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Thursday, September 29, 2011
What to watch in the Big East: Week 5

By Andrea Adelson

What are the biggest story lines to watch in the Big East in Week 5? Let us take a look.

1. Thursday night jinx. USF has not played particularly well on Thursday nights. If you want a history lesson, go back and look at the schools. Skip Holtz does not need one. When asked about the Bulls losing six games on Thursday night during his midweek press conference, Holtz said, "This team has not played on Thursday night yet. What's happened in the past is irrelevant. Where we're going in the future is irrelevant. It's going to be what goes on in between the lines. What is our focus like and how do we play this game on Thursday night?"

Tino Sunseri
Quarterback Tino Sunseri will need to make plays if Pitt is to pull off an upset of South Florida.
2. Short week. Both USF and Pitt had short weeks to prepare for their conference opener. How will that affect both teams? For the Panthers, you wonder about being able to put two straight losses behind them as they begin to focus on goals that are still within reach. For USF, you wonder about a team that has not been tested since the opener at Notre Dame four weeks ago.

3. B.J. Daniels vs. Tino Sunseri. Daniels has been the better quarterback and a big reason why USF is 4-0. Tino Sunseri has had struggles in the new "high-octane" Pitt offense and the Panthers are 2-2. Quarterback play is going to be hugely important in this game. Can Pitt get pressure on Daniels? Can Sunseri make something happen?

4. West Virginia on the rebound. The Mountaineers are coming off a disappointing loss to LSU, now the No. 1 team in the nation. Is their game against Bowling Green a classic "emotional letdown game?" After all, it is hard to imagine players and fans getting as jacked up about this game as they did for the Tigers. How will Dana Holgorsen prepare his players to play from opening kickoff and put last week in the past?

5. M*A*S*H Unit. Syracuse has been struggling with injuries since preseason camp. Now that they have taken a particular toll on the defense, coach Doug Marrone has closed off practice and refused to discuss who might play and who might sit out in the conference opener against Rutgers. His reason is simple -- he does not want to give Rutgers any competitive advantage. But whether or not all his players are able to go on Saturday, they still are going to have a tough time trying to contain ...

6. Mohamed Sanu. Sanu has gone from afterthought behind Mark Harrison and spring breakout performer Brandon Coleman (remember that!?) to super stud, with 36 receptions so far this season. He has 29 in his past two games and leads the nation in receptions per game. Defenses are doubling him, but has found a way to break through. He and Chas Dodd have developed a good chemistry, so the onus is on the Orange to stop him. Of course, this is nothing new for Syracuse, having faced Robert Woods of USC and Eric Page of Toledo already this season.

7. Who starts at quarterback for Louisville? Coach Charlie Strong said this week that Will Stein is questionable with a shoulder injury, leaving the door open for true freshman Teddy Bridgewater to start. He did well in relief of Stein against Kentucky, but starting a game provides different challenges. If he does start, both teams would have true freshmen quarterbacks behind center. Marshall starter Rakeem Cato has been the starter since the season began and, like Bridgewater, is from Miami.

8. UConn running game. Can the Huskies get their running game going? They have struggled the past two games, mainly because teams are loading the box to try and force them to win games with the pass. Western Michigan has the No. 94 ranked run defense in the country, but expect the Broncos to do the same. Lyle McCombs and D.J. Shoemate have to find enough wiggle room to make some plays, and the offensive line has to block better, too.

9. Opportunistic Cincy D. Can the Bearcats keep up the takeaways on defense? So far they lead the nation with 16. Miami (Ohio) already has given the ball away six times and is one of the worst in the nation in turnover margin, so this could play a big role once again.

10. Presidents meeting. One story line to keep an eye on off the field: The Big East presidents will meet this weekend to discuss the future of the conference. USF president Judy Genshaft already spoke to one legislative group this week, saying the league was focused on bringing in schools outside states that already have Big East members. Meanwhile, UConn president Susan Herbst says she is committed to making the Big East work. They need to come up with a plan and fast.