Big East Preview: 10/23-25

West Virginia has the marquee game, but three head-to-head league battles could begin the separation process in the race for the Big East title.

West Virginia Meets Auburn In ESPN Thursday Night Action

This week's BIG EAST football schedule begins with an outstanding nonconference game Thursday night as West Virginia takes on Auburn at Milan Puskar Stadium. The game will be seen on ESPN at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

The Mountaineers enter at 4-2 and look for their fifth straight win against an SEC opponent. Auburn, meanwhile, will play in its first nonconference road game since the 2003 season. The programs rank among the most successful in college football since 2000, with Auburn raking 11th among Bowl Subdivision programs (.735) and West Virginia 17th (.687) in winning percentage entering the 2008 season.


BIG EAST Network Game Of The Week Has Cincinnati At Connecticut

Saturday's BIG EAST Network Game of the Week features a key conference matchup as 5-1 Cincinnati visits 5-2 Connecticut. The Bearcats have withstood a number of key injuries to win five of their first six games, with the only setback a Week 2 loss at Oklahoma. Connecticut returns to Rentschler Field, where the Huskies have a 10-game winning streak, good for fifth-longest in the nation.

The game will feature two of the BIG EAST's better defensive players as Cinciinnati defensive end Connor Barwin and Connecticut defensive end Cody Brown come in with a league-leading six sacks each.


Special Teams Are Pretty Special

BIG EAST teams have seen a number of games affected by strong special teams play in 2008. Pittsburgh's special teams units have blocked four kicks in six games, while Louisville has won two in a row thanks in part to two blocked kicks that were returned for touchdowns. In addition, three BIG EAST punters rank among the top 10 nationally, with Syracuse's Rob Long second with an average of 47.1 yards per punt. Cincinnati's Kevin Huber is sixth (45.9 yards) and West Virginia's Pat McAfee is seventh (45.4).


Pittsburgh Tries To Remain Unbeaten In BIG EAST Play

Pittsburgh, which sits in first place in the BIG EAST at 2-0, meets Rutgers Saturday at Heinz Field. The Scarlet Knights, though, have won four straight against the Panthers. USF and Louisville meet at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in a series that has seen the home team take all five meetings. USF, however, is 3-0 on the road this season.


CINCINNATI at Connecticut
Sat 10/25
Noon
Big East Network
Cincinnati and Connecticut have met four times in a series that began in the 2004 season … The Bearcats are 4-0 all-time against the Huskies … Last year's matchup saw Cincinnati QB Ben Mauk throw three touchdown passes while the Bearcats held Connecticut to just 22 rushing yards in a 27-3 win at Nippert Stadium.

Cincinnati returns from a bye week riding a four-game winning streak following a 13-10 win against Rutgers Oct. 11 … The Bearcats have used three different starting quarterbacks this season, but have seen their defense respond by holding their last three opponents to 15 points or fewer … QB Tony Pike is expected to start Saturday after he missed the last two games with a fractured forearm … Pike has thrown six touchdown passes against one interception and has completed 51 of 76 passes for 634 yards in four games … WRs Mardy Gilyard (83.3 yards per game) and Dominick Goodman (76.8 ypg) are ranked second and third, respectively, in the BIG EAST in receiving yards … RB John Goebel has a team-high four rushing touchdowns, while RB Jacob Ramsey is the leader in yardage at 59.3 ypg … CB Mike Mickens leads the Bearcats in tackles (39), interceptions (two), and passes defended (nine) … DE Connor Barwin leads the BIG EAST and is sixth nationally with 1.0 sacks per game … All-America P Kevin Huber is averaging 45.9 yards per punt.

Connecticut won its first five games of the 2008 season, but the Huskies look to snap a two-game losing streak Saturday … The Huskies have played their last three games on the road, going 1-2 in that stretch … Connecticut is 3-0 at home and has won by an average of 23.3 points at Rentschler Field … The Huskies have won 10 straight home games and have the fifth-longest home winning streak in the nation … Only Oklahoma (21), Boise State (17), Brigham Young (16) and Kansas (13) have longer home winning streaks … RB Donald Brown remains atop the national leaderboard in rushing (167.7 ypg) … Brown has rushed for 1,174 yards and 12 touchdowns on 206 carries … He has hit the 100-yard mark by halftime in six of the Huskies' seven games … To illustrate the kind of year Brown is having, Brown finished with 108 rushing yards against Rutgers last Saturday, marking his lowest output of the season … DE Cody Brown is tied for the BIG EAST lead with six sacks, while LB Lawrence Wilson is tied for the lead with three interceptions.


CONNECTICUT vs.Cincinnati
Sat 10/25
Noon
Big East Network
Cincinnati and Connecticut have met four times in a series that began in the 2004 season … The Bearcats are 4-0 all-time against the Huskies … Last year's matchup saw Cincinnati QB Ben Mauk throw three touchdown passes while the Bearcats held Connecticut to just 22 rushing yards in a 27-3 win at Nippert Stadium.

