Big East previews
Cincinnati at North Carolina State
Thursday, 7:30 p.m. EST
Cincinnati coach Butch Jones, following in the footsteps of new Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, has his work cut out for him. A win at NC State would be a good working start.
After losing to Fresno State, which racked up eight sacks, Cincy bounced back to dismantle Indiana State 40–7. Interestingly, Jones had QB Zach Collaros pass only 17 times against ISU for 130 yards. Running back Darrin Williams stepped in for injured Isaiah Pead and rushed for 117 yards on 13 carries. With wideout Vidal Hazelton out for the season, it will be worth watching to see how Jones attacks NC State offensively.
The Wolfpack are 2–0 after defeating Central Florida 28–21 last Saturday. NC State took advantage of five UCF turnovers, even though the Pack’s offense mustered only 239 yards. QB Russell Wilson has completed 31 of 61 passes for 411 yards and two touchdowns.
Jones seems more concerned with the Wolfpack defense’s looks and blitzes. “We have a short week,” said the UC coach. “They do so many things. … It will be a great challenge for us across the board.”
Maryland at West Virginia
Saturday, noon EST
This series resumes for the 48th time after a three-year break.
So far this season, West Virginia has stumbled, although to a 2–0 record. The offensive line, which returned almost all of its starters, has been particularly head-scratching against Coastal Carolina and Marshall. WVU had to rally from a 21–6 deficit and win in overtime against the Thundering Herd. Still, tailback Noel Devine and fullback Ryan Clarke are averaging a combined 132.5 yards. And QB Geno Smith has emerged as a leader. He’s hit 72.2 percent of his passes, owns a 145.26 passer rating and led the rally against Marshall.
Maryland, meanwhile, has matched last season’s win total of two with victories over Navy and Morgan State.
“They’re hitting on all cylinders,” said WVU coach Bill Stewart. “I’m a big Navy fan … and they completely shut them down.”
The Terrapins will challenge WVU’s offensive line. They own a couple of nice linebackers in Alex Wujciak and Adrian Moten. But this is a game WVU needs for street cred.
“We hope to bring a 60-minute game to them,” Stewart said. “That’s what we’re working on.”
Connecticut at Temple
Saturday, noon EST
Whenever Temple plays a Big East team, the Owls have revenge on their minds. The league once booted Temple out and, in what has to be perceived as a cruel twist, are now looking at adding crosstown rival Villanova. The Owls, by the way, opened the season by defeating the Wildcats 31–24. TU is now 2–0 for the first time in 29 years after downing Mid-American Conference peer Central Michigan 13–10 in overtime.
Connecticut, however, simply can’t stumble at Lincoln Financial Field in Philly if preseason expectations are to be met. The Huskies rolled over Texas Southern last week 62–3 but began the season with a thud against Michigan.
The positive note is that tailback Jordan Todman leads the Big East in rushing, averaging 128 yards per game. QB Zach Frazer has yet to throw an interception and has completed 52.2 percent of his passes for 309 yards.
Louisville at Oregon State
Saturday, 2:30 p.m. PT
Louisville coach Charlie Strong picked up his first career head coaching victory last week against Eastern Kentucky. Now he’s looking for one that matters.
Oregon State is 0–1, but looked strong in a 30–21 loss to highly regarded Texas Christian at Cowboys Stadium. The Beavers are even ranked in some polls. The reasons are the Rodgers brothers — tailback Jacquizz and wideout James. The former had 75 yards and a score against TCU. Both were all-Pac-10 first team selections last season.
“The thing I like about them is they have so many weapons,” Strong said. “The whole defense is going to have to play well. … We need to get enough guys around the ball when (Jacquizz Rodgers) has it.”
What he’s hoping is that Oregon State will be looking ahead to next week’s game at Boise State. He’s also hoping for continued production from tailback Bilal Powell, who leads the Big East’s third-ranked rushing attack. Powell, though, will need help from QB Adam Froman.
Maine at Syracuse
Saturday, 7:15 p.m. EST
Syracuse coach Doug Marrone and his Orange are happy to finally be playing in the Carrier Dome. They opened with back-to-back road games against Akron (a win) and Washington (a loss).
“It’s exciting to be back home,” Marrone said. “It’s what a lot of players have been looking forward to when they came here, to play in the Carrier Dome.”
In Maine, Syracuse will be meeting a Colonial Athletic Association team that opened with a 3–0 loss to Albany before defeating Monmouth 31–23 last weekend. Running back Jared Turcotte has averaged 117 yards with three rushing touchdowns in the first two games. Last year, Maine led 17–13 at the Carrier Dome before falling 41–24.
SU is averaging 383.5 yards of offense, while giving up an average of 316.5. Running back Delone Carter is fourth in the Big East rushing, averaging 91 yards.