Big East Football Preview

The penultimate weekend of the Big East football regular season has key games for West Virginia, Louisville, Pitt and Connecticut

CINCINNATI At Connecticut
Sat 11/25
Noon
ERT
Saturday's meeting will be the first between the two teams in the state of Connecticut. Cincinnati leads the all-time series versus UConn by a 2-0 margin, with both Bearcat victories coming at Nippert Stadium.

Last season, UC defeated the Huskies, 28-17, on Oct. 15. Cincinnati running back Bradley Glatthaar rushed 15 times for 123 yards and two touchdowns. For the Huskies, quarterback D.J. Hernandez was 19-of-43 for 191 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Last week, the Bearcats became bowl-eligible as they upset No. 7/8 Rutgers, 30-11, at home on Nov. 18. The Scarlet Knights were the highest ranked team ever defeated by UC. Senior Nick Davila made his first career start at quarterback and completed 11-of-15 passes for 277 yards and one touchdown. Davila also ran for a score. Another player making his first start for Cincinnati was cornerback D'Angelo Smith. The sophomore gave the Bearcats a 17-0 lead when he intercepted a pass and took it 84 yards for a UC touchdown.

Connecticut is coming off a 20-14 loss on the road to Syracuse on Nov. 18. Hernandez completed 19-of-29 passes for 188 yards and two scores, but was intercepted three times. UConn, which came into the game ranked ninth nationally in rushing, was held to only 70 yards on the ground. The Huskies are 18-7 all-time at Rentschler Field, but are just 3-3 at home this season.

Cincinnati has yet to win on the road in 2006 (0-4). Saturday's game will match a strong UConn rushing attack, ranked ninth in the nation (192.5), against a stingy UC run defense ranked 26th nationally (106.1). When rushing for its season average (192.5) or better, Connecticut is 4-0. Cincinnati is 6-1 when holding opponents under 100 yards on the ground. The Huskies also rank sixth nationally in pass defense (150.2). UConn will be Cincinnati's first road opponent this season that is unranked.


CONNECTICUT vs. Cincinnati
Sat 11/25
Noon
ERT
Saturday's meeting will be the first between the two teams in the state of Connecticut. Cincinnati leads the all-time series versus UConn by a 2-0 margin, with both Bearcat victories coming at Nippert Stadium.

Last season, UC defeated the Huskies, 28-17, on Oct. 15. Cincinnati running back Bradley Glatthaar rushed 15 times for 123 yards and two touchdowns. For the Huskies, quarterback D.J. Hernandez was 19-of-43 for 191 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Last week, the Bearcats became bowl-eligible as they upset No. 7/8 Rutgers, 30-11, at home on Nov. 18. The Scarlet Knights were the highest ranked team ever defeated by UC. Senior Nick Davila made his first career start at quarterback and completed 11-of-15 passes for 277 yards and one touchdown. Davila also ran for a score. Another player making his first start for Cincinnati was cornerback D'Angelo Smith. The sophomore gave the Bearcats a 17-0 lead when he intercepted a pass and took it 84 yards for a UC touchdown.

Connecticut is coming off a 20-14 loss on the road to Syracuse on Nov. 18. Hernandez completed 19-of-29 passes for 188 yards and two scores, but was intercepted three times. UConn, which came into the game ranked ninth nationally in rushing, was held to only 70 yards on the ground. The Huskies are 18-7 all-time at Rentschler Field, but are just 3-3 at home this season.

Cincinnati has yet to win on the road in 2006 (0-4). Saturday's game will match a strong UConn rushing attack, ranked ninth in the nation (192.5), against a stingy UC run defense ranked 26th nationally (106.1). When rushing for its season average (192.5) or better, Connecticut is 4-0. Cincinnati is 6-1 when holding opponents under 100 yards on the ground. The Huskies also rank sixth nationally in pass defense (150.2). UConn will be Cincinnati's first road opponent this season that is unranked.


LOUISVILLE At Pitt
Sat 11/25
Noon
ESPN
Louisville holds a slight edge in the all-time series versus Pittsburgh, 5-4. The Panthers won the first four games of the series, but the Cardinals responded by taking the last five, including three straight in Pittsburgh.

