NCF Nation: Kenny Britt

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Twenty-seven Big East products had their name called over the weekend in the NFL draft. Three league schools had their best drafts ever.

Cincinnati had six players taken, the most of any Big East team and the most in program history. The previous school record had been five, which happened in 1998, 1960 and 1947. The Bearcats were one of only nine schools to have six or more players drafted this year.

Connecticut had never had a player taken in the first two rounds of the draft before Saturday. Four Huskies went in the first two rounds this year, including the school's first-ever first-rounder, running back Donald Brown.

Rutgers had a record-setting five players drafted, including the Scarlet Knights' first-ever first-rounder, wide receiver Kenny Britt. The most Rutgers had ever previously had drafted in one year was three, in 2007.

Here's a rundown of all the league draft picks and some commentary:

Cincinnati

Player, Position, Round, Team

Connor Barwin, DE, 2, Houston Texans

• DeAngelo Smith, DB, 5, Dallas Cowboys

Brandon Underwood, DB, 6, Green Bay Packers

Mike Mickens, DB, 7, Dallas Cowboys

Trevor Canfield, OG, 7, Arizona Cardinals

Thoughts: Kind of surprising that Mickens went after Underwood and Smith, when he was generally regarded as the best pro prospect of the three for most of his career. The fifth round is lofty territory for a punter, but Huber is that good.

Connecticut

Player, Position, Round, Team

• Donald Brown, RB, 1, Indianapolis Colts

Darius Butler, DB, 2, New England Patriots

Will Beatty, OT, 2, New York Giants

Cody Brown, OLB, 2, Arizona Cardinals

Thoughts: We thought UConn would have a huge day, and the Huskies sure did.

Louisville

Player, Position, Round, Team

Eric Wood, C/OG, 1, Buffalo Bills

George Bussey, OT, 5, New England Patriots

Thoughts: Bussey didn't get much pre-draft buzz, but the Patriots must have liked the former walk-on who became a three-year starter and All-Big East performer. Wood will play guard for the Bills.

Pittsburgh

Player, Position, Round, Team

LeSean McCoy, RB, 2, Philadelphia Eagles

Scott McKillop, LB, 5, San Francisco 49ers

LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB, 7, Arizona Cardinals

Derek Kinder, WR, 7, Chicago Bears

Thoughts: OK, Pitt fans. How do you feel about McCoy going to Philly? Will you still root for him? Getting McKillop in the fifth round seems like a steal.

Rutgers

Player, Position, Round, Team

• Kenny Britt, WR, 1, Tennessee Titans

Mike Teel, QB, 6, Seattle Seahawks

Jason McCourty, DB, 6, Tennessee Titans

Courtney Greene, DB, 7, Seattle Seahawks

Tiquan Underwood, WR, 7, Jacksonville Jaguars

Thoughts: I didn't think Teel would get drafted, but good for him. The Titans and Seahawks must have liked Greg Schiano's program.

South Florida

Player, Position, Round, Team

Tyrone McKenzie, OLB, 3, New England Patriots

Thoughts: Despite all that Florida talent, the Bulls had the smallest draft class in the Big East.

Syracuse

Player, Position, Round, Team

Tony Fiammetta, FB, 4, Carolina Panthers

Ryan Durand, OG, 7, Tennessee Titans

Thoughts: Durand was another guy who wasn't on many mock draft boards. There were some good fullbacks in the Big East, including Pitt's Conredge Collins and Louisville's Brock Bolen. But Fiammetta was the only one drafted.

West Virginia

Player, Position, Round, Team

Pat White, QB/WR, 2, Miami Dolphins

Ellis Lankster, CB, 7, Buffalo
Bills

Pat McAfee, K, 7, Indianapolis

Thoughts: Can't wait to see how the Dolphins, who showed a lot of creativity on offense last year, use White.

Prominent players who went undrafted:

Hunter Cantwell, Louisville

Greg Isdaner and Mortty Ivy, West Virginia

Jamaal Westerman, Rutgers

• C.J. Davis, Pittsburgh

Julius Williams, UConn

Big East lunchtime links

April, 21, 2009
4/21/09
12:26
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

• Bill Stewart has left no doubt that West Virginia is Jarrett Brown's team, Mike Casazza writes in the Charleston Daily Mail.

