Big East Football Preview: 10/30-11/1

Six teams are in head to head action, and Pittsburgh takes on a heralded, if overrated, foe in out-of-conference action this weekend

USF Heads To Cincinnati For Key Thursday ESPN Matchup

Big East fans are in for a pre-Halloween treat Thursday as USF heads to Cincinnati for a 7:30 p.m. Eastern game that figures to be as entertaining as it is important to the championship race.

Last year, the Bulls and Bearcats combined to score 45 points in the first quarter as Cincinnati held on for a wild 38-33 win. Each team scored a touchdown on an interception return and the game also featured scores on a kickoff return and a blocked punt. Cincinnati sits at 1-1 in the Big East, 5-2 overall, while USF is 6-2 overall, but looks to get back to .500 in conference play.


Last Year's Champions Meet In Big East Network Game Of The Week

Saturday's schedule is highlighted by the Big East Network Game of the Week as West Virginia heads to Rentschler Field to face Connecticut at noon Eastern. The Mountaineers and Huskies shared the Big East championship last season and once again find themselves in the thick of the title chase. West Virginia is 2-0 in the Big East, while Connecticut stands at 2-1 in the conference.


The People Endorse Rutgers' Teel

The 2008 presidential election doesn't take place until next week, but the nation has already cast its vote for Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel. Teel was the runaway winner as the USA Today Player of the Week, drawing 58 percent of the fan vote among a six-man field. Teel threw for 361 yards and six touchdowns to help the Scarlet Knights to a 54-34 win at Pittsburgh last Saturday. He became the first player in Big East history to throw five TD passes in the first half.


AFCA Lauds Four BIG EAST Programs For Graduation Rates

The American Football Coaches Association has recognized four Big East schools among 46 Bowl Subdivision programs included in the 2008 AFCA Academic Achievement Honorable Mention. The award is given based on the NCAA's Graduation Success Rate formula, which measures the academic success of student-athletes on a six-year graduation window.

Cincinnati and Rutgers achieved a GSR of 90 percent or better for the entering class of 2001, while Connecticut and Syracuse were recognized for graduating 70 percent or more of their football student-athletes.


CINCINNATI vs USF
Thu 10/30
7:30 PM
ESPN
Cincinnati and USF will meet for the sixth time Thursday … The Bearcats hold a 3-2 series lead and have won the last two meetings … Cincinnati is 2-0 against USF at Nippert Stadium, having won 45-23 in 2004 and 23-6 in 2006 … Last year's matchup saw the teams combine to score 45 first-quarter points and just 26 in the other three quarters as the Bearcats took a 38-33 win … The game saw each team score on an interception return and it also included touchdowns on a kickoff return and a blocked punt.
USF fell for the second time in its last three games as the Bulls dropped a 24-20 decision at Louisville last Saturday … The Bulls are 3-1 on the road … The Bulls lead the BIG EAST in both total offense (425.8 yards per game) and total defense (268.2 ypg) … QB Matt Grothe leads the BIG EAST in passing (237.0 ypg) and is tied for the team lead with 289 rushing yards … Grothe has completed 155 of 231 passes for 1,896 yards and 14 touchdowns … He enters Thursday's game ranked fourth in BIG EAST history in total offense (8,825 yards) … RB Mike Ford has a team-high five rushing touchdowns … WR Jessie Hester leads a deep group of talented receivers with 34 receptions for 350 yards and three TDs … K Maikon Bonani is ranked third in the BIG EAST (first among kickers) in scoring (8.5 ppg) … DE George Selvie is third in the conference with five sacks and is second in tackles for loss (1.43 per game) … LB Tyrone McKenzie is second in the BIG EAST in tackles (7.8 tpg).
Cincinnati looks to rebound from a 40-16 loss at Connecticut in which the Bearcats held a three-point lead at halftime … Cincinnati has had three different players start at quarterback this season with either Tony Pike or Chazz Anderson expected to start Thursday … Pike was the starter against Connecticut last week, but did not play in the second half after he reinjured his left hand against the Huskies … Pike has thrown seven touchdown passes … The receiver tandem of Dominick Goodman and Mardy Gilyard has combined for 11 of Cincinnati's 13 touchdown receptions … Goodman is second in the BIG EAST in receptions (6.1 per game) and has five TDs, while Gilyard is second in receiving yards (83.9 per game) and has a conference-leading six TDs … RB John Goebel has a team-high four rushing touchdowns … K Jake Rogers is the only BIG EAST kicker who has not missed a field goal attempt (8-for-8) … DE Connor Barwin has a BIG EAST-leading seven sacks and has blocked three kicks

