Big East Football Preview: 12/4-6

Things certainly didn't go as predicted, but several teams are still jockeying for bowl positioning on the final weekend of the Big East regular season

Bearcats Claw Way To BIG EAST Title

Cincinnati enjoyed a fine season in 2007, finishing with a 10-3 record and a win in the Papajohns.com Bowl, but the Bearcats' history suggested that might be the exception, rather than the norm. Subsequently, Cincinnati was projected for fifth place in the 2008 BIG EAST preseason media poll.

Those expectations, coupled with fluidity at the quarterback position, make Cincinnati's 2008 season remarkable. The Bearcats defeated Syracuse 30-10 last Saturday to improve to 6-1 in the BIG EAST to clinch the conference's automatic bid to the Bowl Championship Series. Cincinnati won the BIG EAST title outright and captured its first conference championship of any kind since it won the Missouri Valley Conference title in 1964.


Bowl Implications At Stake Thursday

Louisville heads to Rutgers Thursday night on ESPN at 7:30 p.m. Eastern in a game that will have significant bowl implications for both teams. The Cardinals (5-6, 1-5 BIG EAST) need to win to become bowl-eligible, while the Scarlet Knights (6-5, 4-2 BIG EAST) would secure their spot in a BIG EAST-affiliated bowl with a win. The last two games between the schools were decided by a combined six points.


Regular Season Ends Saturday

The 2008 regular season ends Saturday with three BIG EAST games on the ESPN family of networks. Pittsburgh visits Connecticut at noon on ESPN while USF heads to West Virginia at 8 p.m. on ESPN2. Cincinnati closes the regular season late Saturday with an 11:30 p.m. Eastern start at Hawaii.


Four BIG EAST Players Accept Invitations To East-West Shrine Game

Four BIG EAST players have accepted invitations to play in one of college football's best known postseason all-star events, the East-West Shrine Game. Cincinnati offensive guard Trevor Canfield joins Connecticut defensive end Cody Brown, Huskies cornerback Darius Butler and USF linebacker Tyrone McKenzie on the East team.

The 84th annual East-West Shrine Game will be played Jan. 17 at Robertson Stadium on the University of Houston campus at 4 p.m. It will be televised on ESPN2.


CINCINNATI at Hawaii
Sat 12/6
11:30 PM
ESPN2
Saturday's game will be the third meeting between Cincinnati and Hawaii and the first since the 2002 season … Hawaii was a 20-19 winner in that matchup, while Cincinnati was a 34-0 winner in the only other meeting in 1959 … The game will be Cincinnati's 13th of the regular season.

Cincinnati concludes its remarkable regular season in search of its sixth straight win when it visits Hawaii … The Bearcats have tied their school record with 10 wins and have won 10 games in consecutive seasons for the first time in program history … Cincinnati is assured of sole possession of the BIG EAST championship and will be the conference's representative in the Bowl Championship Series … The only losses on the ledger are a 52-26 setback at Oklahoma Sept. 6 and a 40-16 loss at Connecticut Oct. 25 … The success is remarkable considering that four different players have seen significant snaps at quarterback for the Bearcats … QB Tony Pike has seen most of the action as he leads the BIG EAST with a 144.1 pass efficiency rating … Pike has completed 170 of 270 passes for 2,060 yards and 17 touchdowns against just five interceptions … WR Dominick Goodman has caught 78 passes for 977 yards and seven touchdowns while WR Mardy Gilyard has 67 catches for 982 yards and nine TDs … DE Connor Barwin is tied for the BIG EAST lead with 10 sacks … CB Mike Mickens leads the BIG EAST with 13 passes defended, but is expected to be out of action until the Bearcats' bowl game with a knee injury.

Many predicted a hard fall for Hawaii following last season's 12-1 season that ended with a loss to Georgia in the Nokia Sugar Bowl, but the Warriors find themselves headed to a bowl game once again with a 7-5 record … Hawaii has won three straight following a 24-10 win against Washington State … The Warriors will play in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl Dec. 24 … The Warriors have earned a postseason bid for the third straight year and the sixth time in the last seven years … Hawaii is 5-1 at home this season and 22-3 in its last 25 home games … Head coach Greg McMackin was the defensive coordinator in separate stints for the Warriors' last two Western Athletic Conference championship teams (in 1997 and 2007) … He helped the Warriors go from 0-12 in 1996 to 9-4 in 1997 in his first tenure at Hawaii … QB Greg Alexander has completed 103 of 164 passes for 1,359 yards and 10 TDs … RB Daniel Libres has a team-high six rushing touchdowns.


