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October 18, 2007

Rutgers could shatter Bulls' dream season

MORE WEEK 8 BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

FOX'S BIG EAST PICKS
Thursday's game
USF 28, Rutgers 17
Friday's game
Saturday's games
Overview: Last week was one giant step forward and two steps back for the Big East. USF is No. 2 in the first BCS standings of the season, meaning it would face Ohio State for the national championship if the season ended today. The Bulls also ended the week as the league's only undefeated team. Louisville defeated Cincinnati 28-24 and Virginia defeated Connecticut 17-16. The league has two non-Saturday games this week, with USF playing at Rutgers on Thursday and Louisville playing at UConn on Friday.

Best matchup: Rutgers' wide receivers vs. USF's cornerbacks. With more than 600 yards and four touchdowns each, Rutgers' Tiquan Underwood and Kenny Britt have more yards and touchdowns than even Louisville's top two receivers. They'll have their toughest test of the season against Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams.

The pressure is on: USF. From here on out, every game USF plays as an undefeated team is the biggest game in school history. No pressure there.

Who's hot: USF QB Matt Grothe has rushed for 220 yards and three touchdowns over the past two weeks. Louisville is plus-nine in turnover margin in its past three games. Connecticut freshman LB Lawrence Wilson had 17 tackles, including three for losses, in the 17-16 loss to Virginia on Saturday. USF DE George Selvie leads the nation with 11.5 sacks.

Who's not: Cincinnati has been penalized more than any other Big East team (66 for 539 yards). That total includes 11 penalties in the loss to Louisville, including five pre-snap penalties. Rutgers WR Tiquan Underwood has just seven catches for 74 yards in the past two games after starting the season with four consecutive 100-yard games. Louisville has failed to run for 100 yards in three of its past four games.

Keep your eye on: After Rutgers TB Ray Rice failed to run for 100 yards in losses to Maryland and Cincinnati, the Scarlet Knights hoped a change on the offensive line would spark the rushing attack. It worked. Freshman Anthony Davis, a Rivals100 prospect in the class of 2007, replaced Kevin Haslam at right guard against Syracuse last week and Rice ran for 196 yards. It will be tougher Thursday. USF held West Virginia and UCF TB Kevin Smith, who came in as the nation's leading rusher, to season-low rushing totals.

Numbers game: Cincinnati forced 25 turnovers in the first six games of the season but did not force any in Saturday's 28-24 loss to Louisville. Meanwhile, the Bearcats turned the ball over four times against the Cardinals. Cincinnati is winless in six meetings with Pittsburgh since 1921. USF's eight-game winning streak is tied for the longest in the nation with Boston College and Hawaii. West Virginia has scored at least 40 points in 12 of its past 14 games.

Freshman to watch: Thanks to Pittsburgh's LeSean McCoy, there will be no shortage of running back talent in the Big East once Steve Slaton and Ray Rice leave school. McCoy ran for 165 yards and three touchdowns in a 48-45 double-overtime loss to Navy on Oct. 10 and is second in the nation among freshmen rushers.

BIG EAST STANDINGS
TeamConf.All
South Florida1-06-0
Connecticut1-05-1
Cincinnati1-16-1
West Virginia1-15-1
Rutgers1-14-2
Louisville1-14-3
Syracuse1-21-6
Pittsburgh0-12-4
Injury update: Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt will coach from the press box against Cincinnati after having surgery to repair a torn left Achilles' tendon Tuesday. West Virginia QB Pat White (chest) is expected to return this week against Mississippi State after leaving the Oct. 6 win over Syracuse in the third quarter. Cincinnati QB Ben Mauk revealed on ESPN's College GameDay that he has been receiving injections of an anti-inflammatory pain suppressant to manage pain in his surgically repaired throwing shoulder. Connecticut TB Donald Brown did not play against Virginia because of an ankle sprain. Coach Randy Edsall said Brown was ready but that coaches decided not to use him. Louisville WR Mario Urrutia is a game-time decision for Friday after missing the last two games with an undisclosed injury. Syracuse G Ryan Durand is questionable with an ankle injury.

They said it:

"I get distracted like everybody else, but I try to keep them to a minimum. We've only played one game in the Big East, and our goal from the beginning was the Big East championship. And I want to tell you something: It's going to be a barn-burner these next number of weeks."
USF coach Jim Leavitt

"When you're on a larger scale, there's more opportunities for people to misunderstand and misinterpret things. If people don't follow you or cover you, then if a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there, can you hear it?"
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano on a rash of negative publicity for his team

"I think the Big East has done a pretty good job of scheduling (non-conference games), particularly when you compare us to other BCS conferences. I get sometimes amused when people talk about, 'Well, they're in this league, so they don't need to schedule as many good games out of conference.' If you look at some of the other BCS teams. ... you have to question their strength of schedules."
West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez, whose team faces Mississippi State this week. The Mountaineers' future schedules include Florida State, Colorado and Auburn

"I don't think I've been 100 percent healthy this year. I just have to be smart about it. If I can't play, I can't play."
West Virginia QB Pat White

Etc.: Road teams are 6-1 in conference games this season. The only win: USF over West Virginia. Rutgers freshman SS Joe Lefeged again was accused of dirty play after a 38-14 win over Syracuse. Orange coach Greg Robinson sent a video of what he called "a vicious blow" on QB Andrew Robinson to the league office. Maryland's Ralph Friedgen previously accused Lefeged of going after his quarterback. Police urged Connecticut fans to allow more time for their commute to Rentschler Field for Friday's game against Louisville, not because of the crowd anticipated for the game but because of the opening of a massive outdoor sporting goods store nearby. Tampa police arrested 26 people and ejected 42 others during last week's UCF-USF game. Of the arrests, 24 were for underage drinking.

MORE WEEK 8 BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.



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