• UConn will probably split carries in the backfield, but Jordan Todman is the Huskies' most electrifying runner, John F. Silver writes in the Journal-Inquirer.

• The Star-Ledger's Tom Luicci doesn't understand why former Rutgers star receiver Kenny Britt is being labeled as a possible problem child as the NFL draft approaches.

• The Cincinnati Enquirer's Paul Daugherty says he has never seen anything like the way Connor Barwin has willed himself into becoming a top-flight NFL prospect.
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

My Pac-10 counterpart Ted Miller did this earlier in the week, and I'm blatantly stealing the idea. Want to know how accurate recruiting rankings are? Let's take a look at this year's All-Big East team and see how each player was rated by the two major star-system recruiting services (where the two differ, I note the high and low end):

OFFENSE

QB Pat White (two to three stars)

RB Donald Brown (two to three stars)

RB LeSean McCoy (four to five stars)

WR Mardy Gilyard (two stars)

WR Kenny Britt (three to four stars)

TE Nate Byham (four to five stars)

OT Will Beatty (one to two stars)

OT Ryan Stanchek (two stars)

OG George Bussey (zero to one star)

OG C.J. Davis (two stars)

C Eric Wood (two stars)

DEFENSE

DL Connor Barwin (two stars)

DL Cody Brown (two stars)

DL George Selvie (one to two stars)

DL Arthur Jones (three to two stars)

LB Scott McKillop (three stars)

LB Tyrone McKenzie (two to three stars)

LB Mortty Ivy (two stars)

CB Mike Mickens (two stars)

CB Darius Butler (one to two stars)

S Brandon Underwood (three stars)

S Courtney Greene (one to two stars)

Thoughts:

Big East teams don't get a lot of "five-star" guys, but plenty of four-star players make their way into the league. I find it very interesting that the only two players on this list to reach that level were McCoy -- a no-brainer -- and Byham, who had a solid but hardly spectacular year in a league without many productive tight ends.

Offensive linemen are probably the hardest guys to evaluate, and whoever was evaluating the Big East prospects proved that. Not one of the All-Big East first team offensive linemen earned more than two stars, and the former walk-on Bussey and left tackle Beatty were rated the same as your average throw-in prospect. This isn't a bad crop, either; Wood, Beatty and Stanchek should all get drafted, with Davis and Bussey having a shot, too.

And, yes -- someone really watched Selvie and Butler play and rated them as one-star prospects. That really happened. To be fair, Selvie played center in high school and his best quality -- desire -- is hard to measure. But we're talking about a two-time All-American. And Butler's athleticism is hard to deny.

I get that White was hard to judge as a quarterback, and that a lot of teams were recruiting him as a receiver or just an all-around athlete. But for him to garner only two or three stars is absurd. Here are some of the players who were ranked as the top dual-threat quarterbacks in 2004: Robbie Reid, Kirby Freeman, Nick Patton, Larry Lerlegan and D.T McDowell. Would you trade any of them for Pat White? Heck, would you trade all of them for Pat White?

There are always going to be can't-miss prospects, and there are going to be players who improve greatly through sheer hard work and maturation. Recruiting rankings can be a useful guide and fun to look at, but if you think they predict which players will turn out to be the best in their leagues, think again. Keep this list in mind come next Wednesday, and remember to curb your enthusiasm.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

If you've been watching the NFL playoffs, then you know that Larry Fitzgerald is the breakout star of the postseason thus far. Lots of analysts are now saying that the fifth-year Arizona Cardinals wideout has sprung to the head of the class among pro receivers.

 
  AP
  Larry Fitzgerald won the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award and the Biletnikoff Award in '03.

None of this comes as a surprise to Pittsburgh Panthers fans, who watched Fitzgerald dominate in college during his two seasons on campus.

So the question I bring to you here today is this: Is Fitzgerald the best receiver in Big East history?

