Big East Football Preview

It could be termed "Separation Weekend" in the Big East as teams at the top of the league face conference foes hoping to jump into the league race.

Big East Well Represented In National Rankings

Much was made in the preseason when the first Associated Press and USA Today polls of 2009 were released, with neither showing a Big East team among the top 25. At the midpoint of the regular season, however, the Big East, as usual, is figuring prominently in the national rankings. Three conference teams – Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and West Virginia - are ranked in the top 25 of all three national polls (AP, USA Today, Harris Interactive), while six of the eight Big East schools received at least one vote in this week's polls.


Bearcats Fare Well In First BCS Ranking

Cincinnati's 6-0 start has put the Bearcats in solid position in the first Bowl Championship Series ranking of 2009. The Bearcats, who finished No. 12 in the final BCS standings last year, are No. 5 in the Oct. 18 rankings. Cincinnati trails only Florida, Alabama, Texas and Boise State, which determine the participants in the BCS National Championship Game presented by Citi.


College Football Honors Connecticut's Jasper Howard

The college football community was stunned by the Sunday death of Connecticut cornerback Jasper Howard. In response, several tributes to Howard have been planned, both for this weekend and the remainder of the season. Prior to the kickoff of Saturday's game between Connecticut and West Virginia in Morgantown, W.Va., the teams will observe a moment of silence followed by a handshake at midfield. The Huskies will wear helmet decals with Howard's initials for the rest of the season, while the Mountaineers will wear decals with Howard's jersey number (No. 6). In addition, several former high school teammates of Howard's have announced plans to wear No. 6 for the remainder of the 2009 season.


Pittsburgh's Lewis Fills A Void

Even though Pittsburgh was the favorite in this year's Big East preseason media poll, the Panthers still needed to figure out how to offset the loss of running back LeSean McCoy, who departed for the NFL after his sophomore season. Head coach Dave Wannstedt found the answer in the form of true freshman Dion Lewis. Lewis enters Saturday's game against USF as the Big East's leading rusher and is third nationally at 131.4 yards per game. If Lewis can finish atop the conference's rushing chart, he would be the first freshman to lead the league since West Virginia's Avon Cobourne did it in 1999.


CINCINNATI vs. Louisville
Sat 10/24
3:30 PM
ESPNU
Saturday's game will be the 50th meeting between Louisville and Cincinnati in a rivalry that dates to 1922 … Cincinnati holds a 27-21-1 series lead after taking a 28-20 decision last year at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium … Bearcat QB Tony Pike threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns last year to help Cincinnati erase a 17-14 halftime deficit … The Cardinals had won five straight in the series prior to last year's game.

Louisville looks for its first win in Big East play as the Cardinals fell to 0-2 in the conference with a 38-25 loss at Connecticut … Louisville reeled off 457 yards of offense against the Huskies, but was undone by four turnovers … QB Adam Froman strung together 16 consecutive completed passes during the Connecticut game … Froman has started the last three games behind center and has completed 64.4 percent of his passes … RB Victor Anderson is the leading rusher (70.7 yards per game), but was limited to spot duty against Connecticut due to a deep leg bruise … WR Scott Long leads a deep group of receivers with 28 receptions, 468 yards and a touchdown … WR Trent Guy is averaging 117.3 all-purpose yards per game and is averaging 25.6 yards on kickoff returns … LB Jon Dempsey has a team-high 64 tackles … DT William Savoy has three sacks … K Ryan Payne is the only barefooted kicker in the Bowl Subdivision.

Cincinnati continues to climb in the national rankings as the Bearcats enter this week's game at No. 5 in the Associated Press poll and No. 6 in the USA Today poll … Cincinnati is No. 5 in the first BCS standings of 2009 after finishing the 2008 season at No. 12 in the final standings … Cincinnati has won its four road games by an average of 20.8 points … The Bearcats play at home for just the third time this season when they face Louisville … QB Tony Pike suffered an injury to his left (non-throwing) wrist against USF last Thursday and is questionable for Saturday's game … QB Zach Collaros came off the bench to rush for 132 yards and two touchdowns against USF … WR Mardy Gilyard is averaging 98.7 yards per game and has seven touchdown catches … Cincinnati has allowed just nine touchdowns this year … Conversely, the Bearcats have scored 33 touchdowns and have punted just 26 times … LB Alex Daniels has a team-high 5.5 sacks, while LB J.K. Schaffer and S Aaron Webster have three interceptions each.


