Four weeks into the season, and it’s tough to figure what to make of the Big East in 2012. Last week was not good. That much is clear: Big East teams lost to two MAC programs. Syracuse dropped a winnable game against Minnesota and a backup quarterback. Temple’s best chance to upset Penn State in quite a while fizzled with a 24-13 loss.
Yet at the same time, Rutgers defeated Arkansas on the road. Despite the struggles in Fayetteville, this should remain a bragging point for the Scarlet Knights. And just a week ago, Big East teams were 3-0 against ACC programs.
This week, Cincinnati will get its crack at Virginia Tech, which is two weeks removed from a loss to Pittsburgh. That may be the league’s best chance at a statement game this week as USF may be overmatched with Florida State. Louisville and Connecticut will face teams that are a combined 1-5 this season.
Other Week 5 Previews and Predictions
Big East Top Storylines to Watch in Week 5:
Can Walter Stewart disrupt Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas as much as he disrupted Pitt’s Tino Sunseri?
Defensive end Walter Stewart led a defensive effort against Pittsburgh in Week 2 that included 10 tackles for a loss and six sacks for the Bearcats. Stewart himself accounted for 3.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks and a forced fumble. Although Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri has been excellent the last two weeks, Cincinnati may have a different test against Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas. The Hokies quarterback can escape a pass rush (588 running yards since last season). He’s tough to bring down at 6-foot-6. And he has a NFL arm strength. Thomas bounced back from his three-interception day against Pitt with 144 passing yards, 65 rushing yards and three total touchdowns against Bowling Green (albeit on 11-of-26 passing with an interception). Even if Thomas is struggling, Cincinnati must answer the call against an above average quarterback.
Which Cincinnati offense will show against Virginia Tech?
In the season debut for Cincinnati quarterback Munchie Legaux and running back George Winn against Pitt, the Bearcats looked like a big-play offense. In the second game, Cincinnati’s offense looked more problematic with six turnovers, including four from Legaux. The question is which offense will show up after an open date against Virginia Tech, which is traditionally one of the nation’s stronger defenses.
How will Louisville respond to the last six quarters of football?
For a Big East favorite and a top-25 program, Louisville hasn’t been at its best over the last game and a half. North Carolina outscored Louisville 27-3 in the fourth quarter two weeks ago, and Louisville played close with FIU last week in a 28-21 win on the road. Teddy Bridgewater didn’t have his best game against FIU, and the defense has had its lapses. In another road game (the Cards' second in a span of three consecutive away dates), Louisville should have success against Southern Miss. Although the Eagles went 12-2 and won the Conference USA title last season, Southern Miss is struggling mightily in an 0-3 start in 2012. The Eagles’ closest loss was by 10 at home against East Carolina. Louisville should make easy work of Southern Miss. If not, then Rutgers maybe the clear team to beat in the Big East.
Is there any magic left in the bottle for USF against Florida State?
The only game between Florida State and USF was a 17-7 loss for the Seminoles in B.J. Daniels’ first career start for the Bulls. Since then, USF hasn’t been the program on the rise many predicted it would become. Instead, the Bulls have gone 19-19 since one of the program’s signature wins. The Bulls' inconsistency has continued this season through last week’s 31-27 loss to Ball State. USF’s defense was ineffective against the Cardinals, so what hope is there against a team that has amassed at least 600 yards in three games this season, including 667 against Clemson last week? USF will try to catch Florida State napping again this season, but this probably isn’t the 7-6 FSU team the Bulls beat in 2009.
Hey, UConn, you want to stop the Big East’s losing streak against the MAC?
Big East teams lost twice to MAC programs last week, both on the road (UConn to Western Michigan, USF to Ball State). For a league that has battled a credibility program for several years, that’s not a positive development, to say the least. The Huskies should be able to stop the bleeding against Buffalo, a 1-2 team that has lost by 16 to Kent State and by 22 to Georgia. UConn’s offense has showed some signs of life with 333 passing yards and 92 rushing yards against Western Michigan. Alas, the defense let up, particularly against the pass, in a 30-24 Huskies loss.
Week 5 Big East Predictions:
Week 5 Big East games
Buffalo (+16) at Connecticut
Cincinnati (+6.5) vs. Virginia Tech
Va. Tech 28-21
Va. Tech 31-21
Va. Tech 30-20
Va. Tech 27-24
Florida State at USF (+17)
Louisville at Southern Miss (+10)
By David Fox
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