CONNECTICUT vs West Virginia
Sat 11/1
12:00 PM
Big East
Saturday's game will be the fifth meeting between West Virginia and Connecticut in a series that began in 2004 … The Mountaineers are 4-0 against the Huskies, including wins at Rentschler Field in 2004 (31-19) and 2006 (37-11) … West Virginia and Connecticut shared the BIG EAST championship in 2007 … The Mountaineers were 66-21 winners against the Huskies last season as QB Pat White ran for 186 yards and two touchdowns and added 109 passing yards with a TD … Connecticut RB Donald Brown ran for 129 yards and a TD.

West Virginia turned in its best performance of the season in last Thursday's 34-17 win against Auburn … The Mountaineers have won four straight to offset losses to East Carolina and Colorado … West Virginia is 5-0 at home and 0-2 on the road … West Virginia leads the BIG EAST in scoring defense (15.0 ppg) and rushing offense (231.4 ypg) … RB Noel Devine is second in the BIG EAST in rushing (121.3 ypg) after he ran for a career-high 207 yards against Auburn … Devine has rushed for 849 yards and three TDs and is averaging a BIG EAST-best 7.4 yards per carry … QB Pat White is sixth in the conference in both rushing (72.7 ypg) and passing (127.3 ypg) … White has completed 71 percent of his passes (88 of 124) and has thrown 12 touchdown passes against just three interceptions … RB Jock Sanders has a team-high five touchdown receptions … LB Mortty Ivy has team-highs of 51 tackles and two interceptions.

Connecticut snapped a two-game slide with a 40-16 win against Cincinnati last Saturday … The win was Connecticut's 11th straight at Rentschler Field … Only Oklahoma (21), Brigham Young (17) and Boise State (17) have longer home winning streaks … The Huskies have held five opponents to 16 points or fewer and rank 20th nationally in scoring defense (17.1 ppg) … QB Cody Endres made his first collegiate start against Cincinnati last weekend … Either Endres or Zach Frazer will start against West Virginia … RB Donald Brown remains atop the national leaderboard in rushing (165.5 ypg) … Brown has rushed for 1,324 yards and 14 touchdowns this season and has gained at least 100 yards in all eight games … No Connecticut player has more than 18 receptions this year, though six have between 12 and 18 … DE Cody Brown has a BIG EAST-leading seven sacks, while LB Lawrence Wilson is second in the conference with three interceptions.


LOUISVILLE at Syracuse
Sat 11/1
7:00 PM
ESPNU
Louisville and Syracuse have met seven times prior to Saturday's game and the Orange hold a 4-3 series lead … Louisville is 2-1 against Syracuse since the Cardinals joined the BIG EAST in 2005 … Last year's matchup saw the teams combine for 1,093 yards of offense in Syracuse's 38-35 win in Louisville … Orange QB Andrew Robinson threw for 423 yards and four touchdowns, while Cardinal QB Brian Brohm passed for 555 yards and four TDs.

