Big East predictions: Week 4

September, 20, 2012
9/20/12
9:00
AM ET
Given my track record over the first three weeks, pencil in two losses on these picks. I am 14-6 headed into Saturday. Ho hum.

UConn at Western Michigan, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN3. The Huskies and Broncos got into a wild shootout last season in Connecticut. Western Michigan pulled off the upset victory behind quarterback Alex Carder, who threw for 479 yards and five touchdown passes. Carder is back, but he is without his top playmaker from last season, Jordan White. UConn, meanwhile, has not been able to do much on offense. The Huskies have scored twice on punt returns and once on an interception return this season, but do not yet have a touchdown pass. The defense will be relied on once again to win this game. UConn 23, Western Michigan 17.

Gardner-Webb at Pitt, 3:30 p.m., ESPN3. Pitt plays its second Football Championship Subdivision opponent of the season and can only hope things go better this time around, after losing the opener to Youngstown State. The Panthers should go into this game with major confidence after upsetting Virginia Tech last week, but the last thing coach Paul Chryst needs is this team getting ahead of itself. That is what spells trouble. He needs to see continued development from Tino Sunseri and both his offensive and defensive lines, which made major strides last week. Pitt 38, Gardner-Webb 3.

Temple at Penn State, 3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2. The Owls nearly pulled the upset last season, losing 14-10 after Penn State scored with 2:42 remaining. But this game seems to provide Temple its best shot yet at beating the Nittany Lions for the first time since 1941. Penn State is a team that has been left depleted because of sanctions leveled as a result of an unthinkable sexual-abuse scandal, and just picked up its first victory of the season last week. Temple did get the extra week to prepare, so here's hoping the Owls straightened out their turnover and penalty problems. But are Montel Harris and Matt Brown 100 percent? Reports say yes. They need to be at their best to pull the upset. I just think Penn State has enough on defense to slow this team down. Penn State 20, Temple 17.

USF at Ball State, 4:30 p.m., Big East Network. The Bulls are in desperate need of a bounce-back win and have to go on the road to get it. The biggest question in this one: Can USF play better up front along the offensive and defensive lines? Both groups did not play up to their capabilities last week against Rutgers. Ball State likes to spread the ball around and has run for more than 200 yards in each of its first three games. I think USF will win, but this is not going to be an easy one. USF 30, Ball State 20.

Rutgers at Arkansas, 7 p.m., ESPNU. I started changing my mind on this game this past Saturday, after I saw the train wreck that is Arkansas football right now. Rutgers has looked great on defense, so-so on offense and terrible with penalties, but at least this is one unified team playing behind its coach. Not sure what is going on in Fayetteville. Bottom line for me: If Tyler Wilson plays, Arkansas wins. I think he has the capability of making plays against the Rutgers secondary, undersized compared to the Arkansas receivers. If he does not play, Arkansas has nothing in the way of offense. As I write this today, it does not look good for Wilson. So I think Rutgers will rely heavily on Jawan Jamison and the D to pull the ... Upset! Rutgers 23, Arkansas 17.

No. 20 Louisville at Florida International, 7 p.m., ESPN3. Louisville lost at home to FIU last season, but the chances of the Cardinals dropping two straight to this team are pretty remote. Teddy Bridgewater is playing incredibly well for Louisville right now, the run game is working better than at any point last season and FIU no longer has T.Y. Hilton, the man who scorched the defense a year ago. Louisville 38, FIU 17.

Syracuse at Minnesota, 8 p.m., Big Ten Network. The Orange hit the road to play another team from an automatic-qualifying conference in Minnesota, off to a surprising 3-0 start. Minnesota will be without starting quarterback MarQueis Gray and rely on Max Shortell as the starter in this one. Shortell is not nearly the running threat Gray is, so that could be an advantage for Syracuse. As is having quarterback Ryan Nassib, who has thrown for 1,139 yards and nine touchdowns. Marcus Sales is having an outstanding year as well. Syracuse 33, Minnesota 27.

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