Big East Football Preview: 11/8

Cincinnati travels to West Virginia in the marquee game of the week, but the Pitt - Louisville matchup will also have a strong bearing on the league standings

Big East Trifecta In Store For Saturday

The Big East championship race heats up this weekend with three conference games between teams that are separated by just one game in the league standings.

West Virginia (3-0 Big East) takes on Cincinnati (2-1 BBig East) at 7 p.m. Eastern on ESPNU as the Mountaineers look to remain unbeaten in conference play, while Bearcats look to forge a tie atop the standings. Louisville (1-2 Big East) visits Pittsburgh (2-1 Big East) for the Big East Network Game of the Week at noon, and Rutgers (2-2 Big East) entertains Syracuse (1-3 Big East) at noon on ESPNU.


Running Backs Still Rule In Big East

Despite losing stars like Ray Rice and Steve Slaton to the NFL, the Big East remains home to some of the nation's top running backs. In fact, four of the country's top 15 rushing leaders can be found on Big East teams. Connecticut's Donald Brown has nearly monopolized the top spot in the national rankings. Brown averages 156.2 yards per game.

Pittsburgh's LeSean McCoy is ranked sixth nationally (125.5 yards per game), while West Virginia's Noel Devine is 14th (113.6) and Syracuse's Curtis Brinkley is 15th (112.4). McCoy and Brinkley have both registered five straight 100-yard games, while Devine averages nearly seven yards a carry.


West Virginia Closes The Deal In The Second Half

After West Virginia picked up just one win in its first three games, it would have been easy to relegate the Mountaineers to ‘rebuilding' status under first-year head coach Bill Stewart. With a five-game winning streak in place, however, West Virginia sits alone in first place in the Big East thanks in part to its success in defending its home field and its ability to close out big games.

The Mountaineers are 5-0 at Milan Puskar Stadium this season, improving to 21-3 at home in the last four seasons. West Virginia also hasn't allowed a second-half point in its last three games.


Awards Lists Nearing Final Stages

As usual, the Big East is well represented on the lists for national college football honors as the processes reach the semifinal stage. Connecticut's Donald Brown and Pittsburgh's LeSean McCoy are among the 15 semifinalists for the Maxwell Award as the top player in the nation. Pitt linebacker Scott McKillop, meanwhile, is a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award as the top defensive player.

Syracuse's Patrick Shadle, Cincinnati's Jake Rogers and West Virginia's Pat McAfee are semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award as the top kicker, McAfee joins Cincinnati's Kevin Huber as semifinalists for the Ray Guy Award as the top punter.


CINCINNATI at West Virginia
Sat 11/8
7:00 PM
ESPNU
Saturday's game will be the 17th meeting between Cincinnati and West Virginia in a series that dates to 1921 … The Mountaineers are 14-1-1 all-time against the Bearcats … The lone Cincinnati win came in the 2003 season (15-13) at Milan Puskar Stadium … West Virginia QB Pat White accounted for 295 yards of offense (155 rushing, 140 passing) to lead the Mountaineers to last year's 28-23 win at Nippert Stadium.

Cincinnati has won five of its last six games following a 24-10 win against USF last Thursday at Nippert Stadium … The Bearcats have allowed a combined 72 points in their five wins, but have allowed 92 points in their two losses … Cincinnati has held three of its last four opponents to exactly 10 points … Injuries have forced Cincinnati to use four different quarterbacks this season … QB Tony Pike has completed 81 of 131 passes for 1,051 yards and nine touchdowns against three interceptions … Pike played last week's game against USF with a cast on his left (non-throwing) arm … Opening Day starter Dustin Grutza is expected to practice this week after suffering a fractured leg in Week 2 against Oklahoma … WR Dominick Goodman has a team-high 48 receptions, while WR Mardy Gilyard leads the squad with 685 receiving yards … DE Connor Barwin has a BIG EAST-leading seven sacks … Barwin also caught a touchdown pass against USF … K Jake Rogers is 9-for-9 on field goal attempts.

