Big East Football Preview

A pair of nationally televised night games highlight Saturday's Big East football action, including a battle in the Queen City that will help shake out the championship race

CINCINNATI vs. West Virginia
Sat 10/17
7:45 PM
ESPN
West Virginia and Cincinnati meet for the 16th time Saturday in a rivalry that dates to 1921 … The Mountaineers hold a 13-1-1 series lead, with the Bearcats' lone win coming in the 2003 season … West Virginia RB Steve Slaton broke free for touchdown runs of 65 and 63 yards to pace the Mountaineers to a 42-24 win last year in Morgantown.

The Mountaineers pulled even with Connecticut in the conference loss column with their win against Louisville coupled with the Huskies' loss to Cincinnati last week … That leaves West Virginia in control of its own fate in the conference championship race … The Mountaineers would win the BIG EAST outright title and the league's BCS bid with wins in their last three games (at Cincinnati, Connecticut, Pittsburgh) … Junior QB Patrick White was named BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Week for the third time this season and the seventh time in his career … White has registered 300 yards of total offense in back-to-back games and enters Saturday's game as the conference's fourth-leading rusher (89.2 yards per game) … White has thrown 11 touchdown passes and, with just two interceptions, has thrown the fewest picks of any BIG EAST starting quarterback.

Perhaps written off by some after back-to-back losses to Louisville and Pittsburgh in October, Cincinnati has played itself back in the championship picture with consecutive wins against top-25 programs … The Bearcats defeated USF (38-33) and Connecticut (27-3) in back-to-back weeks … The wins put Cincinnati back in the top 25 of both the AP and USA Today polls … Cincinnati is 3-5-1 all-time as a nationally ranked team … The Bearcats could forge a tie for first place in the BIG EAST this week if they defeat West Virginia and Connecticut loses to Syracuse … QB Ben Mauk is ranked third in the BIG EAST in passing (225.9 yards per game) and has thrown 21 touchdown passes against just six interceptions … Junior WR Dominick Goodman is third in the conference in receptions (4.9 per game) and has six touchdown catches … The Bearcats have 35 takeaways on defense … Junior P Kevin Huber is averaging a nation's-best 46.7 yards per punt.


CONNECTICUT vs. Syracuse
Sat 11/17
Noon
ESPN2
Syracuse and Connecticut have met just three times prior to Saturday's game, and the Orange hold a 2-1 series lead … Each school has defended its home field in the first three matchups … Syracuse got a pair of touchdowns from RB Curtis Brinkley and two field goals from K Patrick Shadle in a 20-14 win last year at the Carrier Dome … Connecticut head coach Randy Edsall is a 1980 graduate of Syracuse, a former quarterback at the school and a former assistant coach at his alma mater (1983-90).

Syracuse looks to avoid a three-game losing streak when it travels to Connecticut … Syracuse is 1-1 in BIG EAST road games thus far with a win against Louisville (38-35 Sept. 22) and a loss to Pittsburgh (20-17 Nov. 3) … The Orange boast one of the better receiving tandems in the BIG EAST in junior WR Taj Smith and sophomore WR Mike Williams, who ranks fourth and fifth, respectively, in the BIG EAST in receiving yards … Smith has caught 36 passes for 671 yards and four touchdowns, while Williams has 45 receptions for 653 yards and eight TDs … Williams ranks second in the conference in touchdown receptions and has caught at least one TD pass in a school-record seven straight games … Sophomore QB Cameron Dantley has played well in relief of injured starter Andrew Robinson … Dantley has completed 39 of 69 passes for 488 yards and four touchdowns and two interceptions this season.

Despite its loss to Cincinnati last Saturday, Connecticut remains in the driver's seat in pursuit of its first BIG EAST championship … The Huskies would win the outright league title, and the accompanying BCS bid, with wins in its last two games (Syracuse, at West Virginia) … Connecticut could clinch at least a share of the league championship Saturday if it defeats Syracuse and West Virginia loses at Cincinnati … The Huskies look to complete a 7-0 season at home Saturday against Syracuse … Despite allowing a season-high 27 points to Cincinnati last week, the Huskies continue to lead the BIG EAST in scoring defense (15.0 points per game) … Senior CB Tyvon Branch leads the conference in kickoff return average (34.0 yards per return) and has scored two touchdowns … Senior Larry Taylor is averaging a league-best 11.0 yards on punt returns with one TD.


