What to watch in the Big East, Week 13
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
1. LeSean McCoy vs. the Cincinnati defense: The Bearcats have been strong against the run of late, holding West Virginia to under 100 yards as a team and limiting Louisville to 3.2 yards per carry. But Donald Brown gashed them for 150 yards last month, and Pitt had two 100-yard rushers in a win over Cincinnati last year. Pittsburgh proved against Louisville that it could win without a huge day from McCoy, but one of his vintage performances sure would help the cause.
2. Cincinnati's passing game vs. the Pitt secondary: The Panthers' defensive backfield has upgraded its play since the disastrous showing against Rutgers, but it's still vulnerable to big plays. Cincinnati has the most productive pass-catching duo in the conference with Dominick Goodman and Mardy Gilyard. You'd better believe Tony Pike is going to test Pitt deep early and often.
3. Jonathan Baldwin vs. Mike Mickens: The league's most electric young receiver will certainly find himself matched up at times with one of the best senior cornerbacks in the nation. Pitt's ability to throw deep off play-action will force Mickens and his teammates to react quickly. At 6-foot-5, Baldwin can erase mistakes by quarterback Bill Stull and can jump over the 6-foot Mickens. "Our corners are going to be challenged," Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly said. "DeAngelo Smith and Mike Mickens have to play their best football."
4. Pat White on the loose in Louisville: Last year against the Cardinals, White ran for 147 yards and passed for 181. Two years ago against them, he had 125 yards rushing and 222 yards passing. The West Virginia quarterback is usually at his best in this game, and given Louisville's inexperienced linebackers and dearth of speed on the defensive line, he could be in for another monster performance.
5. Louisville's spirits: The Cardinals have lost three straight, are surrounded by negativity and can't even get fans buzzing about a game against West Virginia. But it is Senior Day, and some terrific players like Eric Wood, George Bussey, Earl Heyman and Hunter Cantwell won't want to leave without a fight. Can they get something going early against the usually slow-starting Mountaineers and build some confidence?
6. Matt Grothe: The South Florida quarterback clearly isn't healthy right now. He hurt his left ankle against Rutgers and wore a boot for a few days afterward. He's a tough guy who will probably still play Sunday against UConn, but if his mobility is limited, that takes away one of his greatest strengths. And Grothe has thrown eight interceptions in his past three games even when healthy.
7. Donald Brown: The nation's leading rusher will go against a struggling Bulls defense. While South Florida's real weakness is in its defensive backfield, teams have been able to run up the middle against them, which is something Brown can do with the best of backs.
8. Air raid on Army: Rutgers has been flying high through the air during its four-game winning streak, and Army is going to have a tough time slowing down the Mike Teel-to-Kenny Britt connection. Certainly Army doesn't practice much against a passing offense; the Black Knights average just 50 yards passing per game and had a game this year where they didn't even attempt a throw.
9. Chip Bowden's well-being: Bowden is Army's quarterback, which places him in the crosshairs this weekend. Five of the last six quarterbacks have not been able to finish the game against the hard-hitting Rutgers defense, which made Grothe its latest victim last Saturday. Bowden is the team's second-leading rusher, so he'll be exposed to several hits.
10. Syracuse's motivation: How will the Orange react to the firing of Greg Robinson when they go to Notre Dame this weekend? Will they play with fire in an effort to show support for their well-liked coach? Or will they fold under the first sign of adversity?