Big East Football Preview

Six teams are in action this weekend, but all the focus is on Morgantown, W. Va., where the Big East representative to the BCS will be decided.

CINCINNATI at Syracuse
Sat 11/24
7:45 PM
ESPNU
Cincinnati and Syracuse have met seven times on the gridiron, and the Orange hold a 4-3 series lead … Syracuse won the first three meetings (1993, 1994, 1998), but Cincinnati has taken three of the last four, incluidng a 17-3 win at Nippert Stadium last season … Bearcat quarterback Dustin Grutza completed 13 of 18 passes for 205 yards and a TD in the winning effort last year.

At 8-3, Cincinnati has a chance to match its highest win total in 54 years with Saturday's regular-season finale against Syracuse … The current record is Cincinnati's best since the Bearcats were 8-3 under head coach Tim Murphy in 1993 … The last time Cincinnati won nine games was in 1953, when the team was 9-1 … The Bearcats saw a streak of four straight wins against top-25 opponents end with last Saturday's loss to then-No. 5 West Virginia … Cincinnati is 3-6-1 all-time when it is nationally ranked … QB Ben Mauk is second in the BIG EAST in passing yards (235.6 yards per game) … Mauk has completed 176 of 292 passes for 2,356 yards and 23 touchdowns against just six interceptions … Freshman WR Marcus Barnett has caught a BIG EAST-best 10 touchdown passes … Junior CB Mike Mickens is tied for the conference lead with six interceptions … Cincinnati ranks 10th nationally in scoring defense (17.5 ppg).

Syracuse closes its 118th varsity season with Saturday's home date against Cincinnati … Syracuse is 1-2 against top-25 teams this season with a win against then-No. 18 Louisville (38-35) and losses to then-No. 13 West Virginia (55-14) and then-No. 25 Connecticut (30-7) … Longtime Syracuse head coach and current Orange broadcaster Dick McPherson spent four years as an assistant at Cincinnati (1961-65) … Two Syracuse freshmen are ranked among the top three kickoff return men in the BIG EAST … Max Suter is averaging 25.6 yards per return and Mike Holmes is averaging 25.1 yards per return … Freshman Rob Long is second in the conference in punting (42.4 yards per punt) … Suter is sixth in the BIG EAST in all-purpose yards (105.9 ypg) … Sophomore WR Mike Williams has caught a touchdown pass in a school-record eight consecutive games.


CONNECTICUT at West Virginia
Sat 11/24
3:30 PM
ABC
Saturday's game is the fourth meeting between Connecticut and West Virginia … The Mountaineers have taken each of the first three matchups, including a 37-11 decision last season at Rentschler Field … West Virginia quarterback Patrick White ran for 102 yards and a touchdown and threw for 156 yards and a score in last year's game … Connecticut and West Virginia rank first and second, respectively, in the BIG EAST in scoring defense … The winner of Saturday's game is assured of the BIG EAST's automatic berth in the Bowl Championship Series.

Connecticut would clinch the outright BIG EAST championship with a win against West Virginia … Though the Huskies have never won the BIG EAST title in football, they most recently won a conference championship in 1998, when they finished as the Atlantic 10 New England Division champion … Connecticut's athletics program has already won BIG EAST titles in field hockey and men's soccer this fall … Connecticut has held its opponents to just 14.3 points per game, good for third nationally … The Huskies are fifth nationally in turnover margin (+1.36) … QB Tyler Lorenzen has completed 170 of 294 passes for 2,118 yards and 12 touchdowns … Lorenzen has thrown just five interceptions, or roughly one pick for every 59 attempts … Tyvon Branch leads the conference in kickoff return average (34.0 ypr) … FS Robert Vaughn has a conference-leading six interceptions.

West Virginia would clinch at least a piece of the BIG EAST title with a win against Connecticut … The Mountaineers can win the outright championship with wins in their last two games (they host Pittsburgh next week) … West Virginia has won four BIG EAST football championships (1993, 2003, 2004, 2005) … The Mountaineer athletics program has won BIG EAST titles in women's cross country and women's soccer this fall … West Virginia has won five straight games … The Mountaineers rank third nationally in rushing (289.4 yards per game) … RB Steve Slaton (98.8 ypg) and Patrick White (95.8 ypg) are third and fourth, respectively, in the BIG EAST in rushing … West Virginia's defense, meanwhile, is fourth nationally in total defense (288.6 ypg) and eighth in scoring defense (17.3 ppg) … The Mountaineers have held opponents to just 93.0 rushing yards per game.


