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Thursday, October 6, 2011
What to watch in the Big East: Week 6

By Andrea Adelson

Here are the top stories to watch in the Big East this week.

1. Now in at QB for Rutgers ... Coach Greg Schiano says he won’t publicly announce who will start against Pitt. Incumbent Chas Dodd and true freshman Gary Nova have split reps with the first team this week. Nova came in for Dodd last week against Syracuse and led the team to a double-overtime win, and Schiano has a history of changing quarterbacks.

2. Encore performances? Pitt and Ray Graham had eye-opening games against USF last week. Graham had more than 300 all-purpose yards and the Panthers put together their best game of the season. Now what do they do for an encore? Will they hold form or revert back to the team that lost fourth-quarter leads against Notre Dame and Iowa?

3. Bounce-back week? Syracuse, Louisville and UConn are all coming off tough losses. Can they bounce back this week on the road? The Orange play a nonconference game at Tulane, while the Cardinals and Huskies have tougher tasks. Louisville plays at North Carolina, while UConn is at West Virginia, a place it has never won.

Ryan Nassib
Ryan Nassib looks to rebound from last week's sub-par performance.
4. Bounce back, Part II. Ryan Nassib started the season completing 70 percent of his passes with just one interception. But last week in a loss to Rutgers, he had three interceptions and completed just 47 percent of his passes. He called the loss humbling. Can he get himself going again?

5. UConn D. The Huskies' defense was supposed to be a strength of the team, but last week it gave up 479 yards passing to Western Michigan. It was tough going with Blidi Wreh-Wilson on the bench. He will miss this game, too, putting more pressure on Gary Wilburn to step up and have a better game. UConn already is an aggressive defense, so it will be interesting to see whether coordinator Don Brown tries to dial up even more blitzes to get pressure up front, in the hopes of taking some of the load off his secondary.

6. Stedman Bailey. All the talk going into the season was about Tavon Austin as the next breakout player for the Big East. Well look who quietly has put together three 100-yard games for the Mountaineers. It’s Bailey. Austin has more receptions and yards for the Mountaineers, but Bailey has more touchdown catches. Both are on pace for 1,000-yard seasons.

7. Brotherly love. Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene and Pitt running back Ray Graham are brothers and face each other once again in one of the best stories of the week. Graham had 56 yards and a touchdown in Pitt’s win over Rutgers last year. But Greene still is waiting to get his first hit on his brother. “I would love to get a clean hit on him,” Greene said.

8. Familiar faces. Rutgers and Pitt do seem to have the most interesting storylines going into this one. There is one more: Rutgers offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti goes against his former team. Cignetti was Pitt's offensive coordinator from 2009-10 and was a big reason Graham plays for the Panthers. Rutgers also has former Pitt assistants Jeff Hafley and Brian Angelichio on staff as well.

9. Louisville O. It’s no secret the Cardinals have struggled on offense. Their staple -- running the ball -- has not gone according to plan. It may be tough to establish the run against the Tar Heels, who have had some success this season stopping the run. Is it time for a change in philosophy, at least to try to open the offense up a little more?

10. Run, West Virginia, run. Was last week’s rushing performance against Bowling Green a fluke? We find out against one of the better run defenses in the Big East on Saturday. The Mountaineers are going to be facing a much better defensive line, with Kendall Reyes anchoring it right up the middle. Getting 291 yards again for Dustin Garrison may not be in the offing this week.