West Virginia at Connecticut, Friday, 8:00 p.m. EST
This should be a game that showcases two of the nation’s best backs: West Virginia’s Noel Devine and Connecticut’s Jordan Todman. The bigger storyline, however, has to do with the courses of the teams involved.
West Virginia seemed to be the class of the Big East, with the only blemish a close loss at LSU. That is, until Syracuse visited Morgantown and ruined Homecoming for the Mountaineers. Now head coach Bill Stewart is back on the hot seat in the Mountain State at 1–1 in league play. “I hope that (the Syracuse loss) serves as a wake-up call to our football program so that we can get back on track,” Stewart said on Tuesday.
WVU, now 5–2, hasn’t lost back-to-back games since 2008. But previously steady quarterback Geno Smith threw three interceptions against SU, and the rushing attack the Mountaineers used to be known for is now ranked 73rd nationally.
Connecticut, though, has bigger problems. The Huskies are 3–4 overall and in the Big East cellar at 0–2. Also, Randy Edsall has a mess on his hands at the quarterback position. The team’s best QB this season, Cody Endres, has been tossed from the team. Zach Frazer didn’t appear to be the answer. And redshirt freshman Michael Box, who probably will get this start, has completed 6-of-17 passes for 65 yards with a pick.
Watch the standoff between Connecticut’s rushing attack, led by Todman, the nation’s No. 5 runner, and WVU’s rush defense, ranked No. 11 nationally.
Louisville at Pittsburgh, Saturday, noon EST
Charlie Strong has made some early strides in his first season as the Louisville coach. Evidence could be seen last week when the Cardinals shut out Connecticut 26–0. This week? “We’re going to see exactly where we are as a football team,” Strong said.
Seems that way. Both teams are 4–3 overall, but Pitt has averaged 43 points in winning its two Big East games this season and is now looking like the team picked to win the league in the conference’s preseason poll. The Cardinals, meanwhile, are still trying to prove themselves at 1–1 in league play.
The key matchup in this game will be Louisville’s rushing attack, ranked No. 1 in the Big East, against Pittsburgh’s rush defense, also ranked No. 1 in the league. The Cardinals boast the nation’s No. 4 rusher in Bilal Powell, who is averaging 143.29 yards. Also, Strong says that running back Victor Anderson has a “50-50" chance of returning from a shoulder injury.
On the other side, Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt hasn’t ruled out the return of standout defensive end Greg Romeus for the contest. Romeus, who was considered one of the nation’s top ends, is recovering from back surgery.
U of L quarterback Adam Froman has been steady this season. The wildcard, however, is Panthers QB Tino Sunseri, who has been on fire the last two games, completing 74.5 percent of his passes for 588 yards and seven touchdowns with just one interception.
Syracuse at Cincinnati, Saturday, noon EST
Check this out. On paper, Cincinnati, the Big East’s back-to-back champions, has a battle on its hands with Syracuse, which has been sweeping the league’s cellar of late.
The Orange has sandwiched a blowout loss at the hands of Pittsburgh with victories over South Florida and West Virginia. The latter win was a stunning 19–14 decision over the then-ranked Mountaineers in Morgantown on Homecoming.
“There was a different sense in the locker room after the West Virginia game,” said coach Doug Marrone.
That sense carries over to this game. SU is now in second place in the Big East with a 2–1 record. The Orange have the league’s No. 2 total defense. And when standout tailback Delone Carter went down with a hip bruise in Morgantown, junior Antwon Bailey stepped in and had 94 rushing yards.
What SU will have to contend with, however, is the Big East’s No. 1 offense, which averages 446.43 yards. There is a question, though, whether UC quarterback Zach Collaros will play after suffering a bruised knee in last week’s 38–30 loss to South Florida. If Collaros can’t go, Chazz Anderson is expected to get the start.
This should be interesting. Cincinnati saw its 14-game winning streak at Nippert Stadium end last week as well as its 13-game winning streak against Big East opponents. The team is 3–4 overall. The Bearcats are also ranked last in the league in total defense and No. 64 nationally, allowing an average of 367.71 yards a game.