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Five things to watch in the Big East, Week 14

11/26/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
1. Pat White vs. the Pittsburgh defense: West Virginia didn't go to the BCS title game last year because White had only 41 yards rushing and the offense managed only 183 total yards in the 13-9 loss to Pitt. White has been turning it on lately, running for 200 yards against Louisville last week. Pittsburgh has a different defensive coordinator this season but has speed on the edge with ends Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard and linebackers Greg Williams and Austin Ransom. And Scott McKillop is a tackling machine in the middle. It should be a fascinating matchup and the ultimate key to the Backyard Brawl.

2. LeSean McCoy: The super sophomore has been held below his standards the past two games. McCoy had only 39 yards versus Louisville and 82 at Cincinnati last week (though he did score two touchdowns vs. the Bearcats). West Virginia's defense doesn't yield much and held the Big East's top rusher, Donald Brown, to 82 yards. Now that McCoy has said he's coming back for his junior season, maybe he can relax and have a breakout game. Pitt will need it in order to win.

3. "Backyard Brawl" booters: If the game comes down to field goals, there could be an interesting story line. West Virginia's Pat McAfee missed a pair of field goals in last year's 13-9 loss to Pitt and received death threats from his own fans. Wouldn't it be something if he were the hero this time? The Panthers have one of the most accurate kickers in the country in Conor Lee, so they'd feel comfortable going toe-to-toe, so to speak.

4. Eyes on the prize: The Big East trophy will be in attendance at Nippert Stadium on Saturday. Can Cincinnati maintain its focus on the Syracuse Orange and not start dreaming of the Orange Bowl. If West Virginia loses on Friday, it won't matter what the Bearcats do in their game. But they don't want to win the league like that, and it would be embarrassing for the Big East if its champion got upset at home in its final conference game.

5. Tony Pike: The Cincinnati quarterback put on a dazzling performance against Pittsburgh, going 26-for-32 for 309 yards and three touchdowns. The junior and first-year starter seems to be getting better with every game. What can he do for an encore?