Louisville has won three straight after the Cardinals took a 24-20 decision against 14th-ranked USF last Saturday at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium … The lone setbacks on Louisville's schedule are an Opening Day loss to Kentucky (27-2) and a 26-21 loss to Connecticut … The trip to Syracuse will mark Louisville's second road game of the season … The lone road game to date was a 35-28 win at Memphis Oct. 10 … Louisville leads the BIG EAST and ranks fifth nationally in rushing defense (75.14 ypg) … RB Victor Anderson is fifth in the BIG EAST in rushing (103.9 ypg) … Anderson has rushed for 727 yards and six touchdowns in his rookie season … RB Brock Bolen has added five rushing touchdowns … QB Hunter Cantwell has completed 113 of 197 passes for 1,365 yards and 10 touchdowns with nine interceptions … WR Scott Long has two touchdowns in three games since returning to the lineup … DT Earl Heyman is third in the BIG EAST with five sacks … Seventeen different Louisville players have scored points.

Syracuse returns from its second bye week in October and looks to snap a three-game slide … Syracuse hasn't played a home game since Sept. 27, when the Orange fell to Pittsburgh 34-24 … The Orange have faced arguably the toughest schedule in the nation thus far — Syracuse's first three BIG EAST games were against the teams picked in the top three of the conference's preseason poll (West Virginia, USF and Pittsburgh) … Five of the Orange's first seven opponents have been nationally ranked during the season, including three (USF, West Virginia, Penn State) that have been in the top 10 this year … RB Curtis Brinkley is fourth in the BIG EAST in rushing (104.7 ypg) … Brinkley has 733 rushing yards and four touchdowns … QB Cameron Dantley has started the last five games and is ranked fifth in the BIG EAST in passing (147.0 ypg) … Dantley has thrown seven touchdown passes and just three interceptions — the fewest of any BIG EAST starter … LB Mike Mele has a team-high 50 tackles, while DT Arthur Jones has six tackles for loss.


PITTSBURGH at Notre Dame
Sat 11/1
2:30 PM
NBC
Pittsburgh and Notre Dame meet for the 64th time in a series that dates to 1909 … Notre Dame holds a 44-18-1 series lead … The last meeting was a 42-21 Fighting Irish win Sept. 3, 2005 in the collegiate coaching debuts of both Dave Wannstedt of Pitt and Charlie Weis of Notre Dame … The teams last played in South Bend in 2004, when Pitt was a 41-38 winner … Pittsburgh is 9-19 all-time at Notre Dame.

The Panthers are looking for their second 6-2 start in the last three years … Pittsburgh enters Saturday's game on the heels of a 54-34 loss to Rutgers at Heinz Field … The Panthers are 3-0 on the road this season with consecutive wins at Syracuse (34-24), USF (26-21) and Navy (42-21) … RB LeSean McCoy enters the game as the nation's leading scorer (12.0 points per game) … McCoy ranks third in the BIG EAST in rushing with 119.3 yards per game … McCoy has rushed for 835 yards and 14 touchdowns … QB Bill Stull suffered a head injury against Rutgers and was taken from the field on a stretcher … Stull's availability for Saturday's game will be evaluated later in the week … Stull is ranked second in the BIG EAST in passing (223.1 ypg) … QB Pat Bostick would start if Stull is unavailable … Seven different players have at least 10 receptions with WR Derek Kinder topping the list with 23 catches … All-America LB Scott McKillop leads the BIG EAST with 9.6 tackles per game and 1.5 tackles for loss per game … DE Jabaal Sheard has a team-high 4.5 sacks … Pitt has registered six blocked kicks in seven games, including two blocked PATs against Rutgers last Saturday.

Notre Dame has won three of its last four following last Saturday's 33-7 win at Washington … The lone blemishes on the Fighting Irish ledger are a 23-7 setback at Michigan State and a 29-24 loss at North Carolina … Notre Dame is 4-0 at home … The Fighting Irish average 262.6 passing yards, good for 20th nationally … QB Jimmy Clausen has completed 149 of 245 passes for 1,832 yards and 15 touchdowns against nine interceptions … WRs Golden Tate and Michael Floyd are tied for the team lead with 31 receptions each … Floyd has five touchdown receptions, while Tate has four … Notre Dame allowed 58 sacks last season, but has yielded just 11 this year … The Fighting Irish have attempted 20 fourth-down conversions and been successful eight times … S Kyle McCarthy has a team-high 61 tackles … DE Pat Kuntz leads the team with three sacks … QB Evan Sharpley and P Eric Maust are members of Notre Dame's baseball team, which competes in the BIG EAST.


