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Predictions: Big East Week 4

September, 22, 2011
9/22/11
9:00
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I had a better weekend than the Big East did. Thanks to Louisville, I nailed the upset pick and went 6-1. Would have been perfect had UConn held onto its fourth-quarter lead. That makes me 19-4 through three weeks. There are some big nonconference games this weekend, so let us see how I think they will shake out:

NC State (2-1) at Cincinnati (2-1), 8 p.m., Thursday, ESPN. The Bearcats have a chance to redeem themselves after a disappointing performance against Tennessee in their previous nationally televised game. The secondary needs to play much better or Mike Glennon could have a big day. It is hard to get a gauge on both these teams. They have dropped their only contests against teams from AQ conferences. Last year, NC State had its way with Cincinnati. But this time around, the Bearcats will not be pushovers. They will take advantage of a depleted NC State defense to come out with a victory. Cincinnati 33, NC State 30.

Toledo (1-2) at Syracuse (2-1), noon, Saturday, ESPN3. The Orange should be on upset alert in this one, because Toledo is a talented team that threw a scare into Ohio State on the road a few weeks ago. The Rockets play two quarterbacks and have a speedy receiver/returner in Eric Page who has the potential to cause problems against a banged-up secondary. Kellen Moore picked the Rockets defense apart last week, and many of the big gains were on short screen passes or underneath routes. The Orange should use a similar game plan, especially with the way Ryan Nassib has played. Syracuse 27, Toledo 24.

Notre Dame (1-2) at Pitt (2-1), noon, ABC. The Panthers should be 3-0, but blew a 24-3 lead to Iowa last week and lost. Turnovers were the undoing of the Irish in their first two games, but they showed their potential last week against Michigan State. I fear for Pitt in this game because of the way the Irish have been able to pass the ball, averaging 289 yards a game. This is one area Pitt has struggled to defend so unless the Panthers make the Irish cough up the ball, I see a Notre Dame win. Notre Dame 27, Pitt 21.

Ohio (3-0) at Rutgers (1-1), 2 p.m., ESPN3. The Bobcats are one of the best teams in the MAC and run a unique style of offense that incorporates some of the Pistol, making it a challenge to defend. The defense is solid, too, and has a pretty decent pass rush, with seven sacks already on the season. The Scarlet Knights are going to try Savon Huggins a bit more at running back, but I think Chas Dodd to Mohamed Sanu will be the difference in this one. Rutgers 30, Ohio 21.

Connecticut (1-2) at Buffalo (1-2), 6 p.m., ESPN3. The Huskies have been dreadful on offense, and need to find some consistency at quarterback. Here is hoping coach Paul Pasqualoni comes to a decision and fast. The Bulls put a scare into Pitt in the season opener and are capable hitting some big passes. But the UConn defense is going to stop giving up the big plays which will help the Huskies win. UConn 24, Buffalo 17.

UTEP (2-1) at No. 18 USF (3-0), 7 p.m., ESPN3. The Bulls should not have much of a problem with UTEP, which has played three different quarterbacks already this season. One thing to watch is the USF offensive line against the UTEP front -- the Miners have nine sacks this season. They have an opportunistic defense as well, with six takeaways. But B.J. Daniels should have another big game. One note: UTEP has never won in the Eastern Time Zone. USF 45, UTEP 13.

No. 2 LSU (3-0) at No. 16 West Virginia, 8 p.m., ABC. Now we arrive at the game of the week. I have been getting questions about this game since my first day on the blog back in May, and have been anticipating it as much as you. I think the Mountaineers can absolutely hang with the Tigers. Geno Smith will make some big plays in the passing game. I bet Bruce Irvin picks up at least a sack. But to me, the big advantage is along the Tigers' defensive front. Their size and speed are a challenge, and they also rotate players in so they stay fresh. I think that is going to be the difference in the game. As much as I would love to pick an upset, I am going with LSU 24, West Virginia 20.

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