We had some fun during the season with the discussion about whether Pat White was the league's greatest player ever. It's easier to have these debates in the Big East, since the conference has been around for fewer than 20 years.

The case against Fitzgerald would be that he only played 26 games as a collegian. But there's never been a better receiving season in the league than what he produced in 2003, when he caught 92 passes for a ridiculous 1,672 yards and 22 touchdowns.

His 34 career touchdowns are still the league record despite his short career. He also finished second in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 2003 (behind Oklahoma's system-quarterback Jason White -- any chance we could get a recount?) and won the Walter Camp Award as the nation's best player.

Put it this way: Kenny Britt just compiled the second-highest season total for receiving yards in Big East history -- and he was 301 yards short of Fitzgerald's 2003 mark. Britt is the league's career leader in receiving yards, but his 17 touchdowns are half of Fitzgerald's total in one more season.

Other top candidates for the honor would include Antonio Bryant, Fitzgerald's predecessor as Pitt's No. 1 wideout; Miami's Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne and Santana Moss; Louisville's Harry Douglas; Syracuse's Marvin Harrison; and West Virginia's Chris Henry.

I think it's a slam dunk to put Fitzgerald No. 1. If I had to rank the top six, it would look something like this (remember, we're talking college years only):

  1. Fitzgerald
  2. Bryant
  3. Britt
  4. Harrison
  5. Moss
  6. Douglas

(Whew, that was more difficult than I thought. It's hard to imagine that I left Johnson and Wayne off there. Has any other league produced more top-flight receivers than the Big East in recent years?)

Anyway, that's my take. Do you agree that Fitzgerald is the best Big East receiver ever? If not, for whom would you vote? Hit me up with your thoughts and we'll hash it out before next week's Super Bowl.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Donald Brown, Connecticut: The Big East offensive player of the year ended his college days in style, rushing for a career-high 261 yards and eclipsing 2,000 yards for the season in UConn's 38-20 International Bowl win over Buffalo.

Pat White, West Virginia: White added one final indelible moment to his incredible career by throwing for a career-best 332 yards and completing 26 of 32 passes with three touchdowns to lead the Mountaineers to a 31-30 Meineke Car Care Bowl win over North Carolina. He also rushed for 55 yards.

Mike Teel, Rutgers: The senior finished with yet another 300-yard passing day, completing 22 of 37 passes for 319 yards and two scores as Rutgers beat NC State, 29-23, in the Papajohns.com Bowl.

Matt Grothe, South Florida: In his best performance in several weeks, the junior quarterback went 17-for-24 for 236 yards and threw three touchdowns and no interceptions in the 41-14 magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl rout of Memphis. Grothe played less than three quarters in that game as well.

Pat Lazear, West Virginia: Buried on the bench earlier in the year, the sophomore linebacker came up with the biggest defensive play in the Meineke game, intercepting North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates with less than two minutes left.

Kenny Britt, Rutgers: The junior receiver piled up 119 receiving yards on just six catches, including a 42-yard score, in the win over NC State. Britt finished as the Big East's career leader in receiving yards before declaring for the NFL draft.

Mardy Gilyard, Cincinnati: In an otherwise dreary offensive effort by his team, Gilyard had seven catches for 158 yards in the Bearcats' 20-7 loss to Virginia Tech at the FedEx Orange Bowl.

Robert McClain, Connecticut: The safety came up with several big hits and made Buffalo receivers gun shy as the Huskies limited the Bulls' high-flying passing attack to just 213 yards.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Pitt will share its second common opponent with Penn State this season when it plays Oregon State in the Brut Sun Bowl on Wednesday. The Panthers already beat Iowa, which knocked off the Nittany Lions. If they also knock off the Beavers like Penn State did, they'll have an argument for in-state supremacy.

That's kind of a big deal for Pitt, which would love to renew the Penn State rivalry, Kevin Gorman writes in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

"I know who's the better team, so you don't need to do all that," running back LeSean McCoy said. "I want to play them so bad, not only just for my own personal reasons but just because it's always been a rivalry. It's crazy that the biggest schools in the state don't play each other. I want to play them."
McCoy also went as far as to predict a Pitt-Penn State outcome.
"It would be a blowout."

