Big East Football: Friday and Saturday Preview
Connecticut at Rutgers (Friday, 7:30 ET)
The Line: Connecticut minus-6.0
As great as Connecticut has been the past three seasons, the Huskies are only 4-16 on the road within the Big East. Head coach Randy Edsall has been with the team since 1999, and his record on the road is not any more impressive: 21-34.
Rutgers, however, has had Connecticut’s number, compiling a 20-9 record against the Huskies in the rivalry’s history. The past two games have ended in Scarlet Knight victories by just a combined six points. This Greg Schiano-led group is 32-27 at home.
If we were to base the outcome of this game on how the two schools have played thus far on the year, then Connecticut would win by three scores. The Huskies played tough in the only two road games played so far, a 30-10 loss at Michigan and a 30-16 loss at Temple. The three home wins have seen an average score of 49-15, one of which was a 40-21 victory over Vanderbilt, one of two Big East wins over BCS opponents on the year.
The Scarlet Knights are dead last in the Big East in both points per game and yards per game. Rutgers nearly lost at Florida International on September 11th, and did lose to Tulane last Saturday. Schiano’s squad will need to rely on its conference leading defense—first in points, second in total yards—to put Connecticut’s Jordan Todman on hold. That last feat, though, has been difficult to do.
In the four games Todman has played, he has rushed for 638 yards on 98 carries and seven touchdowns—good enough for fourth in the nation in both total yards and yards per game.
The Score: Connecticut 23, Rutgers 10
Syracuse at South Florida (12:00 ET)
The Line: South Florida minus-7.5
The Bulls of South Florida and the Orange of Syracuse have not historically made for great football games. Of the five meetings between the two schools, each game was won by South Florida in convincing fashion: at least 14 points.
That’s not to say the Orange are not making strides. Syracuse has scored as many, if not more, points as the year prior in games against the Bulls.
But this year should arguably be the most evenly matched stint between the two schools. Both schools are 3-1 with losses at better BCS programs and neither team has surrendered more than 14 points in any win.
Something that has gone ridiculously overlooked this year is the fact that the Big East lacks quarterback experience. No other conference has taken more bashing from the media and/or fans than the Big East. (Okay, maybe the ACC.) Of the eight teams, five boast sophomore starting quarterbacks. The next closest BCS conference is the Pac-10, which has six of 12 teams starting sophomores or freshmen.
If the Bulls had a healthy Matt Grothe—hell, if they had an injured Grothe—then I would easily have South Florida winning this match. Head coach Skip Holtz is making his Big East debut, so it would be unfair to gauge him just yet.
As for Orange head coach Doug Marrone, he has had seven opportunities to win a Big East game. His lone victory was last year’s second-to-last game at home against No. 25 Rutgers, a 31-13 win.
I think Syracuse wins its first Big East road game since 2007 on Saturday. The Orange lost at Washington by three touchdowns, but it was a great game, and it never hurts to come off a bye week.
The Score: Syracuse 28, South Florida 21
Pittsburgh at Notre Dame (3:30 ET)
The Line: Notre Dame minus-6.0
Unless Pittsburgh reaches a bowl game against a formidable opponent, this will be the last chance the Panthers have at impressing media members, coaches, and/or voters. The remainder of the slate for Dave Wannstedt’s group is comprised of Big East adversaries, and a victory of none would prove as helpful as a win over the Irish of Notre Dame.
The Irish have owned Pittsburgh since 1988, holding a 12-4 record. But since the departure of Brady Quinn and the full implementation of Charlie Weiss, Notre Dame has been awful. Over the past three years the Irish are 16-21. This year has not been much better seeing just a 2-3 start with two home losses. The Irish have lost to Pittsburgh each of the past two seasons, including a four-overtime thriller in 2008.
On paper, Pittsburgh should win. The Panthers have a much better defense and two sophomore running backs that can kill you in Dion Lewis and Ray Graham. Then what is the Panthers’ kryptonite? If it is not the quarterback situation with sophomore Tino Sunseri, then it is Wannstedt. Both of Pittsburgh’s losses have come at the hands of currently ranked teams—a 27-24 overtime loss at now-No. 10 Utah and a 31-3 shellacking by now-No. 13 Miami (FL).
But no one cares what happens on paper; that is why we play the games.
I know you have heard it a thousand times over, but Notre Dame truly could be 4-1 right now. The Irish lost to Michigan and Michigan State on final drives, and have beat both Purdue and Boston College handily.
Notre Dame’s home record has not been great the past few years, but that does not mean the Irish do not feel comfortable at home. I expect Brian Kelly to get his third career win with Notre Dame, put the Irish back at .500, and set the wheels in full motion before hitting the softer portion of its schedule.
The Score: Notre Dame 28, Pittsburgh 17
Straight up: 3-1
Vs. spread: 1-3
Straight up: 14-2
Vs. spread: 6-10
(I failed to predict scores before Week 1, but if you would like to count my predictions on Week 1 from an outside source, you can add the following: Straight up 2-1, Vs. spread 0-3)
(Odds courtesy of SportsBook.com by way of our friends at NBCSports.com.)
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