What to watch in the Big East, Week 6
October, 8, 2009
By Brian Bennett | ESPN.com
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
What to watch in this weekend's slate of four games involving Big East teams:
1. Runny Heinz: The forward pass is not the favorite option of either Randy Edsall or Dave Wannstedt. Both UConn and Pitt love to pound the ball and play a physical style. The Huskies have Andre Dixon and Jordan Todman at their disposal, while the Panthers have Dion Lewis and Ray Graham. Whichever side dictates the running game at Heinz Field will have a big edge.
2. Pitt's receivers vs. UConn's secondary: The Panthers do like to take some shots down the field, with Bill Stull looking for Jonathan Baldwin, Dorin Dickerson and Oderick Turner. Connecticut's defensive backfield is one of the most underrated units in the conference, allowing just 164 yards through the air and picking off six passes in four games. These will be the best receivers UConn has faced all year, however.
3. Cody Endres: The Huskies quarterback has been solid since taking over for the injured Zach Frazer. Pitt's weakness on defense has been its pass defense. Can Endres and his group of no-name receivers take advantage of that, or will UConn have to try and win this game with an unbalanced offense?
4. Caring for the ball in the Carrier Dome: West Virginia's turnover problem merits continued monitoring until the Mountaineers prove they can solve their issues. Syracuse was even worse last week in committing seven turnovers against South Florida. At some point, the mounting mistakes might take a psychological toll on both sides.
5. Whose pass defense is worse?: Syracuse is last in the Big East in allowing 290 passing yards per game and lost to South Florida in large part because it gave up a couple of huge air strikes. That's not good news against the big arm of Jarrett Brown, who likes to stretch the field vertically as much as possible. On the flip side, West Virginia hasn't been much better in stopping the pass, giving up 244 yards per game. Greg Paulus and Mike Williams will find some room to work.
6. Noel Devine: The West Virginia running back was superb last time out, rushing for 220 yards against Colorado. And Syracuse fans remember all too well his 92-yard touchdown run last year in Morgantown that broke the game open. The Orange have been surprisingly good against the run this year, yielding fewer than 92 yards per game on the ground. Devine, though, can give any defense fits with his blazing speed and strength.
7. Quarterbacks in Louisville: Steve Kragthorpe hasn't said whether Justin Burke or Adam Froman will start this week, and he's not going to tell anybody before gametime to keep Southern Miss guessing. Kragthorpe didn't even rule out playing both guys. Southern Miss will have quarterback questions, too, as Martevious Young takes over for injured starter Austin Davis.
8. Victor Anderson's touches: Kragthorpe has promised to get his star running back more opportunities after Anderson has carried the ball just 22 times in his last two games combined. With the Cardinals on the ropes, this would be a good time for a breakout performance by last year's Big East newcomer of the year.
9. Tom Savage's health: The Rutgers quarterback is supposed to return after missing one game with a concussion. He could use the tuneup for next Friday's game against Pitt, but there's no reason to keep Savage in too long against a badly overmatched Texas Southern squad. Savage's situation might be the only reason to watch this game.
10. The polls: Both Cincinnati and South Florida are off before next Thursday's big tilt in Tampa, but that could benefit them both in the polls this week. Especially Cincinnati. At least one top five team will lose with Florida playing at LSU, and if this season's upset trend continues, both the Bearcats and Bulls could move up and make next week's game even bigger.