CONNECTICUT vs. Pittsburgh
Sat 12/6
12:00 PM
ESPN
Saturday's game will be just the fifth meeting between Pittsburgh and Connecticut … The Huskies hold a 3-1 series lead and have taken the last two matchups … Connecticut is 2-0 against Pittsburgh at Rentschler Field … Last year's matchup saw Connecticut RB Lou Allen run for two 1-yard touchdowns while the Huskies' defense forced six turnovers in a 34-14 win at Heinz Field … The last game in East Hartford was a 46-45 double-overtime win for Connecticut.

Pittsburgh has won three of its last four games following a 19-15 win against West Virginia Nov. 28 in the 101st Backyard Brawl … The Panthers are looking for their first nine-win season since 2002, when Pitt finished 9-4 … Ten of Pittsburgh's 12 opponents are bowl-eligible entering the last week of the regular season … Pittsburgh is 4-1 on the road … Pitt has come from behind in the fourth quarter to win five times, including last week's victory against West Virginia … The Panthers have blocked a school-record nine kicks this season … S Andrew Taglianetti has blocked three punts, while DE Greg Romeus has blocked three PATs … RB LeSean McCoy is second in the BIG EAST and eighth nationally in rushing (118.9 ypg) … McCoy leads the nation in scoring (10.9 ppg) … McCoy has rushed for 1,308 yards and 20 touchdowns … McCoy has scored 35 career touchdowns surpassing Larry Fitzgerald for the most of any Pitt player through his sophomore year … LB Scott McKillop is 12th nationally in tackles (10.3 tpg) and first in solo stops (6.9 pg).

Connecticut dropped a 17-13 decision at USF Nov. 23 as the Huskies were looking to string together back-to-back wins for the first time since their 5-0 start to the season … Saturday's game will be Connecticut's first home game in more than a month … The Huskies are 4-1 at Rentschler Field, with the only loss coming Nov. 1 to West Virginia in the most recent home game … RB Donald Brown continues to sit atop the national rushing leaderboard with an average of 148.5 yards per game … Brown has rushed for 1,633 yards and 16 touchdowns … QB Tyler Lorenzen has returned to start the last two games after missing four games with a fractured foot … The Huskies have 23 rushing touchdowns and just four passing touchdowns this season … K Dave Teggart has made all 11 of his field goal attempts since taking over as the regular placekicker … DE Cody Brown is averaging 0.82 sacks per game, good for 16th nationally and second in the BIG EAST … Brown has 10 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss.


LOUISVILLE at Rutgers
Thu 12/4
7:30 PM
ESPN
The Louisville-Rutgers series has evolved into one of the most competitive in the BIG EAST, with the last two games decided by a combined six points … Rutgers leads the all-time series 5-2, though Louisville has taken two of the last three games … Last year's game saw Louisville trailing 28-10 with one minute left in the first half before the Cardinals rallied for a 41-38 win … Cardinal RB Brock Bolen ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns and K Art Carmody hit the go-ahead field goal with 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter … Rutgers' RB Ray Rice ran for 120 yards and three touchdowns.

Louisville looks to snap a four-game losing streak in its final regular-season game … The Cardinals were 5-2 through seven games after defeating USF Oct. 25, but have since fallen to Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and West Virginia … Louisville is 1-2 on the road with the lone win coming at Memphis (35-28) Oct. 10 … RB Victor Anderson leads a solid triumvirate in the backfield with 1,034 yards and eight touchdowns in his freshman season … RB Brock Bolen (472 yards, six touchdowns) and RB Bilal Powell (354 yards, two TDs) see regular duty as well … QB Hunter Cantwell has completed 197 of 343 passes for 2,223 yards and 15 touchdowns with 15 interceptions … WR Doug Beaumont has team highs of 54 receptions and 653 yards … CB Woodny Turenne has five interceptions and is ranked sixth nationally (0.50 per game), but will miss the rest of the season with a fractured clavicle.

Rutgers has won five straight following a 30-3 win against Army Nov. 22 … The Scarlet Knights appeared to be reeling at 1-5 after dropping a 13-10 decision at Cincinnati Oct. 11, but have rallied to defeat Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, USF and Army in succession … A win against Louisville Thursday would assure Rutgers of a spot in a BIG EAST-affiliated bowl … Rutgers had played in one bowl game in its first 131 seasons of football, but has played in three straight with the Scarlet Knights bowl-eligible for the fourth straight year … Rutgers is looking for its first five-game winning streak in BIG EAST play … Thursday's game is Rutgers' first December home game since 1962 and just the fourth in school history … If it is chosen this season, Rutgers would become the seventh team in NCAA history to play in a bowl game after a 1-5 start … The last team to do it was Rice in 2006 … QB Mike Teel has thrown a BIG EAST-leading 16 touchdown passes … WR Kenny Britt leads the nation in receiving yards (119.1 per game).


