Huskies to 261 total yards. USF ranks 13th nationally in pass efficiency defense (100.16).

Last week, North Carolina lost at Miami, 27-7, on Oct. 7. Ronnie McGill scored the lone touchdown for UNC. For the season, McGill leads the Tarheels in rushing with 278 yards and four touchdowns. Earlier this season, North Carolina lost at home to Rutgers, 21-16.


SYRACUSE at West Virginia
Sat 10/14
Noon
ERT
West Virginia will attempt to tie its program-best 13-game winning streak when it plays Syracuse. The Mountaineers and the Orange will meet for the 54th time in the history of the two programs. SU holds a 30-23 advantage, but the Mountaineers have won the last four meetings.

Last season, the Mountaineers came away with a 15-7 win on Sept. 4, 2005, at the Carrier Dome. The game was tied at the half, but two second-half Pat McAfee field goals and a safety sealed the win for WVU. West Virginia's defense held Syracuse to just 103 yards of total offense.

Last week, Syracuse had its three-game winning streak snapped by Pittsburgh, 21-11, in the Orange's conference opener. In the game, quarterback Perry Patterson passed Troy Nunes for fourth all-time in pass completions (379).

West Virginia comes into the game against Syracuse after defeating Mississippi State on the road, 42- 14. Steve Slaton ran for 185 yards and scored a touchdown, while quarterback Patrick White ran for a pair of scores. The Mountaineers rushed for more yards against the Bulldogs (314) than previous MSU foes LSU, Auburn and South Carolina combined. West Virginia owns the second-best rushing offense in the NCAA (302.6). Slaton is ranked third nationally in rushing yards per game (153.60) behind Northern Illinois's Garrett Wolfe (236.2) and Rutgers' Ray Rice (161.2). WVU is 37-0 since 2000 when scoring 30 or more points. Dating back to last year, West Virginia has compiled 44 rushing touchdowns in its last 11 games.

SU is second nationally in sacks (4.33) and tied for 13th in interceptions (9). Defensive end Jameel McClain is tied for second in the nation in sacks (1.4).


WEST VIRGINIA vs. Syracuse
Sat 10/14
Noon
ERT
West Virginia will attempt to tie its program-best 13-game winning streak when it plays Syracuse. The Mountaineers and the Orange will meet for the 54th time in the history of the two programs. SU holds a 30-23 advantage, but the Mountaineers have won the last four meetings.

Last season, the Mountaineers came away with a 15-7 win on Sept. 4, 2005, at the Carrier Dome. The game was tied at the half, but two second-half Pat McAfee field goals and a safety sealed the win for WVU. West Virginia's defense held Syracuse to just 103 yards of total offense.

Last week, Syracuse had its three-game winning streak snapped by Pittsburgh, 21-11, in the Orange's conference opener. In the game, quarterback Perry Patterson passed Troy Nunes for fourth all-time in pass completions (379).

West Virginia comes into the game against Syracuse after defeating Mississippi State on the road, 42- 14. Steve Slaton ran for 185 yards and scored a touchdown, while quarterback Patrick White ran for a pair of scores. The Mountaineers rushed for more yards against the Bulldogs (314) than previous MSU foes LSU, Auburn and South Carolina combined. West Virginia owns the second-best rushing offense in the NCAA (302.6). Slaton is ranked third nationally in rushing yards per game (153.60) behind Northern Illinois's Garrett Wolfe (236.2) and Rutgers' Ray Rice (161.2). WVU is 37-0 since 2000 when scoring 30 or more points. Dating back to last year, West Virginia has compiled 44 rushing touchdowns in its last 11 games.

SU is second nationally in sacks (4.33) and tied for 13th in interceptions (9). Defensive end Jameel McClain is tied for second in the nation in sacks (1.4).


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