Cincinnati returns from a bye week riding a four-game winning streak following a 13-10 win against Rutgers Oct. 11 … The Bearcats have used three different starting quarterbacks this season, but have seen their defense respond by holding their last three opponents to 15 points or fewer … QB Tony Pike is expected to start Saturday after he missed the last two games with a fractured forearm … Pike has thrown six touchdown passes against one interception and has completed 51 of 76 passes for 634 yards in four games … WRs Mardy Gilyard (83.3 yards per game) and Dominick Goodman (76.8 ypg) are ranked second and third, respectively, in the BIG EAST in receiving yards … RB John Goebel has a team-high four rushing touchdowns, while RB Jacob Ramsey is the leader in yardage at 59.3 ypg … CB Mike Mickens leads the Bearcats in tackles (39), interceptions (two), and passes defended (nine) … DE Connor Barwin leads the BIG EAST and is sixth nationally with 1.0 sacks per game … All-America P Kevin Huber is averaging 45.9 yards per punt.

Connecticut won its first five games of the 2008 season, but the Huskies look to snap a two-game losing streak Saturday … The Huskies have played their last three games on the road, going 1-2 in that stretch … Connecticut is 3-0 at home and has won by an average of 23.3 points at Rentschler Field … The Huskies have won 10 straight home games and have the fifth-longest home winning streak in the nation … Only Oklahoma (21), Boise State (17), Brigham Young (16) and Kansas (13) have longer home winning streaks … RB Donald Brown remains atop the national leaderboard in rushing (167.7 ypg) … Brown has rushed for 1,174 yards and 12 touchdowns on 206 carries … He has hit the 100-yard mark by halftime in six of the Huskies' seven games … To illustrate the kind of year Brown is having, Brown finished with 108 rushing yards against Rutgers last Saturday, marking his lowest output of the season … DE Cody Brown is tied for the BIG EAST lead with six sacks, while LB Lawrence Wilson is tied for the lead with three interceptions.


LOUISVILLE vs. USF
Sat 10/25
3:30 PM
WHAS-TV
USF and Louisville have met five times prior to Saturday's game and the Bulls hold a 3-2 series lead … The home team has won all five meetings … The Bulls took a 55-17 win last season as USF scored two defensive touchdowns in the first half on their way to a 41-10 halftime lead … USF RB Mike Ford ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns, while QB Matt Grothe threw two TD passes … The USF defense forced seven turnovers.

The Bulls enter a two-game road swing at 6-1 overall and 1-1 in the BIG EAST following a 45-13 win against Syracuse last Saturday … USF will travel to Louisville and Cincinnati in a span of six days … USF is 3-0 on the road this season … While USF has been one of the few BIG EAST teams to remain healthy at the quarterback position thus far, the Bulls have endured the temporary loss of two key starters on defense … All-America DE George Selvie saw spot duty in the last two games while he recovered from an ankle injury, while LB Brouce Mompremier saw his first action last Saturday after being taken from the field on a stretcher against Florida International Sept. 20 … Mompremier suffered a neck injury in that game, but joined Selvie in the starting lineup against the Orange … QB Matt Grothe leads the BIG EAST in passing (221.7 yards per game), pass efficiency (151.3) and total offense (266.9 ypg) … Grothe has completed 125 of 191 passes for 1,552 yards and 12 touchdowns against just three interceptions.

Louisville is looking for its third straight win as the Cardinals host USF Saturday … The Cardinals play at home for the sixth time in their first seven games and resume BIG EAST play after playing out of the conference for the last two weeks … After scoring just two points in a season-opening loss to Kentucky, the Cardinals have scored at least 35 points in four of the last five games … RB Victor Anderson enters Saturday's game ranked third in the BIG EAST and 15th nationally in rushing (110.5 ypg) … Anderson has rushed for 663 yards and six touchdowns on just 95 carries … He leads the BIG EAST with an average of 7.0 yards per carry … CB Johnny Patrick has emerged as a big play threat after scoring non-offensive touchdowns in each of the last two games … Patrick found the end zone on a fumble return against Memphis and a blocked punt return against Middle Tennessee State … Louisville has committed just three turnovers in its four wins and eight in its two losses … C Eric Wood leads an offensive line that has allowed just seven sacks.


PITTSBURGH vs. Rutgers
Sat 10/25
3:30 PM
ESPN360.com
Saturday's game will be the 26th meeting between Rutgers and Pittsburgh … The Panthers hold a 19-6 series lead, though the Scarlet Knights have taken the last three meetings … Pittsburgh had won six straight from 1999-2004 before Rutgers' current streak … Rutgers was a 20-16 winner last season in Piscataway, N.J., as RB Ray Rice ran for 112 yards and a touchdown … Pitt held Rutgers to just five pass completions and 219 total yards, but the Scarlet Knights limited the Panthers to one touchdown and three field goals.