CONNECTICUT at West Virginia
Sat 10/24
12:00 PM
ESPNU
Saturday's game will be the sixth meeting between Connecticut and West Virginia … The Mountaineers have won all five previous meetings … Last year's game saw West Virginia overcome a 13-7 halftime deficit behind three third-quarter touchdowns by WR Jock Sanders in a 35-13 Mountaineer win … QB Pat White also ran for two scores for West Virginia.

Connecticut will take the field with a collective heavy heart Saturday as the Huskies mourn the passing of Jasper Howard … Howard was killed early Sunday morning just hours after playing a key role as a starting cornerback in Connecticut's win against Louisville at Rentschler Field … The Huskies will recognize Howard with a helmet decal for the remainder of the season … RB Andre Dixon and RB Jordan Todman comprised the Big East's top backfield tandem, with Dixon rushing for 616 yards and seven touchdowns and Todman bringing 502 yards and six TDs into Saturday's game … QB Cody Endres has thrown for 936 yards and four touchdowns and is ranked 14th nationally in pass efficiency rating (152.72) … WR Marcus Easley, who had not scored a touchdown in his first 26 career games, has both reached the end zone and had more than 100 receiving yards in back-to-back games … LB Lawrence Wilson has a team-high 66 tackles to go with three sacks and two forced fumbles … DE Lindsey Witten has 9.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss.

West Virginia won its third straight game with a 24-7 decision against Marshall last Saturday … It was the first time that West Virginia did not score at least 30 points … The Mountaineers have moved into the Associated Press and USA Today top 25 polls for the first time … QB Jarrett Brown left the game against Marshall after a helmet-to-helmet hit and is questionable for Saturday's game … True freshman QB Geno Smith could make his first career start against Connecticut … Smith has completed 23 of 33 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown and one interception in limited action this year … RB Noel Devine is averaging 122.3 yards per game, good for sixth nationally, and has nine rushing touchdowns … WR Jock Sanders is seventh nationally in receptions per game (7.5 rpg) … DE Julian Miller has team highs of 4.5 sacks and six tackles for loss … K Tyler Bitancurt has gone 6-for-6 in field goal attempts, but has attempted just two three-pointers in the last five games … P Scott Kozlowski is ranked fourth nationally in punting (46.3 ypp).


LOUISVILLE at Cincinnati
Sat 10/24
3:30 PM
ESPNU
Saturday's game will be the 50th meeting between Louisville and Cincinnati in a rivalry that dates to 1922 … Cincinnati holds a 27-21-1 series lead after taking a 28-20 decision last year at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium … Bearcat QB Tony Pike threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns last year to help Cincinnati erase a 17-14 halftime deficit … The Cardinals had won five straight in the series prior to last year's game.

Louisville looks for its first win in Big East play as the Cardinals fell to 0-2 in the conference with a 38-25 loss at Connecticut … Louisville reeled off 457 yards of offense against the Huskies, but was undone by four turnovers … QB Adam Froman strung together 16 consecutive completed passes during the Connecticut game … Froman has started the last three games behind center and has completed 64.4 percent of his passes … RB Victor Anderson is the leading rusher (70.7 yards per game), but was limited to spot duty against Connecticut due to a deep leg bruise … WR Scott Long leads a deep group of receivers with 28 receptions, 468 yards and a touchdown … WR Trent Guy is averaging 117.3 all-purpose yards per game and is averaging 25.6 yards on kickoff returns … LB Jon Dempsey has a team-high 64 tackles … DT William Savoy has three sacks … K Ryan Payne is the only barefooted kicker in the Bowl Subdivision.