RUTGERS Open Date
Next vs. Syracuse
Sat 11/8
----
 

USF At Cincinnati
Thu 10/30
7:30 PM
ESPN
Cincinnati and USF will meet for the sixth time Thursday … The Bearcats hold a 3-2 series lead and have won the last two meetings … Cincinnati is 2-0 against USF at Nippert Stadium, having won 45-23 in 2004 and 23-6 in 2006 … Last year's matchup saw the teams combine to score 45 first-quarter points and just 26 in the other three quarters as the Bearcats took a 38-33 win … The game saw each team score on an interception return and it also included touchdowns on a kickoff return and a blocked punt.
USF fell for the second time in its last three games as the Bulls dropped a 24-20 decision at Louisville last Saturday … The Bulls are 3-1 on the road … The Bulls lead the BIG EAST in both total offense (425.8 yards per game) and total defense (268.2 ypg) … QB Matt Grothe leads the BIG EAST in passing (237.0 ypg) and is tied for the team lead with 289 rushing yards … Grothe has completed 155 of 231 passes for 1,896 yards and 14 touchdowns … He enters Thursday's game ranked fourth in BIG EAST history in total offense (8,825 yards) … RB Mike Ford has a team-high five rushing touchdowns … WR Jessie Hester leads a deep group of talented receivers with 34 receptions for 350 yards and three TDs … K Maikon Bonani is ranked third in the BIG EAST (first among kickers) in scoring (8.5 ppg) … DE George Selvie is third in the conference with five sacks and is second in tackles for loss (1.43 per game) … LB Tyrone McKenzie is second in the BIG EAST in tackles (7.8 tpg).
Cincinnati looks to rebound from a 40-16 loss at Connecticut in which the Bearcats held a three-point lead at halftime … Cincinnati has had three different players start at quarterback this season with either Tony Pike or Chazz Anderson expected to start Thursday … Pike was the starter against Connecticut last week, but did not play in the second half after he reinjured his left hand against the Huskies … Pike has thrown seven touchdown passes … The receiver tandem of Dominick Goodman and Mardy Gilyard has combined for 11 of Cincinnati's 13 touchdown receptions … Goodman is second in the BIG EAST in receptions (6.1 per game) and has five TDs, while Gilyard is second in receiving yards (83.9 per game) and has a conference-leading six TDs … RB John Goebel has a team-high four rushing touchdowns … K Jake Rogers is the only BIG EAST kicker who has not missed a field goal attempt (8-for-8) … DE Connor Barwin has a BIG EAST-leading seven sacks and has blocked three kicks

SYRACUSE vs. Louisville
Sat 11/1
7:00 PM
ESPNU
Louisville and Syracuse have met seven times prior to Saturday's game and the Orange hold a 4-3 series lead … Louisville is 2-1 against Syracuse since the Cardinals joined the BIG EAST in 2005 … Last year's matchup saw the teams combine for 1,093 yards of offense in Syracuse's 38-35 win in Louisville … Orange QB Andrew Robinson threw for 423 yards and four touchdowns, while Cardinal QB Brian Brohm passed for 555 yards and four TDs.