LOUISVILLE Open Date


Next Game 11/29 vs. Rutgers

PITTSBURGH vs. South Florida
Sat 11/24
Noon
ERT
Saturday's game will be the fifth meeting between USF and Pittsburgh with the series tied at 2-2 … The schools first met in 2001 when the Bulls took a 35-26 win at Heinz Field … Pitt registered back-to-back wins in 2004 and 2005 before USF took last year's meeting 22-12 in Tampa … Last year's game saw USF QB Matt Grothe run for one touchdown and throw for another before leaving with an injury.

USF improved to 8-3 with last Saturday's 55-17 win against Louisville and would match the program record for victories with a win against Pittsburgh … The Bulls won nine games in 2002 and 2006 … Freshman RB Mike Ford, who was named BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Week Monday, is the first USF rookie to run for at least 100 yards in consecutive games … Ford is ranked ninth in the BIG EAST in rushing (57.4 ypg) and has 10 TDs on the ground … Sophomore QB Matt Grothe is sixth in the conference in rushing (69.5 ypg) and fourth in passing (210.4 ypg) … The Bulls have gained at least 400 offensive yards in six of their last seven games, with two 500-yard games in that stretch … USF has forced 11 turnovers in its last two games … Sophomore DE George Selvie has been named a finalist for the Broko Nagurski Trophy as the nation's top defensive player … Selvie was surpassed by Indiana's Greg Middleton as the national leader in sacks, marking the first time this season that Selvie has not been atop the national list … Middleton has 16 sacks, while Selvie has 14.5.

Pittsburgh is one of two BIG EAST teams that does not play its final regular-season game this week — the Panthers face West Virginia in the 100th Backyard Brawl next week … Pittsburgh needs to win both of its remaining games to become bowl eligible … The Panthers have 20 players from Florida on their roster, including five starters … Junior LB Scott McKillop has been the top player on a solid Pitt defense, entering Saturday's game as the national leader in tackles (12.4 per game) … He leads a unit that is ranked ninth nationally in total defense (303.7 yards per game) … Freshman RB LeSean McCoy is averaging 112.5 rushing yards per game, good for second in the BIG EAST … Another true freshman starts at quarterback in Pat Bostick, who is seventh in the BIG EAST in passing (141.9 ypg).


RUTGERS Open Date


Next Game 11/29 at. Louisville

SOUTH FLORIDA at Pittsburgh
Sat 11/24
Noon
ERT
Saturday's game will be the fifth meeting between USF and Pittsburgh with the series tied at 2-2 … The schools first met in 2001 when the Bulls took a 35-26 win at Heinz Field … Pitt registered back-to-back wins in 2004 and 2005 before USF took last year's meeting 22-12 in Tampa … Last year's game saw USF QB Matt Grothe run for one touchdown and throw for another before leaving with an injury.

USF improved to 8-3 with last Saturday's 55-17 win against Louisville and would match the program record for victories with a win against Pittsburgh … The Bulls won nine games in 2002 and 2006 … Freshman RB Mike Ford, who was named BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Week Monday, is the first USF rookie to run for at least 100 yards in consecutive games … Ford is ranked ninth in the BIG EAST in rushing (57.4 ypg) and has 10 TDs on the ground … Sophomore QB Matt Grothe is sixth in the conference in rushing (69.5 ypg) and fourth in passing (210.4 ypg) … The Bulls have gained at least 400 offensive yards in six of their last seven games, with two 500-yard games in that stretch … USF has forced 11 turnovers in its last two games … Sophomore DE George Selvie has been named a finalist for the Broko Nagurski Trophy as the nation's top defensive player … Selvie was surpassed by Indiana's Greg Middleton as the national leader in sacks, marking the first time this season that Selvie has not been atop the national list … Middleton has 16 sacks, while Selvie has 14.5.

Pittsburgh is one of two BIG EAST teams that does not play its final regular-season game this week — the Panthers face West Virginia in the 100th Backyard Brawl next week … Pittsburgh needs to win both of its remaining games to become bowl eligible … The Panthers have 20 players from Florida on their roster, including five starters … Junior LB Scott McKillop has been the top player on a solid Pitt defense, entering Saturday's game as the national leader in tackles (12.4 per game) … He leads a unit that is ranked ninth nationally in total defense (303.7 yards per game) … Freshman RB LeSean McCoy is averaging 112.5 rushing yards per game, good for second in the BIG EAST … Another true freshman starts at quarterback in Pat Bostick, who is seventh in the BIG EAST in passing (141.9 ypg).