Dave Wannstedt goes to great lengths to make sure his Pitt seniors gain notice from NFL scouts, Paul Zeise writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. One of the things Wannstedt is doing this week is showcasing LaRod Stephens-Howling by putting him on all the special teams units.

• The Papajohns.com Bowl win was a fitting end to a memorable year for Rutgers, Paul Franklin writes in the Home News Tribune. Kenny Britt says he's "on the fence" about whether to enter the NFL draft, Tom Luicci says in the Star-Ledger.

• Tony Pike carries himself with confidence now that he's the starter for Cincinnati, Bill Koch writes in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

• Cincinnati president Nancy Zimpher caught a lot of flak in the Bob Huggins controversy a few years back. She's doesn't hear much criticism these days, thanks in part to hiring the guy who hired Brian Kelly, Paul Daugherty says in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

• The Meineke Car Care Bowl bolsters the argument that Bill Stewart and Jeff Mullen's plans for changing the West Virginia offense were the smart way to go, Dave Hickman writes in the Charleston Gazette.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

The Papajohns.com Bowl was like Rutgers' season in a nutshell. Shaky start, tremendous finish.

 
 Marvin Gentry/US Presswire
 Mike Teel threw for 319 yards and two scores for the Scarlet Knights.

The Scarlet Knights (8-5) outscored NC State 23-6 in the second half to win the game 29-23 at Birmingham's Legion Field. They ended the season with seven straight victories after a 1-5 start.

The biggest key to this in-game turnaround was an NC State injury. Freshman quarterback Russell Wilson had the Scarlet Knights' defense on its heels in the first half with his mobility and deft passing. The kid is really, really good and is going to be something special over the next couple of years. But Wilson injured his knee late in the first half and was not able to play after guiding his team to a 17-6 halftime lead.

No longer having to worry about the quarterback scramble, Rutgers brought pressure against replacement Harrison Beck in the third quarter, and the Wolfpack (6-7) barely moved the ball. Third-stringer Daniel Evans came in for the fourth quarter and led a touchdown drive, but Greg Schiano dialed up a change to a three-man front and zone coverage on a key third down. Evans didn't read it and threw an interception. Wilson was picked off only once all season; Beck and Evans combined to toss three interceptions in this game.

Mike Teel had 319 yards and two touchdowns for Rutgers, and like he did during the season, played much better in the second half. The senior quarterback was a touch off early in the game, thanks in large part to the pressure NC State's defense managed to apply. Teel's offensive line did a better job of giving him time in the second half, and the results were much the same as they were for the last several weeks.

Receiver Kenny Britt, playing perhaps his final game before declaring for the NFL draft, became the Big East's career leader in receiving yards with six catches for 119 yards. He caught the game-winning score from 42 yards out, less than a minute after NC State took its last lead.

Rutgers has now won three straight bowl games, which is really something since before this stretch the program had never won a single one in its 139-year history. The Scarlet Knights should be one of the favorites in the Big East next year, though they must fill huge voids that will be left by Teel, Tiquan Underwood, Britt (if he leaves) and others.

The Big East is now 3-0 in bowl play and 2-0 against the ACC (and the state of North Carolina). Cincinnati will try to give the league a clean sweep over the ACC in the FedEx Orange Bowl against Virginia Tech.

Should Rutgers be in the final Top 25? I think so. Few teams played better in the last two months.

Papajohns.com Bowl preview

December, 29, 2008
12/29/08
10:56
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

A brief primer on today's Papajohns.com Bowl (ESPN, 3 p.m. ET):

What to watch: Rutgers was 1-5 at one point, while NC State stood at 2-6. Each made stunning turnarounds to get to this game and are among the hottest teams in the country. The Scarlet Knights have been piling up points through their deep passing attack. Watch today to see if their vastly improved offensive line can give quarterback Mike Teel time to find his targets downfield, and whether NC State's secondary -- which grabbed eight interceptions in its final three regular-season games -- will go after some of those long throws.