Last season, the UofL defeated Pitt, 42-20, on Nov. 3 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Louisville got a defensive touchdown and a safety in the first quarter. The Cardinals rushed for three touchdowns in the game – two by Michael Bush and one by Kolby Smith – and got four field goals from kicker Art Carmody (46, 47, 32, 36). For Pittsburgh, quarterback Tyler Palko was 17-of-30 passing for 198 yards and one touchdown – a 12-yard toss to Derek Kinder.

In the nine meetings between the Cardinals and Panthers, the winner has averaged 38.7 points and has never scored less than 27 points. Louisville is 4-1 on the road this season and 16-6 on the road under coach Bobby Petrino. Pittsburgh is 3-3 at home this season and 8-4 at home under coach Dave Wannstedt.

Last week, Pitt lost at home to West Virginia, 45-27, on Nov. 16. Palko was 28-of-37 for 341 yards and two touchdowns. Louisville won at home last week, defeating USF, 31-8, on Nov. 18. Quarterback Brian Brohm completed 19-of-33 for 274 yards and two scores – both to wideout Harry Douglas.

Both the Cardinals and Panthers are ranked among the national leaders in a number of statistical categories. The UofL is third in the nation in total offense (465.3), sixth in scoring offense (37.1), seventh in passing offense (275.2), 11th in rushing offense and 20th in scoring defense (15.8). The Cardinals lead the nation in sacks with 3.8 per game.

Pitt ranks among the national leaders in passing efficiency (2nd, 175.7), scoring offense (15th, 32.5), passing offense (23rd, 242.1) and passing defense (17th, 167.7). Saturday's games features two of the country's top quarterbacks. Louisville's Brian Brohm is 12th nationally in total offense (254.5), while Palko is third in passing efficiency (173.4). UofL is aiming for its third straight season with 10 or more wins.


PITTSBURGH vs. Louisville
Sat 11/25
3:30 p.m.
ESPN
Louisville holds a slight edge in the all-time series versus Pittsburgh, 5-4. The Panthers won the first four games of the series, but the Cardinals responded by taking the last five, including three straight in Pittsburgh.

Last season, the UofL defeated Pitt, 42-20, on Nov. 3 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Louisville got a defensive touchdown and a safety in the first quarter. The Cardinals rushed for three touchdowns in the game – two by Michael Bush and one by Kolby Smith – and got four field goals from kicker Art Carmody (46, 47, 32, 36). For Pittsburgh, quarterback Tyler Palko was 17-of-30 passing for 198 yards and one touchdown – a 12-yard toss to Derek Kinder.

In the nine meetings between the Cardinals and Panthers, the winner has averaged 38.7 points and has never scored less than 27 points. Louisville is 4-1 on the road this season and 16-6 on the road under coach Bobby Petrino. Pittsburgh is 3-3 at home this season and 8-4 at home under coach Dave Wannstedt.

Last week, Pitt lost at home to West Virginia, 45-27, on Nov. 16. Palko was 28-of-37 for 341 yards and two touchdowns. Louisville won at home last week, defeating USF, 31-8, on Nov. 18. Quarterback Brian Brohm completed 19-of-33 for 274 yards and two scores – both to wideout Harry Douglas.

Both the Cardinals and Panthers are ranked among the national leaders in a number of statistical categories. The UofL is third in the nation in total offense (465.3), sixth in scoring offense (37.1), seventh in passing offense (275.2), 11th in rushing offense and 20th in scoring defense (15.8). The Cardinals lead the nation in sacks with 3.8 per game.

Pitt ranks among the national leaders in passing efficiency (2nd, 175.7), scoring offense (15th, 32.5), passing offense (23rd, 242.1) and passing defense (17th, 167.7). Saturday's games features two of the country's top quarterbacks. Louisville's Brian Brohm is 12th nationally in total offense (254.5), while Palko is third in passing efficiency (173.4). UofL is aiming for its third straight season with 10 or more wins.


