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Thursday, September 15, 2011
Predictions: Big East Week 3

By Andrea Adelson

Week 3 will test my picking mettle. I made the wrong upset pick last week -- should have gone with FIU over Louisville instead of Cincinnati over Tennessee. Still, a 6-2 week is not bad. I will take a 13-3 start to the season.

Now on to the picks:

Iowa State (2-0) at UConn (1-1), 8 p.m., Friday, ESPN2. The Huskies' problems on offense are well documented. Their run game has been fine, but the quarterback situation has not. Coach Paul Pasqualoni has been coy about what he will do against the Cyclones, but whoever starts cannot turn the ball over and expect this team to win. I think Iowa State is in line for a letdown game after an emotional win over Iowa last week, and the UConn defense will be able to do enough to slow down Steele Jantz to pull out the win. UConn 23, Iowa State 20.

Pitt (2-0) at Iowa (1-1), noon, Saturday, ESPN2. The Panthers have been inconsistent on offense and defense in their first two games. Ray Graham has been terrific, and should be able to rip off some yards against a run defense that ranks No. 82 in the nation. The big question is whether Tino Sunseri can string together enough good plays and limit his mistakes to put Pitt in position to win on the road. I am not so sure that will happen after two games in a brand-new offense. Iowa might not be used to playing against the hurry-up spread, but Pitt is not running it the way it needs to be run right now. Iowa 28, Pitt 27.

No. 18 West Virginia (2-0) at Maryland (1-0), noon, ESPNU. The Mountaineers have not looked consistent on offense and defense, either, and really need to get off to a much faster start than they have in their first two games. The offense should be able to make plays in the pass game. Bruce Irvin & Co. have to get better pressure on Danny O'Brien, coming off a nice game in a win over Miami. Maryland has had an extra week to prepare, but coach Randy Edsall is 1-6 all-time against the Mountaineers. West Virginia won this game at home last year and should do just enough to win this one on the road. West Virginia 30, Maryland 23.

Akron (0-2) at Cincinnati (1-1), 3:30 p.m., Saturday, ESPN3. The Bearcats need to put the memories of last week's loss to Tennessee behind them, and there is no better way to do that than against Akron, one of the worst teams in college football. The Zips have scored three points in two games and Cincinnati should handle them easily. Cincinnati 48, Akron 7.

Florida A&M (1-1) at No. 20 USF (2-0), 7 p.m., Saturday, ESPN3. This may be an in-state game, but the Rattlers are not in the same stratosphere as the Bulls, who should be able to play their reserves for a majority of this game. USF 45, Florida A&M 3.

Louisville (1-1) at Kentucky (2-0), 7 p.m., Saturday, ESPNU. The Cardinals have not done much in two games to inspire a lot of confidence going into this contest. But then again, Kentucky hasn't, either. Let's be honest -- both teams have played poorly in their first two games. And the past two times this game has been played in Lexington, the games have been decided by a total of 10 points. Coach Charlie Strong has gone the motivational speaker route, telling everyone who would listen that his team isn't good enough to beat Kentucky this year. Maybe. Maybe not. Rivalry games are a different animal. Kentucky does not have T.Y. Hilton, the biggest reason Louisville lost last week. Take away his 201 yards and FIU had 92 yards of total offense. In fact, Kentucky has not shown much of anything on offense, ranking No. 110 in the nation. I think the Cardinals will play better on the offensive line and finally have a solid performance up front on defense. They will limit the turnovers in critical situations, and they will beat Kentucky for the first time in five games in my UPSET PICK OF THE WEEK. Louisville 24, Kentucky 23.

Syracuse (2-0) at USC (2-0), 8 p.m., Saturday, 8 p.m., FX. The Orange face a difficult task, having to go across the country to face an opponent that has had its way with the Big East. No Big East team has won at USC since Pitt in 1957. Neither Syracuse nor USC has been overly impressive in its first two games. The Trojans are supposed to have a high-powered offense but they have struggled. Still, I think they are going to have an advantage up front on the offensive line, especially with Chandler Jones out for a second straight game. That makes the difference. USC 30, Syracuse 20.