Who to watch: Teel and Kenny Britt. Teel put up astounding numbers in the second half of the season, throwing 13 touchdown passes in two games alone. His favorite target is junior wide receiver Britt, a nightmarish matchup for defensive backs who might be playing his final collegiate game.

Why to watch: This promises to be much more interesting than either team's record would indicate, with two red-hot quarterbacks matching up in Teel and NC State's Russell Wilson. The Big East will try to go 2-0 against the ACC in bowl season and 3-0 overall. And what else are you going to watch on a Monday afternoon?

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

It's time for our next round of bowl picks, which for the Big East means the Meineke Car Care Bowl on Saturday, the Papajohns.com Bowl on Monday and the Brut Sun Bowl on Wednesday. Away we go ...

North Carolina 23, West Virginia 16: Never bet against Pat White in a bowl game; he's 3-0 and nobody gave him or his team a shot at beating Georgia or Oklahoma. While the Tar Heels aren't nearly as imposing as those former BCS foes, they are the wrong kind of matchup for the Mountaineers: a fast, athletic defense that can choke off the option with special teams that can cause problems. West Virginia's offense really struggled in the last two weeks of the season against similarly tough defenses from Pittsburgh and South Florida. Despite White and Co.'s big-game experience, North Carolina will beat its third Big East team of the season before a pro-Heels crowd in Charlotte.

Rutgers 34, NC State 20: The two Team Turnarounds meet in Dixie in maybe the best bowl showdown ever between a 7-5 club and a 6-6 one. Both played extremely well down the stretch, and you could argue that the Wolfpack played a tougher slate in the final month than Rutgers did. But there's no doubting how dominant the Scarlet Knights have been, and of the two quarterbacks who did their own revolutions, I like the senior Mike Teel better than the freshman Russell Wilson. Teel and Kenny Britt go out in style in Birmingham.

Pittsburgh 31, Oregon State 27: With Jacquizz Rodgers questionable for the game, Oregon State will have to find other ways to score. As bad as the Beavers' defense played in the season finale against Oregon, you have to wonder how they'll stop the Big East's top scoring team and LeSean McCoy. My guess is they won't. And if you're into the motivation aspect, Pitt is thrilled to be in El Paso, while Oregon State had its sights set on the Rose Bowl. The Panthers get their 10th win and set themselves up for a high 2009 preseason ranking.

Last week: 1-0

Season record: 47-23 (67 percent)

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Here's what to watch for in the next batch of Big East-related bowl games, which include Saturday's Meineke Car Care Bowl, Monday's Papajohns.com Bowl and Wednesday's Brut Sun Bowl.

1. ACC vs. Big East bragging rights: We've debated all season which league is better, and the ACC had the upper hand during the regular season with much better out-of-conference performances. But the two showdowns coming up should tell us a lot about the two leagues' relative strengths. North Carolina and West Virginia are both 8-4 teams who finished near the top of their conference standings, while Rutgers and NC State were their leagues' hottest teams after awful starts. A split might not say much, but a sweep by either conference would be a strong statement.

2. Pat White: "The best winner in college football," as head coach Bill Stewart calls him, will play his last game for West Virginia in the Meineke Car Care Bowl on Saturday. That alone is worth watching. But in this game especially, White needs to have a commanding finale. North Carolina's defense is athletic and well-schooled and will not give up too much easily. White, who hasn't committed a turnover in three previous bowl wins, will need to be sharp in the passing game and let free to run wild, too.

3. North Carolina's kickoff returns vs. West Virginia's coverage: The Tar Heels lost one of the most dangerous return men in the country when Brandon Tate went down with a knee injury. But Johnny White has been nearly as good in Tate's absence, averaging 25.7 yards per return. That's significant since West Virginia has one of the worst kickoff return defenses in the nation, ranking 117th out of 119 FBS teams. The Mountaineers are already playing on a virtual home field for the Tar Heels. They can't afford to give up short fields all day, too.

