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September 13, 2006

Big East: Week 3 breakdown

Fox's Big East Week 3 picks
Rivals.com national writer David Fox's predictions for Week 3 in the Big East.
Thursday's game:
West Virginia 35, Maryland 14
Saturday's games:
Connecticut 21, Wake Forest 17
Ohio State 42, Cincinnati 3
Pittsburgh 28, Michigan State 21
Syracuse 10, Illinois 7
Central Florida 21, South Florida 14
Louisville 28, Miami 17
Rutgers 31, Ohio 10
Last week: 6-0 Season: 14-0

Best matchup: Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm vs. Miami secondary The Cardinals scored 59 points against Kentucky and 62 on Temple with 561 passing yards from Brohm. He hasn't faced a secondary of Brandon Meriweather, Kenny Phillips, Randy Phillips and Glenn Sharpe.

Worst matchup: Cincinnati at No. 1 Ohio State Pittsburgh torched the Bearcats for 24.3 yards per completion, including touchdown passes of 80 and 55 yards. Now Cincinnati goes to Columbus to face the combination of Troy Smith and Ted Ginn.

The pressure is on: Syracuse coach Greg Robinson. The loss in double overtime to Iowa last week was a heartbreaker, but the Orange has a chance to end a school-record 11-game losing streak again this week in Illinois. Robinson will have to wash away any bad feeling from that loss before heading to Champaign, where Illinois has allowed an average of 38.4 points over the last seven games.

Upset alert: Syracuse over Illinois. The Illini are favored by 2.5 at home, but Syracuse came close to beating Iowa last week. Illinois is coming off a 33-0 beating from Rutgers.

Most to gain: Louisville. Louisville could make a case for a BCS berth with a win at home over Miami if it can win without star running back Michael Bush.

Most to lose: South Florida. The Bulls squeaked by Sun Belt opponent Florida International 21-20 at home last week and now head to Orlando to face Central Florida (8-5 in 2005). The Bulls could get some much-needed momentum with a win over UCF before games against Kansas, Rutgers, Connecticut, North Carolina and Cincinnati over the next five weeks.

Who's hot: Pittsburgh wide receiver Derek Kinder. Kinder has stepped into a position once manned by Larry Fitzgerald and Greg Lee with seven catches for 249 yards and three touchdowns in two games. He had 374 yards and three TDs in the 2005 season.

Who's not: Cincinnati quarterbacks The rotating quarterback experiment ended in Cincinnati this week when Dustin Grutza was named the starter. Grutza and Nick Davila combined for two interceptions and three sacks against Pittsburgh last week.

Must see TV: Miami at Louisville, 3:30 p.m., ABC.

Newcomer who could have an impact: West Virginia safety Quinton Andrews. The redshirt freshman had an interception against Marshall and Eastern Washington – the only turnover the Mountaineers have forced this season. Despite his youth, coaches are asking him to take a more vocal leadership role because of his on-field performance.

Key stat: 13. Rushing touchdowns by Louisville in two games this season. That's more than 25 teams had in the 2005 season.

Take the line: Central Florida +2 over South Florida. The Golden Knights aren't as bad as the 42-0 loss to Florida last week. UCF should return strong enough to cover against a USF team still trying to find itself. Season record: 2-0

They said it: "They gave him a chance, but they didn't give me a chance. That's the big thing to me and my family, and that's what's really burning me up inside to get ready for this game." —Louisville linebacker and Miami native Nate Harris told The Miami Herald he was not recruited by Miami after an armed robbery arrest although another troubled high school linebacker, Willie Williams, was offered a scholarship.

Injury update: West Virginia defensive lineman Doug Slavonic (high ankle sprain) is doubtful for the next two games. Quarterback Pat White is nursing a sore back but has been improving. Running back Steve Slaton left the Eastern Washington game early as a precautionary measure for a slight ankle sprain. … Pittsburgh running back LaRod Stephens-Howling and offensive guard John Simonitis are both questionable with ankle injuries. … Connecticut tight end Dan Murray (high ankle sprain) is not likely to play against Wake Forest. … Rutgers starting cornerback Jason McCourty should return against Ohio after missing the Illinois game with an ankle injury. Backup cornerback Leslie Jackman is out for the season with a knee injury.

Worth noting: The last time Pittsburgh played Michigan State, Mike Ditka caught a touchdown pass in a 7-7 tie in 1960. … Rutgers is trying to start the season 3-0 for the first time since 1981. … By completing 21 of 38 passes against Iowa on Saturday, Syracuse quarterback Perry Patterson completed better than 50 percent of his passes for the first time in four games. … With 2,608 yards, Connecticut running back Terry Caulley is 17 yards shy of the school career rushing record. … Cincinnati coach Mark Dantonio has spent two stints under Ohio State coach Jim Tressel. He was Ohio State's defensive coordinator from 2001-03 and was an assistant under Tressel at Youngstown State from 1986-91. … West Virginia had lost four in a row to Maryland before winning the last two games in 2004 and '05.

Looking back: Rutgers beat North Carolina and Illinois while Pittsburgh beat Virginia and Cincinnati in the first two games of the season. This week, both teams will go for 3-0 starts. The Panthers have the more challenging task ahead with Michigan State. West Virginia and Louisville will have their toughest tests of the season thus far after rolling over the Temples and Eastern Washingtons of the world.

Freshman who impressed: West Virginia quarterback Jarrett Brown. When the Mountaineers rested starter Pat White against Eastern Michigan, the redshirt freshman backup was 11 of 15 for 129 yards and touchdown. He also rushed six times for 70 yards.

More Week 3 Conference Previews: ACC | Big Ten | Big 12 | Pac-10 | SEC



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