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Big East: Week 12 Preview

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OK now you're just voting for ill-advised haircut out of spite.

Connecticut (4-5, 1-3) at Syracuse (3-7, 0-5)

Time/TV: Noon/ESPN Regional

Favorite:  Syracuse by 1

Coming off an emotional 1-point win over Pitt in double overtime, Uconn suddenly finds itself just one win under .500 and two away from being bowl eligible. Syracuse, on the other hand, is coming off yet another disappointing performance last week against South Florida in which they were lit up by freshman QB Matt Grothe in a 27-10 loss.

Hope was high that a positive season could be salvaged after the Orange hung with league leaders West Virginia and Louisville, but poor performances against Cincinnati and the Bulls in consecutive weeks have left 'Cuse fans once again focusing on the hardwood.

The star of the last two games for Uconn has been freshman running back Donald Brown who exploded for 199 yards against Rutgers and then followed it up with a 205-yard performance last week against Pitt.

"I don't think I've really accomplished anything," said Brown. "Right now, I've only helped my team get one win with the majority of the playing time. So I don't feel I've accomplished much. My ultimate goal is to help the team win every game that I get the opportunity for."

But things aren't all gravy for the Huskies, a number of injuries to key players will force several backups into action tomorrow. Cornerback Darius Butler (hamstring) and wide receiver Larry Taylor (concussion), both of whom have been very limited in practice this week, did work out Thursday. But neither is assured of playing Saturday against the Orange.

"I don't know. I'm going to see what they do (in practice)," Edsall said early Thursday.

Running back Terry Caulley and right tackle Mike Hicks are definitely out this week after sustaining injuries in the Pittsburgh game. Caulley, who had surgery on his broken hand Monday, and Hicks, who has an ankle and knee sprain, both likely are done for the season.

Because of Hicks' absence and a number of other injuries along the offensive line, Edsall and his staff are creating a makeshift lineup. Redshirt freshman Andrew Presnell filled in after Hicks went down against the Panthers, and senior Brian Kersmanc started at right guard last week in place of Immanuel Hutcherson. Edsall refused to say whether those two would remain in their spots this week.

The Syracuse defense has been impressive at times, in particular defensive end Jameel McClain who leads the Big East in sacks with 8.5. But, much like the Huskies until recently, the Orange have had difficulty moving the ball on offense. Expect two quarterbacks, senior Perry Patterson and freshman Andrew Robinson, and two tailbacks, sophomore Curtis Brinkley and freshman Delone Carter, to see action Saturday against UConn.

Louisville fans have experienced first hand how tough it is to beat even a bad 'Cuse team in the Carrier Dome, but it would appear now that the Orange have been broken over the last two weeks and the arrival of a Uconn team that has just realized it has a shot to go bowling is not going to help. DJ Hernandez plays well for the second straight week and Donald Brown goes over 100 as the Huskies get to .500.

CC Prediction: Uconn 20, Syracuse 10

Rutgers (9-0, 4-0) at Cincinnati (5-5, 2-3)

Time/TV: 7:45/ESPN

Favorite: Rutgers by 7

The slim hopes of a Rutgers national championship in football (freak out man in coma since 2002) could die at Nippert Stadium if the Scarlet Knights don't play with the same intensity they played with nine days ago. Rutgers is still riding high from their first win over a top 10 opponent at home, and that could spell trouble against a battle-tested Cincinnati team that has already taken on Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Louisville and West Virginia.

``I explained to our players that they just have to focus on Cincinnati and stay on point,'' soon to be departed head coach Greg Schiano said. ``I'd be a hypocrite if I just started talking about why we should be here or why we should be there. We just have to take care of our business and that is our goal.''

Rutgers' Ray Rice is third in the nation in rushing at 148.2 yards per game, trailing only West Virginia's Steve Slaton and Northern Illinois' Garrett Wolfe. Rice also is tied with Mountaineers quarterback Pat White for fourth in Division I-A with 15 rushing TDs. He is likely to garner the majority of the attention from a Cincinnati team that ranks 30th in the nation in run defense, allowing just 107.2 yards per game.

Rice ran for 195 yards, including third-quarter scoring runs of 59 and 11 yards in a 44-9 home win over Cincinnati last season. Rutgers is just 1-3-1 all-time in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati has lost four games to ranked opponents this season, but all four have come on the road. The Bearcats have won four in a row at home, and are 5-1 there on the season, outscoring their opponents 130-66. They need a win tomorrow, or next Saturday at Uconn to become bowl eligible for the fifth time in seven seasons.

This is one of those games where every pundit in the world is going to use the word "trap." Sometimes it's just a talking point, and sometimes there's actually something to it (see last Thursday). We think Greg Schiano is too good to let his players focus on anything besides the task at hand. That said, we do think this will be an extremely close game not because Rutgers is looking to West Virginia or thinking about their BCS ranking, but because (unbeknownst to just about everyone who focuses their attention solely on four conferences) Cincinnati is pretty good.

Three times this year the Bearcats have put themselves in a position to pull off a monumental upset, and three times they've fallen short. This is their last shot at a landmark victory this season and expect Mark Dantonio to pull out all the stops. If Dustin Grutza can use his mobility to escape the Rutgers rush and makes some plays with his feet the way Brian Brohm was unable to do last week, then look out, this could get interesting.

It's going to be interesting, but Brian Leonard and Clark Harris (the only Rutgers players with fully functioning hands) make some big catches down the stretch and seal a nailbiter. Note: we really wanted to pick Cincinnati but backed out at the last second.

CC Prediction: Rutgers 20, Cincinnati 17

Last Week: 2-2 (oy)

Seaon: 47-7