LOUISVILLE at South Florida
Sat 10/17
8:00 PM
ESPNU
Louisville and USF have met four times since 2003 — twice as members of the BIG EAST and twice when both were aligned with Conference USA … The series is tied 2-2 with the home team prevailing in each of the previous matchups … Louisville QB Brian Brohm threw for 274 yards and two touchdowns in last year's 31-8 win for the Cardinals at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

Louisville looks to become bowl eligible with Saturday's game at USF as the Cardinals enter at 5-5 overall … Louisville's five losses have been by a combined 29 points, or an average of 5.8 points … By contrast, the Cardinals' average margin of victory has been 21.8 points …Senior QB Brian Brohm broke his own BIG EAT single-season record with his seventh game with at least 300 passing yards … Brohm has 18 career games with 300 yards, has broken the 400-yard barrier three times this season and has one 500-yard game … Brohm has thrown 28 touchdown passes — seven more than anyone else in the BIG EAST … Senior WR Harry Douglas leads the BIG EAST in receptions (7.75 per game) and receiving yards (122.1 per game) and has six touchdown catches.

USF rid itself of a three-game losing streak in impressive fashion as the Bulls were 41-10 winners at Syracuse last week … USF has gone 7-1 when it has held its opponent to 23 points or fewer and 0-2 when the opponent has scored more than 23 points … Sophomore QB Matt Grothe ranks second in the BIG EAST in total offense, averaging 281.8 yards per game … Grothe ranks fourth in the league in passing (212.0 yards per game) and sixth in rushing (69.8 ypg) … Sophomore DE George Selvie continues to lead the nation in sacks (1.45 per game) and tackles for loss (3.1 per game) … Selvie also leads the BIG EAST with three forced fumbles … Senior CBs Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams rank first and second, respectively, in the BIG EAST in passes defended … Jenkins has 14 (12 breakups, two interceptions), while Williams has 10 (nine breakups, four interceptions) … Jenkins has seen time on the kickoff return team in the last two games and had a 100-yard touchdown against Cincinnati on his first career kickoff return.


PITTSBURGH at Rutgers
Sat 11/17
Noon
ERT
Saturday's game is the 25th meeting between Pittsburgh and Rutgers in a series that dates to 1981 … The Panthers hold a 19-5 series lead and are 11-5 against the Scarlet Knights since BIG EAST play began in 1991 … Recent history has favored Rutgers, which has taken the last two meetings, including last year's 20-10 win at Heinz Field when Ray Rice ran for 225 yards on 39 carries … Saturday's game features the top two rushers in the BIG EAST in Rice (150.0 yards per game) and Pittsburgh freshman RB LeSean McCoy (118.3) … Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano served as an assistant for Pittsburgh head coach Dave Wannstedt from 1996-98 when Wannstedt was coach of the Chicago Bears.

Pittsburgh, which returns from a bye week, finds itself in a strong position with regard to the BIG EAST championship picture as the Panthers stand at 2-2 in the league with three games left … Pitt has won two of its last three games … If the Panthers win their last three games (at Rutgers, USF, at West Virginia), then they would finish no lower than second in the final standings and would have a chance to claim the outright title … McCoy is one of three Pittsburgh players to reach the 1,000-yard barrier as a freshman, joining Tony Dorsett (1,686 yards in 1973) and Curvin Richards (1,228 in 1988) … Junior LB Scott McKillop leads the BIG EAST with 108 tackles and is averaging a league-best 12 stops per game.

Rutgers picked up its all-important sixth win of the season against Army last Saturday, making the Scarlet Knights bowl eligible for the third straight year … It's the first time since 1980 that Rutgers has had three straight seasons with at least six wins … Rice, the holder of six school records, is the first player in BIG EAST history to rush for at least 1,500 yards in consecutive seasons … He ranks second in BIG EAST history with 22 career games with at least 100 rushing yards (trailing only Avon Cobourne of West Virginia, who had 28 from 1999-2002) … Junior QB Mike Teel played sparingly in the win against Army, resting his injured right thumb with the Scarlet Knights winning comfortably … Sophomore QB Jabu Lovelace ran for 81 yards and a pair of touchdowns while taking most of the snaps behind center … Junior WR Tiquan Underwood (962 yards) and sophomore WR Kenny Britt (852) are both on pace for 1,000-yard seasons.