West Virginia has won five straight following a 35-13 win at Connecticut last Saturday … The Mountaineers have overcome halftime deficits in each of their last two games … West Virginia leads the BIG EAST and is 10th nationally in rushing (229.5 ypg) … The Mountaineers have committed just eight turnovers, good for third-best nationally … QB Pat White has completed 69.7 percent of his passes (99 of 142) with 13 touchdowns and three interceptions … White has rushed for 545 yards and four TDs … RB Noel Devine is fourth in the BIG EAST and 19th nationally in rushing (113.6 ypg) … Devine is averaging 6.9 yards per carry … WR Jock Sanders has a team-high eight touchdowns (six receiving, two rushing) … LB Mortty Ivy is fifth in the BIG EAST in tackles (7.6 per game) and has three interceptions — the most among non-defensive backs in the BIG EAST … K/P Pat McAfee has made 9 of 10 field goal attempts and is averaging 44.4 yards per punt.


CONNECTICUT Open Date
Next Game
Sat 11/15
at Syracuse
 

LOUISVILLE at Pitt
Sat 11/8
12:00 PM
Big East Netwokr
Saturday's game will be the 12th meeting between Louisville and Pittsburgh in a series that dates to 1976 … The Cardinals hold a 7-4 series lead and are 3-0 against the Panthers in BIG EAST games … Pittsburgh won the first four games in the series, but Louisivlle has taken the last seven … Pittsburgh's last win against the Cardinals was Oct. 10, 1983 (55-10) … Last year's game saw Louisville QB Brian Brohm throw for 236 yards and two touchdowns in the Cardinals' 24-17 win at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

Louisville saw its three-game winning streak snapped with a 28-21 loss at Syracuse Nov. 1 … Louisville is 2-1 against nationally ranked opponents under Steve Kragthorpe … The Cardinals rank 26th nationally in rushing offense (189.0 yards per game) … Louisville is 3-1 this season when rushing for more than 200 yards in a game … Fourteen of Louisville's 25 touchdowns have been rushing TDs … RB Victor Anderson is fifth in the BIG EAST and 24th nationally in rushing (105.0 ypg) … Anderson has rushed for 840 yards and seven touchdowns in his rookie season … QB Hunter Cantwell has completed 136 of 233 passes for 1,579 yards and 12 touchdowns against 10 interceptions … Cantwell completed a career high 23 passes against Syracuse last week … WR Trent Guy wore No. 84 last week in honor of teammate Scott Long, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice prior to the Syracuse game … Louisville has committed six turnovers in its five wins and has 10 giveaways in its three losses.

The Panthers rebounded from their first BIG EAST loss of the season by gaining a 36-33 win at Notre Dame in four overtimes Nov. 1 … Pittsburgh is 2-2 at home and 4-0 on the road this season … RB LeSean McCoy enters Saturday's game ranked sixth nationally and second in the BIG EAST in rushing (125.5 ypg) … McCoy has rushed for 1,004 yards and 15 touchdowns on 193 carries … His career average of 116.6 yards per game leads all active players nationally … McCoy is second nationally in scoring (11.3 ppg) … QB Pat Bostick made his first start of the season against Notre Dame, filling in for Bill Stull, who suffered a head injury against Rutgers … WR Jonathan Baldwin has a team-high three touchdown receptions … LB Scott McKillop is ranked 10th nationally in tackles (10.3 tpg) and ninth in tackles for loss (1.6 pg) … K Conor Lee is 100-for-100 on PATs for his career … Lee has hit 16 of 18 field goals.


PITTSBURGH vs. Louisville
Sat 11/8
12:00 PM
Big East Network
Saturday's game will be the 12th meeting between Louisville and Pittsburgh in a series that dates to 1976 … The Cardinals hold a 7-4 series lead and are 3-0 against the Panthers in BIG EAST games … Pittsburgh won the first four games in the series, but Louisivlle has taken the last seven … Pittsburgh's last win against the Cardinals was Oct. 10, 1983 (55-10) … Last year's game saw Louisville QB Brian Brohm throw for 236 yards and two touchdowns in the Cardinals' 24-17 win at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.

Louisville saw its three-game winning streak snapped with a 28-21 loss at Syracuse Nov. 1 … Louisville is 2-1 against nationally ranked opponents under Steve Kragthorpe … The Cardinals rank 26th nationally in rushing offense (189.0 yards per game) … Louisville is 3-1 this season when rushing for more than 200 yards in a game … Fourteen of Louisville's 25 touchdowns have been rushing TDs … RB Victor Anderson is fifth in the BIG EAST and 24th nationally in rushing (105.0 ypg) … Anderson has rushed for 840 yards and seven touchdowns in his rookie season … QB Hunter Cantwell has completed 136 of 233 passes for 1,579 yards and 12 touchdowns against 10 interceptions … Cantwell completed a career high 23 passes against Syracuse last week … WR Trent Guy wore No. 84 last week in honor of teammate Scott Long, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice prior to the Syracuse game … Louisville has committed six turnovers in its five wins and has 10 giveaways in its three losses.