RUTGERS vs. Syracuse
Sat 11/25
Noon
ESPNU
Syracuse holds a decisive 28-7-1 advantage in the all-time series versus Rutgers, but RU has taken two of the last three meetings. Last season, the Scarlet Knights defeated the Orange, 31-9, on Oct. 15 at the Carrier Dome. RU's Corey Barnes returned a blocked punt 16 yards for a touchdown and took back a fumble 26 yards for a score. Running back Ray Rice ran for 81 yards on 17 carries. For Syracuse, quarterback Perry Patterson completed 13-of-24 passes for 167 yards. The Orange have won 10 of 12 road meetings with Rutgers, but the Scarlet Knights won the last meeting at Rutgers Stadium, 24-7, in 2003.

Last week, Syracuse defeated Connecticut, 20-14, on Nov. 18. It was SU's first BIG EAST win of the season and its first since Nov. 27, 2004 when the Orange posted a 43-17 victory at Boston College. Rutgers took its first loss of the 2006 season, 30-11, last week at Cincinnati (Nov. 18). Tight end Clark Harris had five catches for 102 yards in the game, while freshman wideout Kenny Britt posted career highs of nine receptions and 91 yards. Rice was held to a season-low 54 yards by the Bearcats.

Rutgers has yet to lose at home this season (5-0). The Scarlet Knights are 9- 2 at Rutgers Stadium dating back to last season. Syracuse has a 1-4 road mark in 2006. The Orange's lone road victory this season came on Sept. 16 at Illinois (31-21). Rutgers possesses one of the nation's top defenses. The Scarlet Knights rank fourth in total defense (248.7) and seventh in both scoring defense (12.8) and pass defense (152.2). The Syracuse defense is fifth nationally in turnover margin (1.18), tied for seventh in interceptions (17) and tied for eighth in turnovers gained (28). RU (2nd, 3.5) and SU (12th, 3.1) are also ranked among the country's leaders in sacks. Rice has 1,388 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns this season. He is fourth among NCAA leaders in rushing (138.8) and is tied for sixth nationally in scoring (9.6). Syracuse defensive end Jameel McClain ranks 13th in the nation in sacks (0.86), while linebacker Kelvin Smith ranks 13th nationally in tackles (9.6).


SOUTH FLORIDA At West Virginia
Sat 11/25
Noon
ESPN2
Last season's meeting between USF and West Virginia was the first between the two schools. The Mountaineers defeated the Bulls, 28-13, on Dec. 3 at Raymond James Stadium to clinch their first undefeated BIG EAST campaign since 1993. WVU quarterback Patrick White had 11 carries for 177 yards and two touchdowns (65 & 76 yds.). He also threw for a touchdown. Running back Steve Slaton had 86 rushing yards and one touchdown. For USF, backup quarterback Carlton Hill replaced starter Pat Julmiste and ran for 50 yards and a touchdown. Hill also threw for 98 yards, but was intercepted twice.

Last week, WVU won at Pittsburgh, 45-27, on Nov. 16. White and Slaton became just the third set of teammates in NCAA history to rush for over 200 yards in the same game. USF lost at Louisville last week, 31-8, on Nov. 18. Freshman quarterback Matt Grothe completed 15-of-31 passes for 237 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

This season's matchup features an explosive West Virginia offense that ranks second nationally in scoring (40.7), total offense (480.7) and rushing (330.1). The Mountaineers also rank seventh in the nation against the run (79.5). Attempting to stop the patented WVU running game is a Bulls' defense that is 25th nationally in scoring defense (17.6), 27th in total defense (295.7), 29th against the pass (176.5) and 39th against the run (119.3).

West Virginia is 5-0 at home this season and a combined 10-1 at Milan Puskar Stadium since the start of the 2005 season. The Bulls own a 2-3 road record in 2006. The Mountaineers have been held under 300 yards rushing just twice this season. Dating back to last season, West Virginia has 65 rushing touchdowns in its last 16 games. Slaton leads the nation in all-purpose yards (187.3) this season and ranks second in rushing (157.8). White is fourth nationally in scoring (10.5 ppg) and ranks as the nation's highest scoring quarterback. When rushing for over 100 yards this season, USF is 7-1. When allowing 150 yards or less on the ground this year, the Bulls are 6-1. Freshman quarterback Matt Grothe is the nation's freshman leader in total offense (252.4).