RUTGERS vs. Pittsburgh
Sat 11/17
Noon
ERT
Saturday's game is the 25th meeting between Pittsburgh and Rutgers in a series that dates to 1981 … The Panthers hold a 19-5 series lead and are 11-5 against the Scarlet Knights since BIG EAST play began in 1991 … Recent history has favored Rutgers, which has taken the last two meetings, including last year's 20-10 win at Heinz Field when Ray Rice ran for 225 yards on 39 carries … Saturday's game features the top two rushers in the BIG EAST in Rice (150.0 yards per game) and Pittsburgh freshman RB LeSean McCoy (118.3) … Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano served as an assistant for Pittsburgh head coach Dave Wannstedt from 1996-98 when Wannstedt was coach of the Chicago Bears.

Pittsburgh, which returns from a bye week, finds itself in a strong position with regard to the BIG EAST championship picture as the Panthers stand at 2-2 in the league with three games left … Pitt has won two of its last three games … If the Panthers win their last three games (at Rutgers, USF, at West Virginia), then they would finish no lower than second in the final standings and would have a chance to claim the outright title … McCoy is one of three Pittsburgh players to reach the 1,000-yard barrier as a freshman, joining Tony Dorsett (1,686 yards in 1973) and Curvin Richards (1,228 in 1988) … Junior LB Scott McKillop leads the BIG EAST with 108 tackles and is averaging a league-best 12 stops per game.

Rutgers picked up its all-important sixth win of the season against Army last Saturday, making the Scarlet Knights bowl eligible for the third straight year … It's the first time since 1980 that Rutgers has had three straight seasons with at least six wins … Rice, the holder of six school records, is the first player in BIG EAST history to rush for at least 1,500 yards in consecutive seasons … He ranks second in BIG EAST history with 22 career games with at least 100 rushing yards (trailing only Avon Cobourne of West Virginia, who had 28 from 1999-2002) … Junior QB Mike Teel played sparingly in the win against Army, resting his injured right thumb with the Scarlet Knights winning comfortably … Sophomore QB Jabu Lovelace ran for 81 yards and a pair of touchdowns while taking most of the snaps behind center … Junior WR Tiquan Underwood (962 yards) and sophomore WR Kenny Britt (852) are both on pace for 1,000-yard seasons.


SOUTH FLORIDA vs. Louisville
Sat 10/17
8:00 PM
ESPNU
Louisville and USF have met four times since 2003 — twice as members of the BIG EAST and twice when both were aligned with Conference USA … The series is tied 2-2 with the home team prevailing in each of the previous matchups … Louisville QB Brian Brohm threw for 274 yards and two touchdowns in last year's 31-8 win for the Cardinals at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

Louisville looks to become bowl eligible with Saturday's game at USF as the Cardinals enter at 5-5 overall … Louisville's five losses have been by a combined 29 points, or an average of 5.8 points … By contrast, the Cardinals' average margin of victory has been 21.8 points …Senior QB Brian Brohm broke his own BIG EAT single-season record with his seventh game with at least 300 passing yards … Brohm has 18 career games with 300 yards, has broken the 400-yard barrier three times this season and has one 500-yard game … Brohm has thrown 28 touchdown passes — seven more than anyone else in the BIG EAST … Senior WR Harry Douglas leads the BIG EAST in receptions (7.75 per game) and receiving yards (122.1 per game) and has six touchdown catches.

USF rid itself of a three-game losing streak in impressive fashion as the Bulls were 41-10 winners at Syracuse last week … USF has gone 7-1 when it has held its opponent to 23 points or fewer and 0-2 when the opponent has scored more than 23 points … Sophomore QB Matt Grothe ranks second in the BIG EAST in total offense, averaging 281.8 yards per game … Grothe ranks fourth in the league in passing (212.0 yards per game) and sixth in rushing (69.8 ypg) … Sophomore DE George Selvie continues to lead the nation in sacks (1.45 per game) and tackles for loss (3.1 per game) … Selvie also leads the BIG EAST with three forced fumbles … Senior CBs Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams rank first and second, respectively, in the BIG EAST in passes defended … Jenkins has 14 (12 breakups, two interceptions), while Williams has 10 (nine breakups, four interceptions) … Jenkins has seen time on the kickoff return team in the last two games and had a 100-yard touchdown against Cincinnati on his first career kickoff return.