Cincinnati continues to climb in the national rankings as the Bearcats enter this week's game at No. 5 in the Associated Press poll and No. 6 in the USA Today poll … Cincinnati is No. 5 in the first BCS standings of 2009 after finishing the 2008 season at No. 12 in the final standings … Cincinnati has won its four road games by an average of 20.8 points … The Bearcats play at home for just the third time this season when they face Louisville … QB Tony Pike suffered an injury to his left (non-throwing) wrist against USF last Thursday and is questionable for Saturday's game … QB Zach Collaros came off the bench to rush for 132 yards and two touchdowns against USF … WR Mardy Gilyard is averaging 98.7 yards per game and has seven touchdown catches … Cincinnati has allowed just nine touchdowns this year … Conversely, the Bearcats have scored 33 touchdowns and have punted just 26 times … LB Alex Daniels has a team-high 5.5 sacks, while LB J.K. Schaffer and S Aaron Webster have three interceptions each.


PITTSBURGH vs. USF
Sat 10/24
12:00 PM
Big East Network
USF and Pittsburgh meet for the seventh time Saturday with the winner taking a one-game lead in the series standings … The series stands tied at 3-3 following Pittsburgh's 26-21 win at Raymond James Stadium last year … Pitt RB LeSean McCoy ran for 142 yards and two touchdowns in last year's game … USF has taken two of the three meetings at Heinz Field.

USF suffered its first loss of the season with a 34-17 setback to Cincinnati … The Bulls fell out of the Associated Press and USA Today top 25 polls, but are ranked No. 24 in this week's Harris Interactive poll … USF is the only Bowl Subdivision team to have started 5-0 in each of the last three seasons … QB B.J. Daniels has started the last three games in place of the injured Matt Grothe and enters Saturday's game as the Bulls' leading rusher and passer … Daniels has thrown seven touchdown passes and has run for four TDs … WR Carlton Mitchell is the leading receiver with 23 catches for 404 yards and three touchdowns … DE George Selvie has 6.5 tackles for loss and is 8.5 away from the NCAA career record of 75, held by Jason Babin of Western Michigan … DE Jason Pierre-Paul is tabbed at No. 12 on Mel Kiper's NFL draft board … S Nate Allen has a team-high three interceptions and is the Bulls' leading tackler (36) … DT Craig Marshall has a team-high four sacks.

Pittsburgh improved to 3-0 in the Big East and 6-1 overall with a 24-17 win at Rutgers last Friday … The Panthers moved into the national polls for the first time this season and are ranked No. 19 in the USA Today poll and No. 20 in the Associated Press poll … Pitt was the favorite to win the BIG EAST title in the preseason media poll … A win against USF would leave Pittsburgh at 7-1 for the first time since Dan Marino led the 1982 Panthers to seven wins in their first eight games … Pitt is 16-5 in its last 21 games for the Panthers' best stretch since a 17-4 run from 2001-03 … RB Dion Lewis enters Saturday's game as the Big East leader in rushing (131.1 yards per game) … Lewis ranks third nationally … Lewis was chosen as the Rivals.com National Freshman of the Week after his 180-yard effort against Rutgers last week … TE Dorin Dickerson is tied for the national lead with eight touchdown receptions … QB Bill Stull leads the Big East in pass efficiency (159.4) and is seventh nationally … Stull has thrown 14 touchdown passes and just three interceptions …The Panthers are averaging 4.1 sacks per game, good for third among Bowl Subdivision teams, and are allowing fewer than one sack per game.


RUTGERS at Army
Fri 10/23
8:00 PM
ESPN2
Friday's game will be the 36th meeting between Rutgers and Army in a series that dates to 1891 … Army holds an 18-17 series lead, but Rutgers has won the five meetings and eight of the last 10 … Rutgers was a 30-3 winner last year at Rutgers Stadium behind 359 passing yards from QB Mike Teel and 197 receiving yards from WR Kenny Britt. The schools are slated to play a Nov. 12, 2011, game at Yankee Stadium … Friday's game shapes up as a battle between two of the nation's six true freshman starting quarterbacks in Rutgers' Tom Savage and Army's Trent Steelman.

Rutgers saw a four-game winning streak end with a 24-17 loss to Pittsburgh last Friday … After allowing 47 points to Cincinnati in the season-opener, the Scarlet Knights have allowed just 52 points in the last five games combined … Rutgers has won eight straight games against teams from New York state … Friday's game is just the second road game for Rutgers this year … QB Tom Savage has thrown five touchdown passes and just one interception in 124 attempts this year … Savage is looking to become just the second true freshman quarterback in school history to win a road game (Ryan Cubit won at Buffalo in 2001) … RBs Joe Martinek (five touchdowns) and Jourdan Brooks (four TDs) have accounted for nine of the team's 12 rushing touchdowns … WR Tim Brown is third in the Big East in receiving yards (91.3 per game) … DE Jonathan Freeny has 6.5 sacks to rank third in the Big East in total sacks and second in sacks per game (1.08).

