After five weeks of mostly underwhelming non-conference play, we finally have a couple in-conference matchups in the Big East this weekend. At this point, we know that no one in the conference is any good at all, but now it’s time to find out how the teams stack up with one another. It’s really hard to rule out really any team in the race for the title, but these games will finally give us some clarity.
Game of the Week – Syracuse (3-1) @ South Florida (3-1) – Saturday 12 PM, ESPN3.com
The last time anybody called a Syracuse game “game of the week” was probably in the Donovan McNabb era, if not the Jim Brown era, but thanks a conference best 3-1 start by both the Orange and the Bulls, this is it. I’m not sure anyone is buying ‘Cuse as any sort of contender due to the crappiness of their three wins, but they will have a shot to prove people wrong with a trip to play against one of the teams people expect to make a run at a BCS berth.
‘Cuse coach Doug Marrone has done a good job mixing up his offensive looks so far this year. We know that they are going to make running the ball a priority, and we know South Florida is going to do the same. The team that runs the ball more effectively in this one is going to win. South Florida is much more athletic on defense and I think that will be the difference.
Games to Keep an Eye on
Connecticut (3-2) @ Rutgers (2-2) – Friday 7:30 PM, ESPN
Friday night is a really depressing time for a football game, because if you end up watching it, you inevitably realize at some point “wow, I have so little to do on a Friday night that I’m watching two mediocre teams play a boring football game.” They never play really good games on Friday night and this game is no different. These are two middle of the road squads. The best win either has is UConn over Vanderbilt.
One quick aside about this game: I was driving to lunch last Sunday listening to the Bengals pre-game show. They were interviewing Brian Leonard and asked him a question about whether in his high school or college years he had played in a game that matched the rivalry between the Bengals and Browns. His answer was “UConn-Rutgers”. That’s hilarious on two levels. First of all, calling Bengals-Browns a “rivalry” is flat-out laughable. Second, who knew UConn and Rutgers were rivals?
In all seriousness, this matchup is a bit intriguing. Jordan Todman and UConn get it done on the ground. They are among the top ranked rushing offenses in college football. Rutgers, on the other hand, is allowing to just 80 yards per game on the ground. When Rutgers has the ball, UConn will be focusing on one guy: Mohamed Sanu. Sanu is a wide receiver, so it figures that he would lead the team in receiving yards, not rushing yards. As it stands though, he leads the Scarlet Knights in both. Amazingly, he is also tied for the team lead in passing touchdowns, which is embarrassing, because he has just one.
Pitt (2-2) @ Notre Dame (2-3) – Saturday 3:30 PM, NBC
Behind a revamped offensive line, pre-season second string running back Ray Graham rushed for 277 yards last week in the absence of Dion Lewis. A shuffled defense also looked good last weekend, but then again, it was Florida International. The defense will need to be good again against Notre Dame, because even though the Irish are only 2-3, Brian Kelly has them moving the ball. They are averaging nearly 300 yards in the air and over 400 in total offense. They are also coming off of their best performance of the year: a 31-13 beating of Boston College.
Memphis (1-4) @ Louisville (2-2) – Saturday 2 PM, ESPN3.com
I’ll leave the in-depth analysis to our UofL guys, but I will say this: Memphis is bad at football. The defense will let you do pretty much whatever you want and the offense won’t bother to answer. The Tigers lost to Tulsa 48-7 last week and if Louisville can’t beat them, well, I’m not sure what, but it wouldn’t be good.
Miami (OH) (3-2) @ Cincinnati (1-3) – Saturday 7 PM, ESPN3.com
The RedHawks are much-improved under first year head coach Michael Haywood. They have already tripled their win total from last season. They have one of the youngest teams in FBS and figure to be a major threat in the MAC for years to come. They are a work in progress offensively, but they swarm on defense. They gave Florida fits in week one. Cincinnati, though, showed signs of putting things together against Oklahoma in their last game. These two in-state rivals figure to make an interesting match.
Only if You Have Family Involved
UNLV (1-4) @ West Virginia (3-1) – Saturday 3:30 PM, ESPN3.com
To their credit, UNLV has played three ranked teams already this season, but they haven’t played any of them particularly well. The Rebs really struggle to move the ball and teams have run the ball pretty much at will against them. West Virginia’s last game was an ugly loss in Death Valley to LSU in which the Mountaineers and Tigers did nothing on offense. After a bye week, they figure to get back on track against an inferior opponent.