SYRACUSE at Connecticut
Sat 11/17
Noon
ESPN2
Syracuse and Connecticut have met just three times prior to Saturday's game, and the Orange hold a 2-1 series lead … Each school has defended its home field in the first three matchups … Syracuse got a pair of touchdowns from RB Curtis Brinkley and two field goals from K Patrick Shadle in a 20-14 win last year at the Carrier Dome … Connecticut head coach Randy Edsall is a 1980 graduate of Syracuse, a former quarterback at the school and a former assistant coach at his alma mater (1983-90).

Syracuse looks to avoid a three-game losing streak when it travels to Connecticut … Syracuse is 1-1 in BIG EAST road games thus far with a win against Louisville (38-35 Sept. 22) and a loss to Pittsburgh (20-17 Nov. 3) … The Orange boast one of the better receiving tandems in the BIG EAST in junior WR Taj Smith and sophomore WR Mike Williams, who ranks fourth and fifth, respectively, in the BIG EAST in receiving yards … Smith has caught 36 passes for 671 yards and four touchdowns, while Williams has 45 receptions for 653 yards and eight TDs … Williams ranks second in the conference in touchdown receptions and has caught at least one TD pass in a school-record seven straight games … Sophomore QB Cameron Dantley has played well in relief of injured starter Andrew Robinson … Dantley has completed 39 of 69 passes for 488 yards and four touchdowns and two interceptions this season.

Despite its loss to Cincinnati last Saturday, Connecticut remains in the driver's seat in pursuit of its first BIG EAST championship … The Huskies would win the outright league title, and the accompanying BCS bid, with wins in its last two games (Syracuse, at West Virginia) … Connecticut could clinch at least a share of the league championship Saturday if it defeats Syracuse and West Virginia loses at Cincinnati … The Huskies look to complete a 7-0 season at home Saturday against Syracuse … Despite allowing a season-high 27 points to Cincinnati last week, the Huskies continue to lead the BIG EAST in scoring defense (15.0 points per game) … Senior CB Tyvon Branch leads the conference in kickoff return average (34.0 yards per return) and has scored two touchdowns … Senior Larry Taylor is averaging a league-best 11.0 yards on punt returns with one TD.


WEST VIRGINIA At Cincinnati
Sat 10/17
7:45 PM
ESPN
West Virginia and Cincinnati meet for the 16th time Saturday in a rivalry that dates to 1921 … The Mountaineers hold a 13-1-1 series lead, with the Bearcats' lone win coming in the 2003 season … West Virginia RB Steve Slaton broke free for touchdown runs of 65 and 63 yards to pace the Mountaineers to a 42-24 win last year in Morgantown.

The Mountaineers pulled even with Connecticut in the conference loss column with their win against Louisville coupled with the Huskies' loss to Cincinnati last week … That leaves West Virginia in control of its own fate in the conference championship race … The Mountaineers would win the BIG EAST outright title and the league's BCS bid with wins in their last three games (at Cincinnati, Connecticut, Pittsburgh) … Junior QB Patrick White was named BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Week for the third time this season and the seventh time in his career … White has registered 300 yards of total offense in back-to-back games and enters Saturday's game as the conference's fourth-leading rusher (89.2 yards per game) … White has thrown 11 touchdown passes and, with just two interceptions, has thrown the fewest picks of any BIG EAST starting quarterback.

Perhaps written off by some after back-to-back losses to Louisville and Pittsburgh in October, Cincinnati has played itself back in the championship picture with consecutive wins against top-25 programs … The Bearcats defeated USF (38-33) and Connecticut (27-3) in back-to-back weeks … The wins put Cincinnati back in the top 25 of both the AP and USA Today polls … Cincinnati is 3-5-1 all-time as a nationally ranked team … The Bearcats could forge a tie for first place in the BIG EAST this week if they defeat West Virginia and Connecticut loses to Syracuse … QB Ben Mauk is ranked third in the BIG EAST in passing (225.9 yards per game) and has thrown 21 touchdown passes against just six interceptions … Junior WR Dominick Goodman is third in the conference in receptions (4.9 per game) and has six touchdown catches … The Bearcats have 35 takeaways on defense … Junior P Kevin Huber is averaging a nation's-best 46.7 yards per punt.


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