PITTSBURGH at Connecticut
Sat 12/6
12:00 PM
ESPN
Saturday's game will be just the fifth meeting between Pittsburgh and Connecticut … The Huskies hold a 3-1 series lead and have taken the last two matchups … Connecticut is 2-0 against Pittsburgh at Rentschler Field … Last year's matchup saw Connecticut RB Lou Allen run for two 1-yard touchdowns while the Huskies' defense forced six turnovers in a 34-14 win at Heinz Field … The last game in East Hartford was a 46-45 double-overtime win for Connecticut.

Pittsburgh has won three of its last four games following a 19-15 win against West Virginia Nov. 28 in the 101st Backyard Brawl … The Panthers are looking for their first nine-win season since 2002, when Pitt finished 9-4 … Ten of Pittsburgh's 12 opponents are bowl-eligible entering the last week of the regular season … Pittsburgh is 4-1 on the road … Pitt has come from behind in the fourth quarter to win five times, including last week's victory against West Virginia … The Panthers have blocked a school-record nine kicks this season … S Andrew Taglianetti has blocked three punts, while DE Greg Romeus has blocked three PATs … RB LeSean McCoy is second in the BIG EAST and eighth nationally in rushing (118.9 ypg) … McCoy leads the nation in scoring (10.9 ppg) … McCoy has rushed for 1,308 yards and 20 touchdowns … McCoy has scored 35 career touchdowns surpassing Larry Fitzgerald for the most of any Pitt player through his sophomore year … LB Scott McKillop is 12th nationally in tackles (10.3 tpg) and first in solo stops (6.9 pg).

Connecticut dropped a 17-13 decision at USF Nov. 23 as the Huskies were looking to string together back-to-back wins for the first time since their 5-0 start to the season … Saturday's game will be Connecticut's first home game in more than a month … The Huskies are 4-1 at Rentschler Field, with the only loss coming Nov. 1 to West Virginia in the most recent home game … RB Donald Brown continues to sit atop the national rushing leaderboard with an average of 148.5 yards per game … Brown has rushed for 1,633 yards and 16 touchdowns … QB Tyler Lorenzen has returned to start the last two games after missing four games with a fractured foot … The Huskies have 23 rushing touchdowns and just four passing touchdowns this season … K Dave Teggart has made all 11 of his field goal attempts since taking over as the regular placekicker … DE Cody Brown is averaging 0.82 sacks per game, good for 16th nationally and second in the BIG EAST … Brown has 10 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss.


RUTGERS vs. Louisville
Thu 12/4
7:30 PM
ESPN
The Louisville-Rutgers series has evolved into one of the most competitive in the BIG EAST, with the last two games decided by a combined six points … Rutgers leads the all-time series 5-2, though Louisville has taken two of the last three games … Last year's game saw Louisville trailing 28-10 with one minute left in the first half before the Cardinals rallied for a 41-38 win … Cardinal RB Brock Bolen ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns and K Art Carmody hit the go-ahead field goal with 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter … Rutgers' RB Ray Rice ran for 120 yards and three touchdowns.

Louisville looks to snap a four-game losing streak in its final regular-season game … The Cardinals were 5-2 through seven games after defeating USF Oct. 25, but have since fallen to Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and West Virginia … Louisville is 1-2 on the road with the lone win coming at Memphis (35-28) Oct. 10 … RB Victor Anderson leads a solid triumvirate in the backfield with 1,034 yards and eight touchdowns in his freshman season … RB Brock Bolen (472 yards, six touchdowns) and RB Bilal Powell (354 yards, two TDs) see regular duty as well … QB Hunter Cantwell has completed 197 of 343 passes for 2,223 yards and 15 touchdowns with 15 interceptions … WR Doug Beaumont has team highs of 54 receptions and 653 yards … CB Woodny Turenne has five interceptions and is ranked sixth nationally (0.50 per game), but will miss the rest of the season with a fractured clavicle.

Rutgers has won five straight following a 30-3 win against Army Nov. 22 … The Scarlet Knights appeared to be reeling at 1-5 after dropping a 13-10 decision at Cincinnati Oct. 11, but have rallied to defeat Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, USF and Army in succession … A win against Louisville Thursday would assure Rutgers of a spot in a BIG EAST-affiliated bowl … Rutgers had played in one bowl game in its first 131 seasons of football, but has played in three straight with the Scarlet Knights bowl-eligible for the fourth straight year … Rutgers is looking for its first five-game winning streak in BIG EAST play … Thursday's game is Rutgers' first December home game since 1962 and just the fourth in school history … If it is chosen this season, Rutgers would become the seventh team in NCAA history to play in a bowl game after a 1-5 start … The last team to do it was Rice in 2006 … QB Mike Teel has thrown a BIG EAST-leading 16 touchdown passes … WR Kenny Britt leads the nation in receiving yards (119.1 per game).