The Panthers rebounded from their first BIG EAST loss of the season by gaining a 36-33 win at Notre Dame in four overtimes Nov. 1 … Pittsburgh is 2-2 at home and 4-0 on the road this season … RB LeSean McCoy enters Saturday's game ranked sixth nationally and second in the BIG EAST in rushing (125.5 ypg) … McCoy has rushed for 1,004 yards and 15 touchdowns on 193 carries … His career average of 116.6 yards per game leads all active players nationally … McCoy is second nationally in scoring (11.3 ppg) … QB Pat Bostick made his first start of the season against Notre Dame, filling in for Bill Stull, who suffered a head injury against Rutgers … WR Jonathan Baldwin has a team-high three touchdown receptions … LB Scott McKillop is ranked 10th nationally in tackles (10.3 tpg) and ninth in tackles for loss (1.6 pg) … K Conor Lee is 100-for-100 on PATs for his career … Lee has hit 16 of 18 field goals.


RUTGERS vs. Syracuse
Sat 11/8
12:00 PM
ESPNU
The Syracuse-Rutgers rivalry dates to 1914 and includes 38 previous meetings between the schools … Syracuse holds a 28-9-1 series lead, though Rutgers has won the last three games … The Orange won 15 times in a 16-year span from 1987-2002 before the Scarlet Knights' current streak … Rutgers RB Ray Rice ran for 196 yards and three touchdowns to key the Scarlet Knights' 38-14 win last year at the Carrier Dome.

Syracuse snapped a three-game slide with a 28-21 win against Louisville Nov. 1 at the Carrier Dome … The Orange are 2-3 at home, but are looking for their first road win (0-3) … Syracuse is 2-1 when holding its opponent to 21 points or fewer and 2-1 when the Orange score at least 28 points … RB Curtis Brinkley is ranked 15th nationally and fourth in the BIG EAST in rushing (112.4 ypg) … At a school that includes Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Floyd Little, Larry Csonka and Joe Morris among its alumni, Brinkley is the first Syracuse player to register five consecutive 100-yard games in a season … Brinkley has six 100-yard games this year … Brinkley has rushed for 899 yards and five touchdowns on 165 carries … QB Cameron Dantley has thrown nine touchdown passes against just three interceptions … Only West Virginia's Pat White (13 TDs, 3 INTs) has a better ratio among BIG EAST quarterbacks … Eight different players have at least one touchdown reception … LB Mike Mele is ranked seventh in the BIG EAST in tackles (7.0 tpg) … K Patrick Shadle is a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top kicker.

Rutgers returns from a bye week having won two straight … After starting the season at 1-5, the Scarlet Knights have wins against Connecticut (12-10) and Pittsburgh (54-34) … Rutgers' win against then-No. 17 Pittsburgh was the Scarlet Knights' first road win against a ranked team since Sept. 24, 1988 (21-16 against No. 15/13 Penn State) … QB Mike Teel was chosen as the USA Today National Player of the Week following his six-touchdown performance against Pittsburgh … Teel has completed 133 of 235 passes for 1,723 yards and nine touchdowns with eight interceptions … WR Kenny Britt has team highs of 51 receptions and 714 receiving yards … Britt has a school record eight career 100-yard games … Britt is ninth nationally in receptions per game (7.3) and seventh in receiving yards (102.0 ypg) … Rutgers has held two opponents (Cincinnati and Connecticut) to their lowest point totals of the season … LB Kevin Malast is fourth in the BIG EAST in tackles (7.8 tpg) … DT Pete Tverdov is second in tackles for loss (1.4 pg)


SYRACUSE at Rutgers
Sat 11/8
12:00 PM
ESPNU
The Syracuse-Rutgers rivalry dates to 1914 and includes 38 previous meetings between the schools … Syracuse holds a 28-9-1 series lead, though Rutgers has won the last three games … The Orange won 15 times in a 16-year span from 1987-2002 before the Scarlet Knights' current streak … Rutgers RB Ray Rice ran for 196 yards and three touchdowns to key the Scarlet Knights' 38-14 win last year at the Carrier Dome.