4. Where will the points come from? North Carolina's offense is not very explosive when the defense and special teams aren't helping it out. The Tar Heels scored only 15 points against Maryland and 10 versus NC State in two late losses that damaged their ACC title hopes. They've also been playing quarterback shuffle in an effort to jumpstart the dormant passing game. The most consistent force for West Virginia all season has been its defense. This could be a low-scoring game that comes down to a few key mistakes or big plays.

5. Mike Teel and Russell Wilson: The most intriguing aspect of the Papajohns.com Bowl is the quarterback play. Teel lit up the Big East over the last five weeks, throwing 20 touchdown passes in that span. Wilson, a freshman, turned NC State's season around when he got healthy, and he led the ACC in touchdown passes and passing efficiency. Whichever one has the better game probably will have his hands on the trophy at the end.

6. Turnovers: Perhaps Wilson's best attribute is his decision-making. He threw only one interception all season. Teel, on the other hand, has been prone to throwing picks much of his career. The Wolfpack defense had 17 interceptions this season, including seven in the final two games. They had a plus-12 turnover margin their final seven games, while Rutgers hasn't created a lot of takeaways all year. "Ball security has to be our No. 1 goal in this game," Teel said.

7. Kenny Britt: It may be the Rutgers receiver's final collegiate game, so get a load of this star junior while you can. Britt had 1,252 yards receiving this year and four games of at least 140 yards. He's tall, physical and fast and could well be the difference maker against a very sound NC State defense.

8. LeSean McCoy: The Brut Sun Bowl was supposed to be a matchup of the nation's top freshman tailback, Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers, and the best sophomore runner, Pitt's McCoy. Rodgers almost certainly won't play, however, because of a broken bone in his left shoulder. So that leaves it to McCoy to, um, shoulder the star power burden in this game. He is the kind of player who lives for these challenges.

9. Pitt's secondary vs. the Oregon State passing game: Without Rodgers, the Beavers will have to look more to the air in this game. Quarterback Lyle Moevao threw for 374 yards and five touchdown passes -- but also two interceptions -- in the season finale against Oregon. Pitt's defensive backs have been burned at times this year by top-flight passing games. They're helped by the fact that James Rodgers -- Jacquizz's brothers and an electric receiving threat -- also won't play because of an injury. But they'll still have others to worry about, including Sammie Stroughter.

10. Pitt's offensive line: The Panthers have to do more up front than just spring gaps for McCoy. They have to give quarterback Bill Stull time to make plays downfield. Oregon State finished 10th in the FBS in sacks this season and eighth in tackles for loss. Pittsburgh's O-line has been a strength all season, even after C.J. Davis had to move from guard to center after an injury to starter Robb Houser earlier this year.

ESPN.com's All-Big East team

December, 10, 2008
12/10/08
10:56
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Here are my selections for the 2008 All-Big East team:

OFFENSE

QB: Pat White, West Virginia
RB: Donald Brown, Connecticut
RB:
LeSean McCoy, Pittsburgh
WR:
Kenny Britt, Rutgers
WR:
Mardy Gilyard, Cincinnati
TE:
Nate Byham, Pittsburgh
OT:
Ryan Stanchek, West Virginia
OT:
Anthony Davis, Rutgers
OG:
C.J. Davis, Pittsburgh
OG:
Greg Isdaner, West Virginia
C:
Eric Wood, Louisville

DEFENSE

DL: Cody Brown, Connecticut
DL: George Selvie, South Florida
DL:
Connor Barwin, Cincinnati
DL:
Arthur Jones, Syracuse
LB:
Scott McKillop, Pittsburgh
LB:
Tyrone McKenzie, South Florida
LB:
Mortty Ivy, West Virginia
CB:
Mike Mickens, Cincinnati
CB:
Darius Butler, Connecticut
S:
Carlton Williams, South Florida
S:
Courtney Greene, Rutgers

SPECIALISTS

P: Kevin Huber, Cincinnati
K: Pat McAfee, West Virginia
KR:
Mardy Gilyard, Cincinnati
PR:
Jasper Howard, Connecticut

