Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NCF Nation [Print without images]

Friday, November 14, 2008
What to watch in the Big East, Week 12


Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

1. Cincinnati's second-half production: One way the Bearcats could lose at Louisville is by going cold again after halftime. Cincinnati has been outscored 56-13 in the second half in its last four games. Against West Virginia last week, the Bearcats managed just one first down between halftime and the start of overtime. They need to keep the pressure on the desperate Cardinals on the road.

2. Cincinnati's defense vs. Louisville's offense: On paper, this looks like a mismatch. Louisville scored just seven points last week at Pittsburgh, while Cincinnati held West Virginia under 100 yards rushing for the first time in seven years and has arguably the best secondary in the Big East. The Bearcats sacked Pat White four times; imagine what they could do against the far less mobile Hunter Cantwell if Louisville's O-line doesn't hold up. What wrinkles can Steve Kragthorpe and offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm come up with to move the ball for the Cardinals?

3. The kicking game at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium: Cincinnati seems to have a big advantage here, too, with All-American punter Kevin Huber, the Big East's best kickoff return man in Mardy Gilyard and Lou Groza Award nominee Jake Rogers on field goals. Louisville muffed three punts last week at Pitt and still has little confidence in its place-kickers.

4. South Florida's fire: The Bulls' seniors called a players-only meeting last week and urged their teammates to play with more passion and emotion. Let's see how that manifests itself in the Rutgers game. Expect South Florida to celebrate more on big plays. The question is, how many of those big plays will they have to celebrate?

5. Mike Teel and Kenny Britt vs. South Florida's secondary: The Scarlet Knights' quarterback and star receiver have been killing people with the deep ball in recent weeks. The Bulls' defensive backs have been getting routinely killed on long throws ever since the Pittsburgh game. Expect Teel to keep looking down the field to Britt until South Florida shows it can stop them.

6. Matt Grothe's well-being: As mentioned in last week's things to watch, Rutgers' defense has made life hard on quarterbacks. When Syracuse's Cam Dantley left the game last week with a leg injury, it marked the fourth time in the past five games that the Scarlet Knights had knocked out an opposing quarterback. During his career, Grothe has been one of the most remarkably durable quarterbacks in the Big East, or anywhere else for that matter, thanks to his mobility. Can he escape the heavy Rutgers pass rush?

7. Donald Brown vs. the Syracuse run defense: Here is what the Orange have allowed the best backs they've seen this season:

• Northwestern's Tyrell Sutton: 152 yards

• Penn State's Evan Royster: 101 yards (on just 13 carries)

• Pittsburgh's LeSean McCoy: 151 yards

• West Virginia's Noel Devine: 194 yards

• Louisville's Victor Anderson: 113 yards

• Rutgers' Kordell Young: 143 yards

Those are not encouraging numbers when the nation's leading running back is coming to town after a week off to rest. Brown is motivated to improve off his worst performance of the year against West Virginia, when he was held under 100 yards for the first time. If he doesn't get at least 130 yards on Saturday, it will be an upset.

8. Carrier Dome quarterbacks: UConn is once again listing its starter as a "game-time decision" between Cody Endres and Zach Frazer, and coach Randy Edsall hasn't officially ruled out Tyler Lorenzen. The Huskies desperately need some stability there. Syracuse has pledged to use both Dantley and backup Andrew Robinson in the game, which could be a distraction.

9. Curtis Brinkley: The Syracuse senior had just 67 yards last week against Rutgers, the first time in six games he failed to break the 100-yard mark. He needs one more 100-yard game to tie the school record, and you know he'd love to do it in his final home game on Senior Day.

10. Greg Robinson: After a one-week reprieve from this list, Robinson appears here again going into his team's final home game. Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross issued a written statement this week that said the school was focusing only on Saturday's game. So what happens after the game, if Orange loses to a program that has vaulted past them in the region and is led by a Syracuse alumnus?