Syracuse snapped a three-game slide with a 28-21 win against Louisville Nov. 1 at the Carrier Dome … The Orange are 2-3 at home, but are looking for their first road win (0-3) … Syracuse is 2-1 when holding its opponent to 21 points or fewer and 2-1 when the Orange score at least 28 points … RB Curtis Brinkley is ranked 15th nationally and fourth in the BIG EAST in rushing (112.4 ypg) … At a school that includes Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Floyd Little, Larry Csonka and Joe Morris among its alumni, Brinkley is the first Syracuse player to register five consecutive 100-yard games in a season … Brinkley has six 100-yard games this year … Brinkley has rushed for 899 yards and five touchdowns on 165 carries … QB Cameron Dantley has thrown nine touchdown passes against just three interceptions … Only West Virginia's Pat White (13 TDs, 3 INTs) has a better ratio among BIG EAST quarterbacks … Eight different players have at least one touchdown reception … LB Mike Mele is ranked seventh in the BIG EAST in tackles (7.0 tpg) … K Patrick Shadle is a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top kicker.

Rutgers returns from a bye week having won two straight … After starting the season at 1-5, the Scarlet Knights have wins against Connecticut (12-10) and Pittsburgh (54-34) … Rutgers' win against then-No. 17 Pittsburgh was the Scarlet Knights' first road win against a ranked team since Sept. 24, 1988 (21-16 against No. 15/13 Penn State) … QB Mike Teel was chosen as the USA Today National Player of the Week following his six-touchdown performance against Pittsburgh … Teel has completed 133 of 235 passes for 1,723 yards and nine touchdowns with eight interceptions … WR Kenny Britt has team highs of 51 receptions and 714 receiving yards … Britt has a school record eight career 100-yard games … Britt is ninth nationally in receptions per game (7.3) and seventh in receiving yards (102.0 ypg) … Rutgers has held two opponents (Cincinnati and Connecticut) to their lowest point totals of the season … LB Kevin Malast is fourth in the BIG EAST in tackles (7.8 tpg) … DT Pete Tverdov is second in tackles for loss (1.4 pg)


USF Open Date
Next Game
Sat 11/15
vs. Rutgers
 

WEST VIRGINIA vs. Cincinnati
Sat 11/8
7:00 PM
ESPNU
Saturday's game will be the 17th meeting between Cincinnati and West Virginia in a series that dates to 1921 … The Mountaineers are 14-1-1 all-time against the Bearcats … The lone Cincinnati win came in the 2003 season (15-13) at Milan Puskar Stadium … West Virginia QB Pat White accounted for 295 yards of offense (155 rushing, 140 passing) to lead the Mountaineers to last year's 28-23 win at Nippert Stadium.

Cincinnati has won five of its last six games following a 24-10 win against USF last Thursday at Nippert Stadium … The Bearcats have allowed a combined 72 points in their five wins, but have allowed 92 points in their two losses … Cincinnati has held three of its last four opponents to exactly 10 points … Injuries have forced Cincinnati to use four different quarterbacks this season … QB Tony Pike has completed 81 of 131 passes for 1,051 yards and nine touchdowns against three interceptions … Pike played last week's game against USF with a cast on his left (non-throwing) arm … Opening Day starter Dustin Grutza is expected to practice this week after suffering a fractured leg in Week 2 against Oklahoma … WR Dominick Goodman has a team-high 48 receptions, while WR Mardy Gilyard leads the squad with 685 receiving yards … DE Connor Barwin has a BIG EAST-leading seven sacks … Barwin also caught a touchdown pass against USF … K Jake Rogers is 9-for-9 on field goal attempts.

West Virginia has won five straight following a 35-13 win at Connecticut last Saturday … The Mountaineers have overcome halftime deficits in each of their last two games … West Virginia leads the BIG EAST and is 10th nationally in rushing (229.5 ypg) … The Mountaineers have committed just eight turnovers, good for third-best nationally … QB Pat White has completed 69.7 percent of his passes (99 of 142) with 13 touchdowns and three interceptions … White has rushed for 545 yards and four TDs … RB Noel Devine is fourth in the BIG EAST and 19th nationally in rushing (113.6 ypg) … Devine is averaging 6.9 yards per carry … WR Jock Sanders has a team-high eight touchdowns (six receiving, two rushing) … LB Mortty Ivy is fifth in the BIG EAST in tackles (7.6 per game) and has three interceptions — the most among non-defensive backs in the BIG EAST … K/P Pat McAfee has made 9 of 10 field goal attempts and is averaging 44.4 yards per punt.


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