Ranking the Big East bowls

December, 8, 2008
12/08/08
5:03
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

What are the most and least interesting Big East bowls? Let's rank them:


Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Since our What to Watch posts usually run on Friday, I thought I'd drop a few keys to tonight's Rutgers-Louisville game (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET), which has major bowl implications for the league as a whole:

1. FedEx Orange Bowl
No. 12 Cincinnati vs. No. 19 Virginia Tech, Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m., FOX: OK, so maybe the rest of the nation -- or even the ACC -- isn't captivated by this matchup. If you listened to our bowl podcast this morning, you heard my colleague and ACC blogger Heather Dinich describe this as one of the worst games involving her league. But from a Big East perspective, every BCS game is huge for the little conference that could. Especially when it comes against one of the teams that almost killed the Big East by leaving for the ACC. Even leaving that angle aside, Cincinnati has been a great story and a fun team to watch all season. I expect nothing less than a terrific game in Miami.
2. Brut Sun Bowl
No. 20 Pitt vs. Oregon State, Dec. 31, 2 p.m., CBS: If Oregon State plays defense like it did against Oregon in the Civil War, Pittsburgh could score 50. Regardless, this game should be a lot of fun. You have the nation's best freshman running back, the Beavers' Jacquizz Rodgers, against the best sophomore tailback, LeSean McCoy. A hungry Pitt team against an Oregon State program always looking for respect. And the Big East can earn some more pride by knocking off the team that nearly won the Pac-10.
3. Papajohns.com Bowl
Rutgers vs. NC State: Dec. 29, 3 p.m., ESPN: Yes, it's only 7-5 (Rutgers) vs. 6-6 (NC State). And yes, Birmingham's aging Legion Field is about the last place you'd want to spend a December day. But this is still a matchup between two streaking teams with good quarterback play. I can't wait to see what Mike Teel, Kenny Britt and Co. do for an encore after the Scarlet Knights' amazing regular-season finishing kick.
4. Meineke Car Care Bowl
West Virginia vs. North Carolina, Dec. 27, 1 p.m., ESPN: Will the high-octane West Virginia offense we've seen in bowl games over the years show up? Or will this be the Mountaineers' attack that has continually sputtered to score between seven and 10 points in the first half of games this season? Either way, it will be interesting because of Pat White's final game, and North Carolina's quest to go 3-0 against the Big East.
5. International Bowl
UConn vs. Buffalo: Jan. 3, noon, ESPN2: How many college football fans are going to tune into a Jan. 3 game in Toronto featuring two relatively unknown programs? The Huskies have a star attraction in Donald Brown, while Buffalo is the feel-good story with its first-ever bowl appearance.
6. magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl
South Florida vs. Memphis: Dec. 20, 4:30 p.m., ESPN2: In case you're wondering, magicJack is a device you can plug into your computer, and then your cell phone, to make free calls. And if you're like me, that's the extent of your interest in this game right now. Just kidding. But there's not much to love about a game to be played indoors in a baseball stadium on Dec. 20 between two teams that haven't done much this year.
 

1. Pressure on the quarterback: When Rutgers scored its monumental win over Louisville in Piscataway two years ago, it did so by repeatedly knocking down quarterback Brian Brohm. Coach Greg Schiano is known for his creative and aggressive blitzing schemes, and the Scarlet Knights have turned up the heat on defense in the past several weeks. They have 16 sacks during their five-game winning streak, and several opposing quarterbacks -- including Bill Stull and Zach Frazer (concussions), Matt Grothe (ankle) and Pat White (head) -- haven't been able to finish the game after getting battered around. That's bad news for Hunter Cantwell and the Louisville offensive line, which has sprung far too many leaks this season.

On the flip side, the Cardinals and their patchwork secondary have absolutely no chance of slowing down receivers Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood if they don't get to quarterback Mike Teel. If Teel has time, the game will get ugly. The problem is that the Louisville defensive front, while very solid against the run, lacks speed to put on a heavy pass rush. Defensive coordinator Ron English will have to dial up some blitzes from his linebackers and safeties to keep Teel from feeling comfortable in the pocket.

