Thursday, August 30, 2012
Big East predictions: Week 1
By Andrea Adelson
The time you all have been waiting for has finally arrived. Prediction time! Otherwise known as the day Andrea shows how smart/stupid she is with her picks.
If there is one thing I learned last season in my first year making Big East predictions, it was to expect the unexpected. That lesson did not sink in until late in the season, but hopefully I have figured it all out and will have a 100 percent prediction mark this time.
UMass at UConn, 7:30 p.m. Big East Network. The history between these schools goes back to 1897, though it is their first meeting as FBS schools. The Huskies go into the game with what should be a pretty strong defense, though this will be a good opportunity to work on getting some depth and game experience for some young players on the line. This also is the first big test for quarterback Chandler Whitmer, making his first start. UMass has a new coach in Charley Molnar, who used to be an assistant at Cincinnati and Notre Dame. He essentially has lost all of his starters at the skill positions. UConn 34, UMass 10.
Villanova at Temple, 7 p.m., ESPN3. The first two games in this series were close, but last season the Owls won in decisive fashion, 42-7. This season, Villanova goes into the game with every single starter returning on offense and defense except one, making this team far more experienced than the Owls, who only return eight starters. But the talent level is really no match. Temple has added Boston College transfer Montel Harris, and returns Chris Coyer at quarterback. Players like John Youboty and Levi Brown are ready to emerge on the defensive line. I do not expect this game to be close. Temple 38, Villanova 13.
Northwestern at Syracuse, noon, ESPN2. The first of the biggest nonconference games in the Big East pits two teams that have been picked to finish near the bottom of their respective leagues. The Wildcats have had plenty of success under Pat Fitzgerald, but their win totals have decreased the past few seasons. Kain Colter will present challenges for a Syracuse defense that has had problems stopping dual-threat quarterbacks. But the Orange should be stronger at linebacker and in the secondary. Northwestern is green in the secondary, and Syracuse has a veteran quarterback who can take advantage. Mild upset! Syracuse 24, Northwestern 21.
Youngstown State at Pitt, 6 p.m., ESPN3. Will Ray Graham play or will he not play? That is the question. Truth be told, it will not matter much to the overall outcome if Graham stays on the bench. Pitt should have enough to be able to beat its FCS opponent without Graham. What observers mostly want to see is how the Panthers handle their new offensive and defensive schemes, and how Tino Sunseri looks throwing the ball. Pitt 40, Youngstown State 13.
Chattanooga at USF, 7 p.m., ESPN3. Are the Bulls for real this year? We may have to wait a week on that answer, considering the opponent to start. Last season, USF rolled right through its lesser nonconference competition without any foreboding about what was to come. But there are plenty of players to watch this week, from rotation at receiver and running back to George Baker at cornerback. USF 50, Chattanooga 10.
Rutgers at Tulane, 8 p.m., CBS Sports Network. The last time these two teams played, Tulane won, so I understand why Rutgers fans have asked me what to expect out of the Green Wave. They do have talent at some of their skill positions, with quarterback Ryan Griffin, running back Orleans Darkwa and their leading group of receivers back. But this is a team that only won two games last season and just went through a coaching change. Gary Nova takes the reins of the offense, but Rutgers' defense will dominate. Rutgers 35, Tulane 10.
Kentucky at Louisville, 3:30 p.m., ESPN. This is the big one, folks! Louisville went into last season's game as the underdog, and now the Cardinals are double-digit favorites. You think Louisville is young with only eight seniors? Try out Kentucky, which has 24 sophomores, redshirt freshmen or true freshmen listed on its two-deep headed into the game. Running back Josh Clemons is out because of a knee injury, and the Wildcats will go with a new quarterback in Maxwell Smith. Louisville should be outstanding on defense once again, and get another leap from Teddy Bridgewater. Louisville 28, Kentucky 14.