Rutgers picked up its first BIG EAST win of the season last Saturday when the Scarlet Knights held off Connecticut for a 12-10 win at Rutgers Stadium … Rutgers' last two games have been decided by a combined five points … Rutgers has held its last two BIG EAST opponents to a combined 23 points after limiting Cincinnati to 13 points and Connecticut to 12 … Rutgers is one five BIG EAST teams that has held its opponents below 20 points per game (19.7) … QB Mike Teel will make his 34th consecutive start for Rutgers … He enters Saturday's game ranked second in school history in career passing yards (7,327) … Teel is third in the BIG EAST this season with 1,362 passing yards … WR Kenny Britt leads the BIG EAST in both receiving categories, entering Saturday's game with 7.7 receptions and 95.2 yards per game … LB Kevin Malast is second in the BIG EAST in tackles (7.7 tpg) … K San San Te has hit six of his last seven field goals.

The Panthers resume BIG EAST play after jumping out to a 2-0 start in the conference … Pittsburgh has won five straight following a 42-21 decision at Navy Oct. 18, which was the Panthers' first game in 16 days … The Panthers haven't won six straight since the end of the 2001 season — a streak that reached seven games in the 2002 season opener … Pitt is looking for its second 6-1 start in the last three seasons … Pittsburgh is the least penalized team in the nation (3.33 per game) and has been assessed the fewest penalty yards (23.17 per game) nationally … RB LeSean McCoy is ranked second in the BIG EAST in rushing (114.8 yards per game) … McCoy has rushed for 689 yards and 10 touchdowns on 135 carries … QB Bill Stull is second in the conference in passing yards (213.8 per game) … The Panthers lead the BIG EAST and rank 18th nationally in sacks (3.0 per game) … Pitt's special teams have registered four blocked kicks in six games … LB Scott McKillop is averaging 10.2 tackles, leading the BIG EAST by an average of 2.5 tackles per game … McKillop also leads the league in tackles for loss (9.5).


RUTGERS at Pittsburgh
Sat 10/25
3:30 PM
ESPN360.com
Saturday's game will be the 26th meeting between Rutgers and Pittsburgh … The Panthers hold a 19-6 series lead, though the Scarlet Knights have taken the last three meetings … Pittsburgh had won six straight from 1999-2004 before Rutgers' current streak … Rutgers was a 20-16 winner last season in Piscataway, N.J., as RB Ray Rice ran for 112 yards and a touchdown … Pitt held Rutgers to just five pass completions and 219 total yards, but the Scarlet Knights limited the Panthers to one touchdown and three field goals.

Rutgers picked up its first BIG EAST win of the season last Saturday when the Scarlet Knights held off Connecticut for a 12-10 win at Rutgers Stadium … Rutgers' last two games have been decided by a combined five points … Rutgers has held its last two BIG EAST opponents to a combined 23 points after limiting Cincinnati to 13 points and Connecticut to 12 … Rutgers is one five BIG EAST teams that has held its opponents below 20 points per game (19.7) … QB Mike Teel will make his 34th consecutive start for Rutgers … He enters Saturday's game ranked second in school history in career passing yards (7,327) … Teel is third in the BIG EAST this season with 1,362 passing yards … WR Kenny Britt leads the BIG EAST in both receiving categories, entering Saturday's game with 7.7 receptions and 95.2 yards per game … LB Kevin Malast is second in the BIG EAST in tackles (7.7 tpg) … K San San Te has hit six of his last seven field goals.

The Panthers resume BIG EAST play after jumping out to a 2-0 start in the conference … Pittsburgh has won five straight following a 42-21 decision at Navy Oct. 18, which was the Panthers' first game in 16 days … The Panthers haven't won six straight since the end of the 2001 season — a streak that reached seven games in the 2002 season opener … Pitt is looking for its second 6-1 start in the last three seasons … Pittsburgh is the least penalized team in the nation (3.33 per game) and has been assessed the fewest penalty yards (23.17 per game) nationally … RB LeSean McCoy is ranked second in the BIG EAST in rushing (114.8 yards per game) … McCoy has rushed for 689 yards and 10 touchdowns on 135 carries … QB Bill Stull is second in the conference in passing yards (213.8 per game) … The Panthers lead the BIG EAST and rank 18th nationally in sacks (3.0 per game) … Pitt's special teams have registered four blocked kicks in six games … LB Scott McKillop is averaging 10.2 tackles, leading the BIG EAST by an average of 2.5 tackles per game … McKillop also leads the league in tackles for loss (9.5).