Louisville has won three straight after the Cardinals took a 24-20 decision against 14th-ranked USF last Saturday at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium … The lone setbacks on Louisville's schedule are an Opening Day loss to Kentucky (27-2) and a 26-21 loss to Connecticut … The trip to Syracuse will mark Louisville's second road game of the season … The lone road game to date was a 35-28 win at Memphis Oct. 10 … Louisville leads the BIG EAST and ranks fifth nationally in rushing defense (75.14 ypg) … RB Victor Anderson is fifth in the BIG EAST in rushing (103.9 ypg) … Anderson has rushed for 727 yards and six touchdowns in his rookie season … RB Brock Bolen has added five rushing touchdowns … QB Hunter Cantwell has completed 113 of 197 passes for 1,365 yards and 10 touchdowns with nine interceptions … WR Scott Long has two touchdowns in three games since returning to the lineup … DT Earl Heyman is third in the BIG EAST with five sacks … Seventeen different Louisville players have scored points.

Syracuse returns from its second bye week in October and looks to snap a three-game slide … Syracuse hasn't played a home game since Sept. 27, when the Orange fell to Pittsburgh 34-24 … The Orange have faced arguably the toughest schedule in the nation thus far — Syracuse's first three BIG EAST games were against the teams picked in the top three of the conference's preseason poll (West Virginia, USF and Pittsburgh) … Five of the Orange's first seven opponents have been nationally ranked during the season, including three (USF, West Virginia, Penn State) that have been in the top 10 this year … RB Curtis Brinkley is fourth in the BIG EAST in rushing (104.7 ypg) … Brinkley has 733 rushing yards and four touchdowns … QB Cameron Dantley has started the last five games and is ranked fifth in the BIG EAST in passing (147.0 ypg) … Dantley has thrown seven touchdown passes and just three interceptions — the fewest of any BIG EAST starter … LB Mike Mele has a team-high 50 tackles, while DT Arthur Jones has six tackles for loss.


WEST VIRGINIA at Connecticut
Sat 11/1
12:00 PM
Big East
Saturday's game will be the fifth meeting between West Virginia and Connecticut in a series that began in 2004 … The Mountaineers are 4-0 against the Huskies, including wins at Rentschler Field in 2004 (31-19) and 2006 (37-11) … West Virginia and Connecticut shared the BIG EAST championship in 2007 … The Mountaineers were 66-21 winners against the Huskies last season as QB Pat White ran for 186 yards and two touchdowns and added 109 passing yards with a TD … Connecticut RB Donald Brown ran for 129 yards and a TD.

West Virginia turned in its best performance of the season in last Thursday's 34-17 win against Auburn … The Mountaineers have won four straight to offset losses to East Carolina and Colorado … West Virginia is 5-0 at home and 0-2 on the road … West Virginia leads the BIG EAST in scoring defense (15.0 ppg) and rushing offense (231.4 ypg) … RB Noel Devine is second in the BIG EAST in rushing (121.3 ypg) after he ran for a career-high 207 yards against Auburn … Devine has rushed for 849 yards and three TDs and is averaging a BIG EAST-best 7.4 yards per carry … QB Pat White is sixth in the conference in both rushing (72.7 ypg) and passing (127.3 ypg) … White has completed 71 percent of his passes (88 of 124) and has thrown 12 touchdown passes against just three interceptions … RB Jock Sanders has a team-high five touchdown receptions … LB Mortty Ivy has team-highs of 51 tackles and two interceptions.

Connecticut snapped a two-game slide with a 40-16 win against Cincinnati last Saturday … The win was Connecticut's 11th straight at Rentschler Field … Only Oklahoma (21), Brigham Young (17) and Boise State (17) have longer home winning streaks … The Huskies have held five opponents to 16 points or fewer and rank 20th nationally in scoring defense (17.1 ppg) … QB Cody Endres made his first collegiate start against Cincinnati last weekend … Either Endres or Zach Frazer will start against West Virginia … RB Donald Brown remains atop the national leaderboard in rushing (165.5 ypg) … Brown has rushed for 1,324 yards and 14 touchdowns this season and has gained at least 100 yards in all eight games … No Connecticut player has more than 18 receptions this year, though six have between 12 and 18 … DE Cody Brown has a BIG EAST-leading seven sacks, while LB Lawrence Wilson is second in the conference with three interceptions.


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