September 20, 2006

Big East: Week 4 Breakdown

Fox's Big East picks national writer David Fox's predictions for Week 4 in the Big East.
Saturday's games:
West Virginia 49, East Carolina 14
Louisville 38, Kansas State 10
Virginia Tech 31, Cincinnati 7
Pittsburgh 28, The Citadel 10
Rutgers 35, Howard 7
Connecticut 24, Indiana 21
Miami (Ohio) 17, Syracuse 10
South Florida 20, Kansas 17
Last week: 5-3 Season: 19-3

Best matchup: South Florida's receivers vs. Kansas cornerback Aqib Talib. Senior wide receiver Ean Randolph had a breakout game against Central Florida last week with five catches for 126 yards and a touchdown. Junior Amarri Jackson has also had his moments over the last two years. Talib, a Freshman All-American last year, had six tackles and three pass breakups against Toledo in his first game of the year.

Worst matchup: East Carolina - 108th in the country in rush defense after allowing 207.3 yards per game against Navy, UAB and Memphis - will have to face West Virginia's Steve Slaton and Pat White. The Mountaineers duo has combined for 219.3 rushing yards per game.

The pressure is on: Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel. After a 14-of-20, 145-yard performance against North Carolina, Teel is 20 for 40 with four interceptions the last two games. With this week's game against Division I-AA Howard, backup Jabu Lovelace is sure to get some playing time and a chance to impress.

Upset alert: USF over Kansas. Kansas has won eight in a row in Lawrence, but the Bulls (who are five-point underdogs) could end that streak. The Jayhawks are coming off an overtime loss to Toledo on the road and have a Big 12-worst nine turnovers. Of those, seven are interceptions from freshman quarterback Kerry Meier. USF's defense has allowed only two touchdowns this season.

Most to gain: South Florida. The Bulls are coming off a fourth-quarter win on the road over Central Florida. While they haven't found a running back yet, they have found a quarterback. Redshirt freshman Matt Grothe passed for 302 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 73 yards against the Golden Knights. A win on the road over Kansas, which lost in overtime last week to Toledo, would give USF a 4-0 start with two road wins heading into the Big East schedule.

Most to lose: Louisville. The Cardinals made a statement with the rout of Miami last week, but lost starting quarterback Brian Brohm. Hunter Cantwell is a capable replacement, but he will have to make his first start of the season on the road against Kansas State. While a loss wouldn't affect the Big East race, it would put a damper on last week's program-defining win.

Who's hot: South Florida cornerback Trae Williams. He is tied for second in the country with four interceptions after recording two picks against Central Florida last week.

Who's not: Pittsburgh's ground game both offensively and defensively. In the loss to Michigan State, the Panthers failed to rush for 100 yards for the fourth time in the last six games, dating to last season. The run defense also fell apart against the Spartans, allowing 335 yards in the 38-23 loss.

Must see TV: Louisville at Kansas State, noon, Fox Sports Net

Backup who could have an impact: Pittsburgh fullback Conredge Collins. The Panthers are looking to spark the run game, which averages just over 92 yards per game. Collins, who has 11 carries for 45 yards in the last two games, could give Pitt a boost. Dave Wannstedt plans to use his most experienced back more as a runner this week against The Citadel.

Key stat: 1. Defensive touchdowns for Syracuse in two seasons under Greg Robinson. Linebacker Jerry Mackey returned a fumble 15 yards for a touchdown in the win over Illinois.

Take the line: Brohm's absence means Kansas State is a mere 14-point underdog at home against Louisville. The Cardinals didn't miss a beat without Michael Bush. Don't expect a dropoff this week either. Take Louisville to cover. Season: 2-1

They said it: "We embraced the schedule. We need to have a measuring stick here. We need to measure where we're at. That's a tough stretch for us."
Cincinnati coach Mark Dantonio on his schedule, which includes back-to-back road games against Ohio State and Virginia Tech. Cincinnati lost to the Buckeyes 37-7 last week.

Injury update: Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm is out for 3-6 weeks following thumb surgery. Connecticut running back Terry Caulley is expected to return against Indiana after being hospitalized with what was feared to be a rib or spleen injury. It was determined to be an abdominal strain. Pittsburgh running back LaRod Stephens-Howling returned from an ankle injury to run eight times for 33 yards and a touchdown against Michigan State. Safety Mike Phillips is expected to start against the Citadel after being sidelined by a strained Achilles and twisted ankle. South Florida starting left guard Jake Griffin is out indefinitely with a foot injury.

Worth noting: Three Big East schools West Virginia, Louisville and Connecticut are among the top six rushing offenses in the country. The Cardinals and Mountaineers are first and second nationally in scoring offense. Caulley set the Connecticut career rushing record against Wake Forest with 2,689 career yards. Pittsburgh's Derek Kinder leads the nation in receiving with 370 yards. USF running back Ricky Ponton, defensive end Josh Julmiste and wide receiver Jackie Chambers remain suspended due to a violation of the team's substance abuse policy. They are not eligible to return until the Oct. 14 game at North Carolina. Grothe and Kansas' Kerry Meier rank first and second among freshman quarterbacks in passing and total offense. USF has allowed only two offensive touchdowns this year. Three TDs against the Bulls have come from special teams and one by the offense.

Looking back: It was more of the same for West Virginia and Louisville, who asserted themselves again as the class of the conference with wins over Maryland and Miami. Pittsburgh had a setback after two impressive wins with a second-half collapse at home against Michigan State. Connecticut also struggled. Despite outgaining Wake Forest by 100 yards and picking up twice as many first downs, the Huskies lost 24-13 at home. Two interceptions, a missed field goal and missed extra point and five sacks led to UConn's downfall. Syracuse got its first win in more than a year with a 31-21 victory at Illinois.

Freshman who impressed: In addition to USF's Grothe - who leads all freshmen in total offense and passing - Syracuse running back Delone Carter elevated himself to second on the depth chart behind Curtis Brinkley. Against Illinois, Carter ran 19 times for 63 yards.

More Week 4 Conference Previews: ACC | Big Ten | Big 12 | Pac-10 | SEC

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