SYRACUSE At Rutgers
Sat 11/25
Noon
ESPNU
Syracuse holds a decisive 28-7-1 advantage in the all-time series versus Rutgers, but RU has taken two of the last three meetings. Last season, the Scarlet Knights defeated the Orange, 31-9, on Oct. 15 at the Carrier Dome. RU's Corey Barnes returned a blocked punt 16 yards for a touchdown and took back a fumble 26 yards for a score. Running back Ray Rice ran for 81 yards on 17 carries. For Syracuse, quarterback Perry Patterson completed 13-of-24 passes for 167 yards. The Orange have won 10 of 12 road meetings with Rutgers, but the Scarlet Knights won the last meeting at Rutgers Stadium, 24-7, in 2003.

Last week, Syracuse defeated Connecticut, 20-14, on Nov. 18. It was SU's first BIG EAST win of the season and its first since Nov. 27, 2004 when the Orange posted a 43-17 victory at Boston College. Rutgers took its first loss of the 2006 season, 30-11, last week at Cincinnati (Nov. 18). Tight end Clark Harris had five catches for 102 yards in the game, while freshman wideout Kenny Britt posted career highs of nine receptions and 91 yards. Rice was held to a season-low 54 yards by the Bearcats.

Rutgers has yet to lose at home this season (5-0). The Scarlet Knights are 9- 2 at Rutgers Stadium dating back to last season. Syracuse has a 1-4 road mark in 2006. The Orange's lone road victory this season came on Sept. 16 at Illinois (31-21). Rutgers possesses one of the nation's top defenses. The Scarlet Knights rank fourth in total defense (248.7) and seventh in both scoring defense (12.8) and pass defense (152.2). The Syracuse defense is fifth nationally in turnover margin (1.18), tied for seventh in interceptions (17) and tied for eighth in turnovers gained (28). RU (2nd, 3.5) and SU (12th, 3.1) are also ranked among the country's leaders in sacks. Rice has 1,388 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns this season. He is fourth among NCAA leaders in rushing (138.8) and is tied for sixth nationally in scoring (9.6). Syracuse defensive end Jameel McClain ranks 13th in the nation in sacks (0.86), while linebacker Kelvin Smith ranks 13th nationally in tackles (9.6).


WEST VIRGINIA vs. USF
Sat 11/25
Noon
ESPN2
Last season's meeting between USF and West Virginia was the first between the two schools. The Mountaineers defeated the Bulls, 28-13, on Dec. 3 at Raymond James Stadium to clinch their first undefeated BIG EAST campaign since 1993. WVU quarterback Patrick White had 11 carries for 177 yards and two touchdowns (65 & 76 yds.). He also threw for a touchdown. Running back Steve Slaton had 86 rushing yards and one touchdown. For USF, backup quarterback Carlton Hill replaced starter Pat Julmiste and ran for 50 yards and a touchdown. Hill also threw for 98 yards, but was intercepted twice.

Last week, WVU won at Pittsburgh, 45-27, on Nov. 16. White and Slaton became just the third set of teammates in NCAA history to rush for over 200 yards in the same game. USF lost at Louisville last week, 31-8, on Nov. 18. Freshman quarterback Matt Grothe completed 15-of-31 passes for 237 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

This season's matchup features an explosive West Virginia offense that ranks second nationally in scoring (40.7), total offense (480.7) and rushing (330.1). The Mountaineers also rank seventh in the nation against the run (79.5). Attempting to stop the patented WVU running game is a Bulls' defense that is 25th nationally in scoring defense (17.6), 27th in total defense (295.7), 29th against the pass (176.5) and 39th against the run (119.3).

West Virginia is 5-0 at home this season and a combined 10-1 at Milan Puskar Stadium since the start of the 2005 season. The Bulls own a 2-3 road record in 2006. The Mountaineers have been held under 300 yards rushing just twice this season. Dating back to last season, West Virginia has 65 rushing touchdowns in its last 16 games. Slaton leads the nation in all-purpose yards (187.3) this season and ranks second in rushing (157.8). White is fourth nationally in scoring (10.5 ppg) and ranks as the nation's highest scoring quarterback. When rushing for over 100 yards this season, USF is 7-1. When allowing 150 yards or less on the ground this year, the Bulls are 6-1. Freshman quarterback Matt Grothe is the nation's freshman leader in total offense (252.4).


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