NCF Nation: Austin Ransom
1. Pat White vs. the Pittsburgh defense: West Virginia didn't go to the BCS title game last year because White had only 41 yards rushing and the offense managed only 183 total yards in the 13-9 loss to Pitt. White has been turning it on lately, running for 200 yards against Louisville last week. Pittsburgh has a different defensive coordinator this season but has speed on the edge with ends Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard and linebackers Greg Williams and Austin Ransom. And Scott McKillop is a tackling machine in the middle. It should be a fascinating matchup and the ultimate key to the Backyard Brawl.
2. LeSean McCoy: The super sophomore has been held below his standards the past two games. McCoy had only 39 yards versus Louisville and 82 at Cincinnati last week (though he did score two touchdowns vs. the Bearcats). West Virginia's defense doesn't yield much and held the Big East's top rusher, Donald Brown, to 82 yards. Now that McCoy has said he's coming back for his junior season, maybe he can relax and have a breakout game. Pitt will need it in order to win.
3. "Backyard Brawl" booters: If the game comes down to field goals, there could be an interesting story line. West Virginia's Pat McAfee missed a pair of field goals in last year's 13-9 loss to Pitt and received death threats from his own fans. Wouldn't it be something if he were the hero this time? The Panthers have one of the most accurate kickers in the country in Conor Lee, so they'd feel comfortable going toe-to-toe, so to speak.
4. Eyes on the prize: The Big East trophy will be in attendance at Nippert Stadium on Saturday. Can Cincinnati maintain its focus on the Syracuse Orange and not start dreaming of the Orange Bowl. If West Virginia loses on Friday, it won't matter what the Bearcats do in their game. But they don't want to win the league like that, and it would be embarrassing for the Big East if its champion got upset at home in its final conference game.
5. Tony Pike: The Cincinnati quarterback put on a dazzling performance against Pittsburgh, going 26-for-32 for 309 yards and three touchdowns. The junior and first-year starter seems to be getting better with every game. What can he do for an encore?
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
West Virginia: The Mountaineers have been strong in most areas on special teams, except for kickoff coverage. They're allowing more than 30 yards per return, ranking 115th out of 119 FBS teams. They gave up two long returns to Marshall last weekend. Head coach Bill Stewart, who oversees special teams, said he will concentrate on that area in practice. The loss of special teams headhunter Jim Lewis to a broken foot has hurt the unit.
Cincinnati: The decision on a starting quarterback this week may go all the way up until game time on Friday at Marshall, head coach Brian Kelly says. Kelly will choose between redshirt freshmen Zach Collaros and Chazz Anderson to replace the injured Tony Pike. Kelly said the late decision isn't about being coy but about giving both quarterbacks more practice time in a short week. He said the offense will concentrate on specific plays for whichever quarterback wins out.
Rutgers: Redshirt freshman Jourdan Brooks appears to have cemented his status as the team's No. 1 running back. Brooks started the past two games, scoring five touchdowns combined against Navy and Morgan State. He had twice as many carries as Joe Martinek and three times as many as Mason Robinson in the Morgan State game. With Kordell Young possibly out for the year with a knee injury, Brooks may become the team's workhorse back.
Pittsburgh: Weakside linebacker Shane Murray finally played last week after a preseason knee injury, getting in on about 15 snaps versus Syracuse. Head coach Dave Wannstedt said he thinks Murray's role will increase this week against South Florida, though Austin Ransom has played well in his place. Wannstedt said more time from Murray would allow Ransom to be fresher in his special teams roles. Starting receiver Oderick Turner, last year's leading pass catcher, has struggled with drops and may lose playing time to Cedric McGee.
Connecticut: The Huskies' defensive front had to hang on against Louisville last week after losing tackles Alex Polito, Kendall Reyes and Rob Lunn to ankle injuries. All three are expected to be available Saturday against North Carolina. Quarterback Zach Frazer will make his first start, replacing the injured Tyler Lorenzen, and his strong arm could allow UConn to do more things in the downfield passing game. But head coach Randy Edsall said Frazer is also a good runner who can make plays with his feet like Lorenzen.