Thursday, November 12, 2009
Big East picks, Week 11
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
I went undefeated last week for the fifth time in the last six weeks, but it's not much to brag about. There were only three games, all featuring heavy favorites at home (and I didn't exactly peg the way the games in Morgantown and Cincinnati would shake out). Besides, there's no time to boast when four hotly contested games will test my prognosticating ability this week.
Rutgers 21, South Florida 19: The Bulls have more offensive firepower than the Scarlet Knights, but they'll be missing their best playmaking receiver in Carlton Mitchell, who's out with an ankle sprain. Rutgers' defense is improving each week, and I believe that Greg Schiano's complicated blitz schemes will befuddle freshman quarterback B.J. Daniels. There's still the matter of how the Scarlet Knights will score enough points, but I see a big play off a turnover or on special teams making the difference as South Florida loses its fourth straight in this series.
Cincinnati 30, West Virginia 21: The Mountaineers are not coming into this important game on a high note, having seen their offensive prowess decline and having several players bruised and banged up. Not a good situation going into a hostile Nippert Stadium. Whether it's Zach Collaros or Tony Pike leading the charge -- and both will see time at quarterback -- the Bearcats are going to score points, and they're more equipped to handle a speed-based spread offense than they are a power running game like UConn's.
Pitt 35, Notre Dame 33: Regular readers of this blog won't be surprised with this pick, since I've been saying since the offseason that Pitt would win this game. I'm a little more nervous for the Panthers because of Notre Dame's loss to Navy; no doubt the Irish will be desperate coming to Heinz Field. And that offense can really score. Even though they had just 21 points against Navy, the Irish never punted, got to the red zone six times and rolled up more than 500 yards. But Notre Dame's Swiss cheese defense will have just as many problems stopping Pitt's versatile attack, and the Panthers will find a way to win just as they did last year in South Bend.
Louisville 17, Syracuse 14: For most of the year, I would have said Syracuse was the better team and would beat Louisville for a third straight year. But given all of the Orange's roster depletions -- losing start defensive tackle Arthur Jones was the latest blow -- I have to give the edge now to the Cardinals, who pushed West Virginia to the wire last week on the road. This won't be a pretty game or one that many people will want to watch, but it could be the last chance for an '09 victory for either school.
Last week: 3-0
Season: 45-8 (85 percent)