What to watch in the Big East: Week 8

October, 21, 2010
10/21/10
10:35
AM ET
1. Rutgers' focus: It's impossible to tell how Rutgers will respond to the devastating injury to teammate Eric LeGrand last week that has dominated the discussion and thoughts in New Jersey. The closest parallel is probably how Connecticut played after losing Jasper Howard last year. The Huskies were inspired but took several weeks until they could close out and win a game, as the emotional fatigue might have been a factor. How do the Scarlet Knights come out on Saturday at Pittsburgh?

2. O-lines at Heinz: The offensive lines at Rutgers and Pitt have been under fire all season. The Scarlet Knights surrendered eight sacks last week and rank last among 120 FBS teams with 26 sacks allowed this season. They will have to hold off a strong defensive line led by Jabaal Sheard that will be looking to cause havoc. The Panthers' offensive front has showed improvement since making lineup changes three games ago, but it will face a difficult challenge against a Rutgers defense that brings pressure from lots of confusing angles. "Nobody will force the blitzing issue as much as Rutgers will," Dave Wannstedt said. This could be a defensive struggle unless the lines hold up.

3. Chas vs. Tino: Rutgers true freshman quarterback Chas Dodd will be making his first road start. Can he continue the fourth-quarter magic he's showed the past two games? Meanwhile, Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri had his best game last week at Syracuse. Can he keep it up against another blitz-heavy defense?

[+] EnlargeB.J. Daniels
J. Meric/Getty ImagesSouth Florida needs quarterback B.J. Daniels to get into a rhythm.
4. Can USF find the end zone? South Florida has failed to score an offensive touchdown in two Big East games. Skip Holtz and his staff went back to the drawing board this week, trying to find ways to improve the passing game and quarterback B.J. Daniels. Freshman cornerback Terrence Mitchell could see some time at receiver Friday night at Cincinnati. The Bulls have never won at Nippert Stadium and will have a hard time breaking that streak with merely field goals.

5. Cincinnati's offense vs. South Florida's defense: The secret to both teams' success Friday night is no secret. Cincinnati, which is averaging more than 30 points a game, likes to play a fast, free-wheeling offense that lights up the scoreboard. South Florida, which is allowing just 16.7 points per game, relies on its defense to keep it in games. If this is a track meet, the Bearcats should roll. If it's a physical, grind-it-out special, the Bulls have a chance.

6. Who will QB UConn? The Huskies' stunning announcement Wednesday afternoon that starting quarterback Cody Endres will be suspended the rest of the year creates intrigue for their game on Saturday at Louisville. Will Randy Edsall turn back to Zach Frazer, who made his debut while leading a memorable comeback win at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium two years ago? Or will Edsall stick to the depth chart and elevate redshirt freshman Michael Box, who has little important game experience? Either way, UConn's offense will have to make some on-the-fly adjustments this week as it prepares for a crucial conference road game.

7. Star running back duel: If you like watching standout tailbacks do their thing, Saturday's Connecticut-Louisville game is for you. UConn's Jordan Todman is the nation's No. 3 rusher, while Louisville's Bilal Powell -- coming off back-to-back 200-yard games -- is No. 4. Both have different styles; Todman is shiftier, while Powell will lay his shoulder into a defender. Both offensive lines are good and tough. Expect lots of handoffs and a fun battle to see who is the Big East's best back.

8. Big-play prevention: Avoiding the big play in the passing game has been a big problem for both UConn and Louisville. The Cardinals got burned several times last week by Cincinnati's receivers and may be without top cornerback Johnny Patrick. The Huskies lost the Rutgers game because of too many long Scarlet Knights passes, and it's been a continuing issue they worked on during the bye week. Their best corner, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, is coming off hand surgery. The strong running games for both sides should open up the play-action and potential big gainers in the passing game. Can either side stop it?

9. Cuse comeback: Syracuse's momentum wasn't just halted last week, it was flattened and sold off for parts. A 31-point home loss was embarrassing for a team that thought it had turned a corner. The Orange don't have long to feel sorry for themselves with this week's game at No. 20 West Virginia. Sometimes having a big-name opponent after a tough loss can help with focus. Syracuse needs a strong performance to show it wasn't merely an early-season feel-good story.

10. Deep-dishing Geno: Syracuse's defensive game plan the past two weeks was clear: load the box and see if the opposing quarterback could beat the Orange. It worked great against the struggling Daniels at South Florida, but Sunseri was ready for it and threw four touchdowns. Syracuse probably doesn't want to try the same strategy against West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, who's been terrific all season and now has a solid complement of receivers. If defensive coordinator Scott Shafer doesn't change things up, though, Smith could have a big day.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?