Big East Week 7 Preview and Predictions

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Charlie Strong is looking for more from his struggling pass rush

<p> Big East Week 7 Preview and Predictions</p>

The Big East favorites are well established with Cincinnati, Louisville and Rutgers are vying for the top spot.

The middle of the league is a different story. Syracuse’s 14-13 upset of Pittsburgh last week and Temple’s 37-28 upset of USF shook up the Big East’s second tier. This week may establish more clarity.

Pittsburgh and Syracuse take on two of the league favorites in Louisville and Rutgers, respectively. Meanwhile, Temple, picked to finish last in the preseason, will try to open its conference schedule at 2-0 when it faces struggling Connecticut.

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Big East’s top Storylines to Watch in Week 7:

Will Louisville’s struggling pass rush thrive against Pittsburgh

Facing Pittsburgh the last two seasons has proven to be a boon for opposing pass rushers, most recently Syracuse with five sacks last week. The Cardinals have the same amount all season, and no one on Louisville’s defense has multiple sacks. Defensive end Marcus Smith, who led the team with 5.5 sacks last season, has yet to get to the quarterback so far this season. Beyond the pass rush, the Cardinals haven’t been spectacular in the “big play” department. Louisville has intercepted only two passes all season, second-fewest in the Big East. As teams like Rutgers and Cincinnati continue to show improvement, Louisville will look to prove it can keep pace.

Which Pittsburgh will show up against Louisville?
Pittsburgh’s defense held up on its end of the field in the loss to Syracuse last week, shutting out the Orange after the final three quarters. Pitt also held Syracuse to 305 total yards and 4.8 yards per play, both season lows for Pitt against FBS competition. The offense, though, regressed, giving up five sacks and allowing a fumble to be returned to a touchdown. Most mystifying was a lack of production from the run game against Syracuse. In short, Pitt looked nothing like the team that picked up back-to-back wins entering the Syracuse game. Which Panthers team will face Louisville, a team the Panthers have defeated in each of the last four years?

Can Syracuse muster anything against the Rutgers defense?
The Rutgers defense enters its game against Syracuse allowing only 303 rushing yards all season. The Orange rushing game has been nothing special this season, putting more on the shoulders of quarterback Ryan Nassib. That could be problematic against Rutgers. Against the pass, the Scarlet Knights has been just as stifling, with nine interceptions in the last three games. After topping 450 yards in the first three games, Syracuse has had 350 yards or fewer in the last two against Minnesota and Pitt.

How long will Rutgers’ turnover fortune last?
The answer is possibly for quite a while. Rutgers is plus-nine in turnover margin the last three games against USF, Arkansas and Connecticut to lead the Big East in that category. The Scarlet Knights’ 11 takeaways in just the last three weeks is more than six Big East teams all season. This week’s opponent, Syracuse, has forced only five turnovers all year.

Can the hot streak continue for Montel Harris or will the Connecticut run defense reassert itself?
Montel Harris, who was injured for most of the first two games of the season, enjoyed his best game in a Temple uniform last week against USF. The Boston College transfer rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns as Matt Brown was sidelined for part of the game with an injury (he’s still day-to-day). Harris will try to build off that performance against UConn to give Temple a 2-0 start in its return to the Big East. The Huskies started the season as one of the best against the run, but the last two weeks broke a streak of teams rushing for fewer than 100 yards. Buffalo rushed for 141, and Rutgers rushed for 123. For the second consecutive week, the UConn front seven will be in a matchup of strength vs. strength.

Week 7 Big East Predictions:

Week 7 Big East Games David Fox Braden Gall Steven Lassan Mitch Light
Louisville at Pittsburgh Pitt 24-21 Lousville 30-24 Louisville 27-20 Louisville 27-23
Syracuse at Rutgers Rutgers 27-14 Rutgers 27-13 Rutgers 30-17 Rutgers 24-10
Temple at UConn Temple 14-10 UConn 20-17 UConn 24-20 UConn 17-10
Fordham at Cincinnati Cincinnati 56-10 Cincinnati 41-17 Cincinnati 41-6 Cincinnati 47-7
Last week 3-1 2-2 2-2 2-2
Overall 25-10 24-11 22-13 23-12

by David Fox

@DavidFox615

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