Army fell to 3-4 after a 27-13 loss to Temple in Philadelphia … The Black Knights have won three games in each of the last three seasons and have already hit that number under first-year head coach Rich Ellerson … QB Trent Steelman runs Army's trademark triple option and is the team's leading rusher and passer … Steelman has run for 407 yards and three touchdowns and has thrown for 266 yards and two TDs … The Black Knights average one pass attempt for every four running plays … WR Ali Villanueva has all four of Army's touchdown receptions … Army ranks 12th nationally in rushing (222.6 yards per game) and is 17th in total defense (285 yards per game) … LB Josh McNary has 9.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss, ranking third nationally in both categories … K Alex Carlton is the leading scorer with 44 points … Carlton has made 12 of 16 field goal attempts, including 4 of 5 from 40 yards or longer.


SYRACUSE vs. Akron
Sat 10/24
3:30 PM
Big East Network
Syracuse and Akron have met just once prior to Saturday's game … The Zips took a 42-28 win last year on three touchdown passes by QB Chris Jacquemain … The game was tied 28-28 early in the fourth quarter before Akron pulled away … RB Curtis Brinkley ran for 143 yards and a TD for Syracuse.

Syracuse looks to snap a two-game slide with Saturday's game against Akron … Syracuse needs just one win to match last season's total … The Orange play the fifth game of a six-game homestand and are 2-2 in that stretch … Syracuse has allowed 34 points in three of its six games, including each of the last two … QB Greg Paulus has thrown for 1,187 yards and eight touchdowns with 10 interceptions … QB Ryan Nassib came off the bench to throw two touchdown passes in the second half against West Virginia in the Orange's most recent game … WR Mike Williams is ranked sixth nationally in receiving yards (118.7 ypg) … Williams has 45 receptions for 712 yards and six touchdowns … RB Delone Carter is the leading rusher with 360 yards and five touchdowns … LB Derrell Smith has team highs of 55 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries … DT Arthur Jones and his younger brother, DE Chandler Jones, have five tackles for loss each … K Ryan Lichtenstein has made 9 of 10 field goal attempts … P Rob Long is averaging 42.9 yards per punt and has dropped 12 of his 32 kicks inside the 20-yard line.

Akron dropped its fourth straight game with a 21-17 setback at Buffalo last Saturday … The Zips' lone win of 2009 was a 41-0 decision against Morgan State Sept. 12 … Akron plays the second of three straight road games with Saturday's trip to Syracuse … The Zips have been outscored 92-52 in the first half … Akron went with true freshman QB Patrick Nicely behind center against Buffalo after QB Matt Rodgers was lost for the season with a knee injury during the loss to Ohio a week earlier … Rodgers had assumed the starting spot following the dismissal of three-year starter Chris Jacquemain two weeks earlier … Nicely has appeared in just two games and has completed 26 of 57 passes with two interceptions … Akron's top defensive player has been freshman LB Brian Wagner, who is averaging 11 tackles per game to lead the Mid-American Conference and rank sixth nationally … Wagner also has team highs of two interceptions, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 4.5 tackles for loss … Akron's men's soccer team is ranked No. 1 in the nation in last week's coaches poll.


USF at Pittsburgh
Sat 10/24
12:00 PM
Big East Network
USF and Pittsburgh meet for the seventh time Saturday with the winner taking a one-game lead in the series standings … The series stands tied at 3-3 following Pittsburgh's 26-21 win at Raymond James Stadium last year … Pitt RB LeSean McCoy ran for 142 yards and two touchdowns in last year's game … USF has taken two of the three meetings at Heinz Field.