USF at Louisville
Sat 10/25
3:30 PM
WHAS-TV
USF and Louisville have met five times prior to Saturday's game and the Bulls hold a 3-2 series lead … The home team has won all five meetings … The Bulls took a 55-17 win last season as USF scored two defensive touchdowns in the first half on their way to a 41-10 halftime lead … USF RB Mike Ford ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns, while QB Matt Grothe threw two TD passes … The USF defense forced seven turnovers.

The Bulls enter a two-game road swing at 6-1 overall and 1-1 in the BIG EAST following a 45-13 win against Syracuse last Saturday … USF will travel to Louisville and Cincinnati in a span of six days … USF is 3-0 on the road this season … While USF has been one of the few BIG EAST teams to remain healthy at the quarterback position thus far, the Bulls have endured the temporary loss of two key starters on defense … All-America DE George Selvie saw spot duty in the last two games while he recovered from an ankle injury, while LB Brouce Mompremier saw his first action last Saturday after being taken from the field on a stretcher against Florida International Sept. 20 … Mompremier suffered a neck injury in that game, but joined Selvie in the starting lineup against the Orange … QB Matt Grothe leads the BIG EAST in passing (221.7 yards per game), pass efficiency (151.3) and total offense (266.9 ypg) … Grothe has completed 125 of 191 passes for 1,552 yards and 12 touchdowns against just three interceptions.

Louisville is looking for its third straight win as the Cardinals host USF Saturday … The Cardinals play at home for the sixth time in their first seven games and resume BIG EAST play after playing out of the conference for the last two weeks … After scoring just two points in a season-opening loss to Kentucky, the Cardinals have scored at least 35 points in four of the last five games … RB Victor Anderson enters Saturday's game ranked third in the BIG EAST and 15th nationally in rushing (110.5 ypg) … Anderson has rushed for 663 yards and six touchdowns on just 95 carries … He leads the BIG EAST with an average of 7.0 yards per carry … CB Johnny Patrick has emerged as a big play threat after scoring non-offensive touchdowns in each of the last two games … Patrick found the end zone on a fumble return against Memphis and a blocked punt return against Middle Tennessee State … Louisville has committed just three turnovers in its four wins and eight in its two losses … C Eric Wood leads an offensive line that has allowed just seven sacks.


SYRACUSE Open Date
Next Game
vs. Louisville
Sat Nov. 1
 

WEST VIRGINIA vs. Auburn
Thu 10/23
7:30 PM
ESPN
West Virginia and Auburn meet for the first time on the gridiron Thursday … The programs are among the most successful in college football since 2000, with Auburn ranking 11th among Bowl Subdivision programs (.735) and West Virginia 17th (.687) in winning percentage entering the 2008 season … The Mountaineers have defeated an SEC opponent in each of the last three seasons, while the Tigers are 6-1 all-time in Thursday night games.

West Virginia has put together a three-game winning streak that has the Mountaineers at 4-2 heading into Thursday's game against Auburn … West Virginia is 4-0 at home and 0-2 on the road … The Mountaineers enjoyed a bye last weekend … West Virginia leads the BIG EAST and ranks 14th nationally in rushing (224.8 yards per game) … Head coach Bill Stewart reported Monday that QB Pat White, who missed the Mountaineers' win against Syracuse with a head injury, is expected to start against Auburn … White has thrown nine touchdown passes, has two rushing TDs and ranks third in the BIG EAST in total offense (203.6 ypg) … RB Noel Devine is fourth in the BIG EAST in rushing (107.0 ypg) and is averaging 6.6 yards per carry … Devine has rushed for 642 yards and two touchdowns … After allowing 21 and 24 points in its first two games, West Virginia's defense has held its last four opponents to 17 points or fewer … LB Mortty Ivy has team-highs of 46 tackles and two interceptions, while LB Quinton Andrews has made 45 stops … LB John Holmes has a team-high three sacks … Following Saturday's game, West Virginia plays three of its next four games on the road.

Auburn looks to snap a two-game slide when the Tigers visit West Virginia … Like the Mountaineers, Auburn enjoyed a bye last weekend … The Tigers had won four of their first five, but have fallen to Vanderbilt and Arkansas in successive weeks … The game at West Virginia is Auburn's first nonconference road game since a 2003 visit to Georgia Tech … The Tigers are 18-5 away from home since 2004 and 1-1 this season … Head coach Tommy Tuberville is no stranger to the BIG EAST, having served as an assistant coach at Miami (Fla.) from 1986-93 … Auburn's defensive coordinator is Paul Rhodes, who was Pittsburgh's defensive coordinator from 2000-07 … After scoring 34 and 27 points in its first two games, Auburn hasn't scored more than 22 points in any of its last five … The Tigers rank ninth nationally in scoring defense (13.1 ppg) … Auburn is 2-3 in the Southeastern Conference Western Division, trailing Alabama and Louisiana State.


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