2. Louisville's ability to sustain drives: The Cardinals' best chance to pull off the upset is by pounding the ball on the ground, both to slow down the Rutgers pass rush and to control the clock with Britt on the sidelines. They have the players to do it, led by 1,000-yard freshman back Victor Anderson. Rutgers ranks just seventh in the Big East in rushing defense, allowing 147.3 yards per game on the ground. For Louisville to succeed with this strategy, though, it will have to cut way down on the silly penalties and costly turnovers that have plagued the team much of the season.

3. The kicking game: The last two games between these teams have been thrillers that have come down to field goals. Jeremy Ito hit a cluck kick to clinch Rutgers' comeback in 2006 (after an offsides penalty negated his previous miss). Art Carmody made the only game-winner of his fantastic career in last year's finale, as Louisville rallied from 18 points down.

If such a scenario repeats itself this season, then it's advantage: Rutgers. San San Te has been very solid after a shaky opening game, going 9-for-11 since then. The Cardinals' kicker is ... well, we're not sure who it is at the moment. They've used three there this year and keep switching the job around in a desperate attempt to find someone reliable. The three kickers have combined to make just 5 of 10 attempts all season, and none from longer than 36 yards. Steve Kragthorpe usually eschews a field goal attempt from anywhere outside the 20 and just goes for it on fourth down.

Still, the way this game shapes up on paper, Kragthorpe would probably welcome the idea of it coming down to a field goal tonight.

Big East Week 15 picks

December, 4, 2008
12/04/08
12:00
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

If the most important thing is how you finish, I'm in line for a contract extension. Last week, I picked Pitt to beat West Virginia, 20-17, and the Panthers won 19-15. I predicted Cincinnati over Syracuse, 35-10, and the actual score was 30-10. Bring on these final week picks. I'm a closer, baby!

THURSDAY

Rutgers 33, Louisville 17: I don't see any way that Louisville's tattered secondary can slow down the deadly Mike Teel-to-Kenny Britt combination. The league's hottest team takes out the league's coldest team without too much trouble.

SATURDAY

West Virginia 24, South Florida 14: The Bulls have shut down the Mountaineers' offense the past two seasons. But even though this isn't a vintage West Virginia offense, the South Florida defense also is not as good as it used to be. Pat White has to go out a winner in his final home game if there's any justice at all in this world.

Pittsburgh 21, Connecticut 17: LeSean McCoy vs. Donald Brown will be a draw. In the end, the Huskies' inability to make plays in the passing game, even against a suspect Pitt secondary, will make the difference here, as the Panthers make their case for a Sun Bowl berth.

Cincinnati 31, Hawaii 23: The Bearcats' jet lag and lack of burning motivation will make this one closer than it should be. But I just can't see the Big East's BCS representative falling to a team that lost to San Jose State and Utah State. Or maybe I just don't want to see that.

Last week: 2-0

Season results: 42-23 (66 percent)

Big East helmet stickers, Week 13

November, 23, 2008
11/23/08
11:47
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Pat White, QB, West Virginia: White rushed for 200 yards, threw for 122 and accounted for five touchdowns in the Mountaineers' 35-21 win over Louisville. The senior became the NCAA's all-time leading rusher among quarterbacks and broke the Big East record for most career touchdowns.

Mike Teel, QB, Rutgers: Teel completed 23 of 33 passes for 359 yards and a touchdown in the Scarlet Knights' 30-3 win over Army. He became the school's all-time career passing leader, too.

Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers: Had 10 catches for a career-high 197 yards in the Army win.

Tony Pike, QB, Cincinnati: The junior was nearly flawless in completing 26 of 32 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns in Cincinnati's 28-21 win over Pittsburgh.

Syracuse: The entire team, including soon-to-be-unemployed coach Greg Robinson, deserves a helmet sticker for sticking together and beating Notre Dame, 24-23, in South Bend. The rest of the Big East is thankful that the Orange might have put the Gator or Sun bowl back in play for the league.

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