Louisville keeps rolling along as the Big East’s only undefeated team, but the rest of the conference has serious questions to answer in the final four Saturdays of the season.
Cincinnati and USF have new quarterback concerns due to ineffectiveness or injury. Pittsburgh and Syracuse must regroup after deflating losses. Rutgers is still looking for what went wrong in two-score loss at home to Kent State. And Temple and Connecticut are searching for anything to keep them competitive in the final weeks.
Other Week 11 Previews and Predictions
Big East’s Top Storylines to Watch in Week 11:
What can Louisville to improve its clout on a national level?
The answer may be “not much.” Through the 9-0 start, the Cardinals have faced only two teams with winning records. One of those, North Carolina, isn’t eligible for the postseason, and the other team, Cincinnati, Louisville defeated in overtime a week after a loss to Toledo. That’s what has led to Louisville being ranked five spots behind the other undefeated teams in BCS contention and behind two two-loss teams. The picture is worse in the Associated Press top 25, where the Cardinals haven’t cracked the top 10. For now, Louisville needs to show more signs of dominance, as it did last week in a 45-17 rout against Temple. The Cardinals may be the favorite in the Big East, but the Cardinals are last in the Big East in more major categories (net punting and tackles for loss) than they are in first (pass efficiency). But Louisville has one star player capable of making the country take notice -- Teddy Bridgewater.
Can Syracuse get out of its own way?
Syracuse had a handful of ways it could have defeated Cincinnati last week. The Bearcats switched quarterbacks mid-game and turned the ball over three times (not counting a near pick six). Meanwhile, Syracuse outgained Cincinnati by a narrow margin (479-470) on the road. But the Orange fumbled twice deep in its own territory. This has been the story all year for Syracuse. The Orange are minus-10 in turnovers in its losses, all games in which Syracuse was in striking distance at halftime. Behind quarterback Ryan Nassib, Syracuse has one of the league’s best offenses, but the Orange averages only 26.4 points per game. It’s going to take a perfect game to defeat Louisville, something Syracuse hasn’t been able to do often in the last two years.
Regardless of the quarterback situation, is George Winn ready to be Cincinnati’s focal point on offense?
If there’s been a constant through all the inconsistency in performance -- and now perhaps personnel -- at quarterback for Cincinnati, it’s been the play of George Winn. The senior running back has rushed for at least 75 yards in each game this season and 290 total yards in the last two games against Louisville and Syracuse. Coach Butch Jones said starter Munchie Legaux and Brendon Kay, who relieved a struggling Legaux in the win over Syracuse, will continue to compete for snaps. Regardless of the outcome this week against Temple, Winn needs to be the rock of the Bearcats offense.
Can Pittsburgh avoid a post-Notre Dame hangover?
In theory, a team that took undefeated Notre Dame to triple overtime on the road should be able to handle hapless Connecticut. In theory. If anything, Pittsburgh has proven it is anything but predictable this season. First-year coach Paul Chryst must prepare his team after a crushing defeat in South Bend ended the possibility of a signature win. Connecticut still hasn't figured out its offense, so the key contest to watch will be the run game. Ray Graham has rushed for 281 yards and three touchdowns the last two weeks, and now he faces the No. 2 run defense in the league.
How will Rutgers fare in the first half?
After a month of slow starts, Rutgers will be pressed to show it can score early and often against 2-7 Army. The Scarlet Knights scored 10 points in the first half against Kent State, none against Temple, seven against Syracuse and six against Connecticut. In three of those games, Rutgers rebounded after halftime, but not in a turnover-laden second half against Kent State. With Army milking the clock with the option, Rutgers will need to make the most of limited opportunities.
Week 11 Big East Predictions:
Week 11 Big East Games
Pittsburgh at Connecticut
Louisville at Syracuse
Cincinnati at Temple
Army at Rutgers
by David Fox
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