SYRACUSE Season Complete
 
 
 
 

USF at West Virginia
Sat 12/6
8:00 PM
ESPN2
Saturday's game will be the fourth meeting between USF and West Virginia with USF holding a 2-1 series lead … The Bulls have taken the last two games by a combined 13 points … USF took advantage of six Mountaineer turnovers to win 21-13 last season …Both West Virginia QB Pat White (9,961) and USF QB Matt Grothe (9,670) have a chance to surpass 10,000 career yards of total offense in the game — notable in that no player in BIG EAST history has 10,000 career yards.

USF snapped a three-game losing streak with a 17-13 win against Connecticut Nov. 23 at Raymond James Stadium … The Bulls opened the season with five straight wins, but have gone 2-4 since … USF ranks 14th nationally and second in the BIG EAST in total defense (292.8 yards per game) … The Bulls have held their opponents to three-and-outs on 56 of 138 drives this season (40.6 percent) … USF has outscored its opponents 75-28 in the third quarter … LB Tyrone McKenzie is second in the BIG EAST in tackles (94) … McKenzie has 337 career tackles, which is good for fifth among active players … QB Matt Grothe has thrown for 2,486 yards and 15 touchdowns and also is the Bulls' leading rusher (444 yards) … RBs RB Mike Ford and Moise Plancher have five rushing touchdowns each … WR Jessie Hester has a team-high 50 receptions, while WR Taurus Johnson has caught five touchdown passes to lead the Bulls … SS Carlton Williams has a team-high three interceptions.

West Virginia looks to rebound from a 19-15 loss at Pittsburgh Nov. 28 in the 101st Backyard Brawl … The Mountaineers have dropped two of their last three games after a five-game winning streak … The Mountaineers are 5-1 at home with the lone loss a 26-23 overtime setback to Cincinnati … West Virginia's last three losses are by a combined 10 points … Saturday's game is the final home game for QB Pat White, who will leave West Virginia as one of the most decorated players in school history … White holds BIG EAST records for total offense (9,961 yards), and touchdown responsibility (99) and is the NCAA record-holder for rushing yards by a quarterback (4,385) … White has thrown 17 touchdown passes to lead the BIG EAST this season despite having the fewest attempts (219) of any regular starter … White has rushed for eight touchdowns and 879 yards as well … RB Noel Devine is third in the BIG EAST in rushing (103.5 ypg) … K/P Pat McAfee is one of three finalists for the Ray Guy Award as the nation's top punter.


WEST VIRGINIA vs. USF
Sat 12/6
8:00 PM
ESPN2
Saturday's game will be the fourth meeting between USF and West Virginia with USF holding a 2-1 series lead … The Bulls have taken the last two games by a combined 13 points … USF took advantage of six Mountaineer turnovers to win 21-13 last season …Both West Virginia QB Pat White (9,961) and USF QB Matt Grothe (9,670) have a chance to surpass 10,000 career yards of total offense in the game — notable in that no player in BIG EAST history has 10,000 career yards.

USF snapped a three-game losing streak with a 17-13 win against Connecticut Nov. 23 at Raymond James Stadium … The Bulls opened the season with five straight wins, but have gone 2-4 since … USF ranks 14th nationally and second in the BIG EAST in total defense (292.8 yards per game) … The Bulls have held their opponents to three-and-outs on 56 of 138 drives this season (40.6 percent) … USF has outscored its opponents 75-28 in the third quarter … LB Tyrone McKenzie is second in the BIG EAST in tackles (94) … McKenzie has 337 career tackles, which is good for fifth among active players … QB Matt Grothe has thrown for 2,486 yards and 15 touchdowns and also is the Bulls' leading rusher (444 yards) … RBs RB Mike Ford and Moise Plancher have five rushing touchdowns each … WR Jessie Hester has a team-high 50 receptions, while WR Taurus Johnson has caught five touchdown passes to lead the Bulls … SS Carlton Williams has a team-high three interceptions.

West Virginia looks to rebound from a 19-15 loss at Pittsburgh Nov. 28 in the 101st Backyard Brawl … The Mountaineers have dropped two of their last three games after a five-game winning streak … The Mountaineers are 5-1 at home with the lone loss a 26-23 overtime setback to Cincinnati … West Virginia's last three losses are by a combined 10 points … Saturday's game is the final home game for QB Pat White, who will leave West Virginia as one of the most decorated players in school history … White holds BIG EAST records for total offense (9,961 yards), and touchdown responsibility (99) and is the NCAA record-holder for rushing yards by a quarterback (4,385) … White has thrown 17 touchdown passes to lead the BIG EAST this season despite having the fewest attempts (219) of any regular starter … White has rushed for eight touchdowns and 879 yards as well … RB Noel Devine is third in the BIG EAST in rushing (103.5 ypg) … K/P Pat McAfee is one of three finalists for the Ray Guy Award as the nation's top punter.


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