Big East Weekend Preview

Buffalo at Connecticut

Saturday, noon, EST

In a season of disappointment for the Big East, no team has been more disappointing than Connecticut, which entered the season with high expectations. The Huskies paired their loss at Michigan with an ugly 30–16 defeat at the hands of Temple.

“That’s what happens when you don’t take advantage of field position,” said Connecticut coach Randy Edsall.

In this one, UConn faces its second straight Mid-American Conference team. Buffalo enters with a 1–2 mark after a win over Rhode Island and losses to Baylor and Central Florida.

Edsall has hinted at personnel changes, including at the quarterback position. Zach Frazer may again start, but Cody Endres, who played in seven games last year, is off a suspension and available to play.


North Carolina at Rutgers

Saturday, 3:30 p.m. EST

As has been a theme this season, Rutgers coach Greg Schiano has a past with the opposing coach. Schiano was the defensive coordinator for North Carolina coach Butch Davis at Miami, Fla.

Neither of these teams, however, has resembled those Hurricane teams so far this year. Rutgers is off to a 2–0 start and could go to 3–0 for the fifth time since 1980 with a win. But RU barely got by Florida International, 19–14, in its last outing and is awaiting word on running back Joe Martinek, hobbled by an ankle injury. If Martinek can’t go, true freshman Jordan Thomas may get the call.

North Carolina entered the season with high expectations but is 0–2 after consecutive 30–24 losses to LSU and Georgia Tech. Davis, however, has been dealing with an NCAA investigation that left 12 players sidelined against Georgia Tech last week. Thirteen players, including seven defensive starters, missed the season opener.

For RU, if quarterback Tom Savage and Wildcat receiver Mohamed Sanu can’t get the offense on track, Schiano will have to rely on a defense that ranks third nationally — and leads the Big East — in scoring defense. The Scarlet Knights finished 2009 ranked 16th nationally in that department.

The Tar Heels will pin their chances on QB T.J. Yates, who has completed 46-of-70 passes for 621 yards, and running back Johnny White, who has 142 yards rushing.


Colgate at Syracuse

Saturday, 3:30 p.m. EST

Here’s a nugget for you: Syracuse and Colgate have met 65 times — and it’s the Raiders who hold a 31–29–5 series lead. The catch: SU hasn’t lost in the series since 1950. The last time they met, 1987, Syracuse won 52–6. This time around, the Orange is again a big favorite.

“I have a lot of respect for that (Patriot) league,” said Syracuse coach Doug Marrone. “(Colgate) has a great system and option attack. Our focus, though, is more on our players.”

If that focus is sharp, SU can go to 3–1 for the first time since 1999. Look for quarterback Ryan Nassib to have another big game after throwing for 260 yards and a school-record five touchdown passes in a 38–14 win over Maine.

QB Greg Sullivan and running back Nate Eachus provide a nice one-two punch for the 1–1 Raiders.


Oklahoma at Cincinnati

Saturday, 6 p.m. EST

Perhaps the last thing Cincinnati coach Butch Jones needs right now is a visit from Oklahoma. The Bearcats are struggling at 1–2 and have looked bad in both losses, to Fresno State and, last Thursday, NC State. It is, however, the hand Jones has been dealt.

“Oklahoma is a complete football team,” he said. “Great team speed that will test you with tempo.”

The good news for UC fans is the 3–0 Sooners did struggle in their last outing, a 27–24 victory over Air Force. Also, this is Oklahoma’s first road trip of the season. But OU quarterback Landry Jones, who stepped in last year after the season-ending injury to Sam Bradford, is a handful. He’s completed 73-of-118 passes for 851 yards and seven touchdowns with two interceptions. Running back Demarco Murray is averaging 123 yards.

Cincy will get back its best runner, Isaiah Pead, who has been battling a knee injury. Jones said Pead is fully recovered and set to go after playing sparingly against N.C. State.

The UC key, however, may be quarterback Zach Collaros, who has yet to throw an interception this season. D.J. Woods has been his primary receiver.

“They are definitely a strong and good program,” said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. “We recognized that when we played them a couple of years ago. They’ve won a bunch of games since then and have proven to be an excellent football team.”


Western Kentucky at South Florida

Saturday, 7 p.m. EST

This is one of those games in which South Florida coach Skip Holtz should be able to lift his starters by the fourth quarter. Western Kentucky, 0–3, has lost 23 straight games, which is the longest active streak among Bowl Subdivision teams. The Hilltoppers’ last win was on Sept. 20, 2008.

Holtz pointed to WKU running back Bobby Rainey, who is averaging 148 yards, and said he’s “impressed with them on the offensive side.”

But expect this one to be about curing USF’s woes after a 38–14 loss to Florida. Bulls quarterback B.J. Daniels leads the team both in passing and rushing.


West Virginia at LSU

Saturday, 8 p.m. CT

West Virginia coach Bill Stewart tried to understate this game. “Game four,” he said. “We look forward to going to Louisiana and representing the Big East.”

He and LSU coach Les Miles, however, know the contest is big for both programs as well as their careers. Stewart, in fact, seems to be looking for any way to play top cornerback Brandon Hogan, who has served but a one-game suspension after multiple brushes with the law and much time in the doghouse. The reason: Pat Miller, Hogan’s replacement last week, was burned deep by Maryland. Meanwhile, LSU boasts two tall, fast receivers in 6-5 Terrance Tolliver and 6-4 Rueben Randle and has promised to open a heretofore dormant passing attack.

Offensively, WVU seems to have an edge on paper. Mountaineer QB Geno Smith has much better numbers than LSU’s Jordan Jefferson. West Virginia tailback Noel Devine is averaging 118 yards, while LSU’s Stevan Ridley is averaging 106.

The Mountaineers, however, haven’t met a defense like that of LSU, led by defensive player of the year candidate and special teams demon Patrick Peterson. The speed of the Tiger defensive front could give WVU’s line, hurt by Josh Jenkins’ knee injury, fits. And, on the flip side, WVU’s three-man defensive front hasn’t met an offensive line with LSU’s size.

“I think it will be an interesting matchup,” said Miles. “We’ll have to play very disciplined. We’ll obviously have to play our blocks well and realize where our help is.”

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