SYRACUSE vs. Cincinnati
Sat 11/24
7:45 PM
ESPNU
Cincinnati and Syracuse have met seven times on the gridiron, and the Orange hold a 4-3 series lead … Syracuse won the first three meetings (1993, 1994, 1998), but Cincinnati has taken three of the last four, incluidng a 17-3 win at Nippert Stadium last season … Bearcat quarterback Dustin Grutza completed 13 of 18 passes for 205 yards and a TD in the winning effort last year.

At 8-3, Cincinnati has a chance to match its highest win total in 54 years with Saturday's regular-season finale against Syracuse … The current record is Cincinnati's best since the Bearcats were 8-3 under head coach Tim Murphy in 1993 … The last time Cincinnati won nine games was in 1953, when the team was 9-1 … The Bearcats saw a streak of four straight wins against top-25 opponents end with last Saturday's loss to then-No. 5 West Virginia … Cincinnati is 3-6-1 all-time when it is nationally ranked … QB Ben Mauk is second in the BIG EAST in passing yards (235.6 yards per game) … Mauk has completed 176 of 292 passes for 2,356 yards and 23 touchdowns against just six interceptions … Freshman WR Marcus Barnett has caught a BIG EAST-best 10 touchdown passes … Junior CB Mike Mickens is tied for the conference lead with six interceptions … Cincinnati ranks 10th nationally in scoring defense (17.5 ppg).

Syracuse closes its 118th varsity season with Saturday's home date against Cincinnati … Syracuse is 1-2 against top-25 teams this season with a win against then-No. 18 Louisville (38-35) and losses to then-No. 13 West Virginia (55-14) and then-No. 25 Connecticut (30-7) … Longtime Syracuse head coach and current Orange broadcaster Dick McPherson spent four years as an assistant at Cincinnati (1961-65) … Two Syracuse freshmen are ranked among the top three kickoff return men in the BIG EAST … Max Suter is averaging 25.6 yards per return and Mike Holmes is averaging 25.1 yards per return … Freshman Rob Long is second in the conference in punting (42.4 yards per punt) … Suter is sixth in the BIG EAST in all-purpose yards (105.9 ypg) … Sophomore WR Mike Williams has caught a touchdown pass in a school-record eight consecutive games.


WEST VIRGINIA vs. Connecticut
Sat 11/24
3:30 PM
ABC
Saturday's game is the fourth meeting between Connecticut and West Virginia … The Mountaineers have taken each of the first three matchups, including a 37-11 decision last season at Rentschler Field … West Virginia quarterback Patrick White ran for 102 yards and a touchdown and threw for 156 yards and a score in last year's game … Connecticut and West Virginia rank first and second, respectively, in the BIG EAST in scoring defense … The winner of Saturday's game is assured of the BIG EAST's automatic berth in the Bowl Championship Series.

Connecticut would clinch the outright BIG EAST championship with a win against West Virginia … Though the Huskies have never won the BIG EAST title in football, they most recently won a conference championship in 1998, when they finished as the Atlantic 10 New England Division champion … Connecticut's athletics program has already won BIG EAST titles in field hockey and men's soccer this fall … Connecticut has held its opponents to just 14.3 points per game, good for third nationally … The Huskies are fifth nationally in turnover margin (+1.36) … QB Tyler Lorenzen has completed 170 of 294 passes for 2,118 yards and 12 touchdowns … Lorenzen has thrown just five interceptions, or roughly one pick for every 59 attempts … Tyvon Branch leads the conference in kickoff return average (34.0 ypr) … FS Robert Vaughn has a conference-leading six interceptions.

West Virginia would clinch at least a piece of the BIG EAST title with a win against Connecticut … The Mountaineers can win the outright championship with wins in their last two games (they host Pittsburgh next week) … West Virginia has won four BIG EAST football championships (1993, 2003, 2004, 2005) … The Mountaineer athletics program has won BIG EAST titles in women's cross country and women's soccer this fall … West Virginia has won five straight games … The Mountaineers rank third nationally in rushing (289.4 yards per game) … RB Steve Slaton (98.8 ypg) and Patrick White (95.8 ypg) are third and fourth, respectively, in the BIG EAST in rushing … West Virginia's defense, meanwhile, is fourth nationally in total defense (288.6 ypg) and eighth in scoring defense (17.3 ppg) … The Mountaineers have held opponents to just 93.0 rushing yards per game.


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