USF suffered its first loss of the season with a 34-17 setback to Cincinnati … The Bulls fell out of the Associated Press and USA Today top 25 polls, but are ranked No. 24 in this week's Harris Interactive poll … USF is the only Bowl Subdivision team to have started 5-0 in each of the last three seasons … QB B.J. Daniels has started the last three games in place of the injured Matt Grothe and enters Saturday's game as the Bulls' leading rusher and passer … Daniels has thrown seven touchdown passes and has run for four TDs … WR Carlton Mitchell is the leading receiver with 23 catches for 404 yards and three touchdowns … DE George Selvie has 6.5 tackles for loss and is 8.5 away from the NCAA career record of 75, held by Jason Babin of Western Michigan … DE Jason Pierre-Paul is tabbed at No. 12 on Mel Kiper's NFL draft board … S Nate Allen has a team-high three interceptions and is the Bulls' leading tackler (36) … DT Craig Marshall has a team-high four sacks.

Pittsburgh improved to 3-0 in the Big East and 6-1 overall with a 24-17 win at Rutgers last Friday … The Panthers moved into the national polls for the first time this season and are ranked No. 19 in the USA Today poll and No. 20 in the Associated Press poll … Pitt was the favorite to win the BIG EAST title in the preseason media poll … A win against USF would leave Pittsburgh at 7-1 for the first time since Dan Marino led the 1982 Panthers to seven wins in their first eight games … Pitt is 16-5 in its last 21 games for the Panthers' best stretch since a 17-4 run from 2001-03 … RB Dion Lewis enters Saturday's game as the Big East leader in rushing (131.1 yards per game) … Lewis ranks third nationally … Lewis was chosen as the Rivals.com National Freshman of the Week after his 180-yard effort against Rutgers last week … TE Dorin Dickerson is tied for the national lead with eight touchdown receptions … QB Bill Stull leads the Big East in pass efficiency (159.4) and is seventh nationally … Stull has thrown 14 touchdown passes and just three interceptions …The Panthers are averaging 4.1 sacks per game, good for third among Bowl Subdivision teams, and are allowing fewer than one sack per game.


WEST VIRGINIA vs. Connecticut
Sat 10/24
12:00 PM
ESPNU
Saturday's game will be the sixth meeting between Connecticut and West Virginia … The Mountaineers have won all five previous meetings … Last year's game saw West Virginia overcome a 13-7 halftime deficit behind three third-quarter touchdowns by WR Jock Sanders in a 35-13 Mountaineer win … QB Pat White also ran for two scores for West Virginia.

Connecticut will take the field with a collective heavy heart Saturday as the Huskies mourn the passing of Jasper Howard … Howard was killed early Sunday morning just hours after playing a key role as a starting cornerback in Connecticut's win against Louisville at Rentschler Field … The Huskies will recognize Howard with a helmet decal for the remainder of the season … RB Andre Dixon and RB Jordan Todman comprised the Big East's top backfield tandem, with Dixon rushing for 616 yards and seven touchdowns and Todman bringing 502 yards and six TDs into Saturday's game … QB Cody Endres has thrown for 936 yards and four touchdowns and is ranked 14th nationally in pass efficiency rating (152.72) … WR Marcus Easley, who had not scored a touchdown in his first 26 career games, has both reached the end zone and had more than 100 receiving yards in back-to-back games … LB Lawrence Wilson has a team-high 66 tackles to go with three sacks and two forced fumbles … DE Lindsey Witten has 9.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss.

West Virginia won its third straight game with a 24-7 decision against Marshall last Saturday … It was the first time that West Virginia did not score at least 30 points … The Mountaineers have moved into the Associated Press and USA Today top 25 polls for the first time … QB Jarrett Brown left the game against Marshall after a helmet-to-helmet hit and is questionable for Saturday's game … True freshman QB Geno Smith could make his first career start against Connecticut … Smith has completed 23 of 33 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown and one interception in limited action this year … RB Noel Devine is averaging 122.3 yards per game, good for sixth nationally, and has nine rushing touchdowns … WR Jock Sanders is seventh nationally in receptions per game (7.5 rpg) … DE Julian Miller has team highs of 4.5 sacks and six tackles for loss … K Tyler Bitancurt has gone 6-for-6 in field goal attempts, but has attempted just two three-pointers in the last five games … P Scott Kozlowski is ranked fourth nationally in punting (46.3 ypp).


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