With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, we are giving you our predictions a day early. Happy, happy, joy, joy, right? Not for anybody who has to pick the games in this league, that is for sure. Trying to pin down one team is the equivalent of trying to corral a muddy pig. But that is why they pay me the ultra gigantic big bucks. I went 2-1 last week to bring the season total up to 41-21.
Louisville at USF, 11 a.m., ESPN2. The Cardinals are 0-for-4 in Tampa, so I penciled in USF to win this game based on the Ray Jay voodoo factor. Then B.J. Daniels got hurt, and it is unknown whether he will be available to play. The Cardinals have won four of five and are playing for a spot in the BCS, so the potential for distraction is there. Plus, they are going to have to contend with what has developed into one of the better defensive lines in the league. USF has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in four straight games, and most recently held Lamar Miller to 50 yards rushing. The Bulls have the two highest sack totals in school history this season (seven against UConn, six against Miami). But Bobby Eveld moved the offense 68 yards on four drives last week against Miami and will be facing a defense that likes to blitz. He does not present the option to run, the way Daniels does, so that will make it easier for Louisville to be more aggressive with its schemes. This one may end up being a punt-fest, but watch for Louisville to do enough to win. Louisville 17, USF 13.
Pitt at West Virginia, 7 p.m., ESPN. The two bitter rivals meet for what could be the last time as conference members. But more than bragging rights is on the line in this one. Both teams need to win in order to keep their BCS and Big East title hopes alive. Pitt showed against Louisville it is perfectly capable of playing a ground game even without Ray Graham. West Virginia has had some issues stopping the run this year. Meanwhile, Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin are going to be facing a defense that might be the most improved in the league from Week 1 until now. The Mountaineers are going to have to figure out a way to control Aaron Donald (nine sacks) and the defensive line, which has an advantage on paper in this one. If they can, there are opportunities -- especially in the screen game and underneath. West Virginia needs to force the game into the hands of Tino Sunseri, and force him into mistakes (he has eight interceptions to nine touchdowns this season). This is a game that has had its share of upsets, but West Virginia will win because of its superior talent at the skill positions. West Virginia 31, Pitt 24.
Cincinnati at Syracuse, noon, Big East Network. This is a must-win game for both teams: the Bearcats have to win out to keep their hopes alive for a Big East championship, Syracuse needs a win to become bowl eligible. Neither team was impressive on offense their last time out. Cincinnati has to find ways to help take the load off quarterback Munchie Legaux. It would help if the Bearcats controlled the line of scrimmage the way they have for most of the season. They failed badly in that category last week against Rutgers. Cincinnati should have the advantage along the offensive and defensive lines in this one, but if the Bearcats don't block, drop passes and fail to do anything on first down, it's going to be a long day again. Syracuse worked ones versus ones during its bye week to try and better simulate game conditions. The last time the Orange came off a bye, they beat West Virginia. I really think Cincinnati steps up to help Legaux. Cincinnati 24, Syracuse 20.
Rutgers at UConn, noon, ESPN2. If the last three years are any indication, this game is going to be wild and close. The last three meetings have been decided by a total of nine points. Last season, the Scarlet Knights came from behind to beat UConn 27-24 for their only league win of the season. But the teams are headed in opposite directions this season. Rutgers has a chance to clinch a share of their first ever Big East title; UConn is barely clinging to its bowl hopes. The Huskies turned in a disappointing performance last week against Louisville, full of missed tackles and dropped passes. Now they will be going against an aggressive defense that absolutely shut down Cincinnati last week. UConn has had major problems in the secondary and though Blidi Wreh-Wilson is back, how will the Huskies guard Mohamed Sanu? Rutgers 27, UConn 17.