Last week of non-conference play, which means we gotta do it up big. Not exactly sure what 'doin' it up big' entails, but we hear people saying it a lot these days so we'll give it a go.
(Friday) Pitt (5-1, 2-0) at Central Florida (2-3)
Favorite: Pitt by 11 1/2
Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt handed out mousetraps to his players this week as a reminder not to overlook Central Florida, regarded by some as a trap game before No. 24 Rutgers visits Heinz Field next week. Forty-three Panthers are now out for tonight's game with mousetrap-related injuries.
Pitt has outscored opponents 55-3,in the first quarter this season and have consistently put away inferior opponents (and there have been plenty) early.
Defensively, Pitt is tied for fifth nationally with 16 forced turnovers, and defensive end Chris McKillop is coming off a performance where he had 2 1/2 sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. The Panthers need a strong performance from free safety Mike Phillips, now that Eric Thatcher (ankle) has been lost for the season.
After three consecutive losses, Central Florida beat Marshall 23-22 in Huntington, W.Va., Oct. 4 on Michael Torres' 22-yard field goal with six seconds remaining. The Golden Knights got 100 yards rushing from both Kevin Smith (166) and Jason Peters (108) in that game.
Pitt has been less than stellar on the road again this year, but unlike last season when they went 0-6 away from home, they're winning. We can't see them dropping this one.
CC Prediction: Pitt 27, Central Florida 10
Army (3-3) at Connecticut (2-3, 0-1)
Favorite: Uconn by 4 1/2
How do you put a strangle hold on "most disappointing team in the Big East" honors? Lose at home to Army of course.
Don't expect the Black Knights to have any sympathy for the struggling Huskies on Saturday. Army has been humiliated in each of the last three seasons in games against Uconn by an average score of 45-12. Last season, the thrashing was 47-13 at Michie Stadium.
The win is a must for Army, who still has Notre Dame, Navy and Air Force on the schedule, if they wish to entertain any hopes of playing in the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 19. The win is perhaps a must for Uconn's bowl chances as well, but Husky players still may not be all that focused since they're all still trying to figure out how a basketball player can steal several thousand dollar lap tops and still be allowed to play, while two 21-year old football players can buy two six packs of beer and five guys get booted off the team. It's quite the quandary.
Uconn's a lot better, but Army cares more and isn't extremely screwed up.
CC Prediction: Army 14, Uconn 13
South Florida (4-2, 1-1) at North Carolina (1-4)
Favorite: South Florida by 3 1/2
Just like us, Gunner Grothe continues to do it up big. The USF freshman QB is the national leader among first-year players in total offense, passing yards and rushing yards by a quarterback, and he's a top-ten performer in total rushing yards among all players. He's thrown for 1,230 yards and eight touchdowns, and he has led the Golden Bulls to three come-from-behind victories, settling a quarterback situation that was unsettled as coach Jim Leavitt opened the season.
North Carolina is losing by an average of 18 points per game, three of their four losses have been double-digit whippings, and their lone victory was a struggle against a Division I-AA school.
CC Prediction: South Florida 24, North Carolina 16
Syracuse (3-3, 0-1) at West Virginia (5-0)
Time/TV: Noon/ESPN Regional
Favorite: West Virginia by 25 1/2
The preseason Big East favorites open up conference play at home against a resurgent Syracuse squad. The Mountaineers will attempt to tie a program-best 13-game winning streak in the 54th meeting between WVU and SU.
Steve Slaton returned to form in last week's 42-14 win at Mississippi State, rushing for 185 yards and a touchdown, while quarterback Patrick White ran for a pair of TD's. Dating back to last year, West Virginia has compiled 44 rushing touchdowns in its last 11 games.
SU is second nationally in sacks (4.33) and tied for 13th in interceptions (9). Defensive end Jameel McClain is tied for second in the nation in sacks (1.4).
Can you say upset? So can we, we're not mute.
CC Prediction: West Virginia 38, Syracuse 10.
Rutgers (5-0, 1-0) at Navy (5-1)
Favorite: Navy by 2 1/2
Rutgers will face arguably its toughest test of the adolescent season as it travels to Annapolis to take on a Navy team whose only loss came by one in overtime. A win would mean the first 6-0 start for the Scarlet Knights since 1976.
Rutgers and Navy have faced each other 20 times, with the Midshipmen holding a slim 10- 9-1 advantage. The last time the two teams met, Rutgers came away with a 31-21 victory on Oct. 29, 2005 in Piscataway.
The game is sold out and attendance is expected to be among the top five in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium history.
The MVP of the first-half of the season in the Big East has undoubtedly been RU tailback Ray Rice. The sophomore has 806 yards rushing (5.7 avg), 11 touchdowns, and ranks second nationally in rushing yards per game (161.6). As a team, Rutgers is 10th in the nation in rushing (208.2).
Ray Rice's rushing really rocks.
10th? Navy laughs at you. The Middies are ranked first nationally in rushing yards per game (350.5). Quarterback Brian Hampton leads the ground attack with 645 yards and 10 touchdowns. He's also passed for 302 yards and two scores. Last week, Navy took a big steo towards capturing the Commander in Vhief trophy yet again, as it won at Air Force, 24-17.
This is arguably the game of the day in the conference, and likely the truest test for the Cinderella Scarlet Knights thus far. The quarterback issue is going to haunt them at some time or another in the season, but here we think Ray Rice is good enough to get the job done.
CC Prediction: Rutgers 22, Navy 20
Last Week: 5-0