Big East football teams have never shied away from playing games on school nights, so it should come as little surprise that half of the league's teams will have completed their 2007 openers before dawn breaks on the first Saturday of the season.
Tonight's game should provide little suspense, but Syracuse gets an early chance to make some noise on national television when they take on Washington tomorrow night.
Feel the magic people, it's football time. Here are your pre-Saturday Big East previews.
BUFFALO (0-0) AT RUTGERS (0-0) (Thursday)
Time/TV: 7 p.m./MSG, Local
Favorite: Rutgers by 32
Coming off of its first bowl win in 137 years, Rutgers begins its 2007 campaign at home against a Buffalo team that is 12-69 since moving to Division I-A in 1999. Second-year head coach Turner Gill is hoping that talented quarterback Drew Willy can help the Bulls better their 2-10 mark of a year ago.
Running back James Starks and wide receiver Naaman Roosevelt (a dangerous return man as well) are also nice players, but the offensive line will be heavily overmatched, and Willy isn't mobile enough to get away from the likes of Eric Foster and Brandon Renkart. The Buffalo defense does return eight starters, but to a unit that ranked 116th in total defense in 2006, and 109th against the run. See ray run...for like 8,000 yards.
There's really no need to talk any more about this one, Willy is a nice little player but he can't single-handedly save the Bulls from an opening night blowout.
CC Prediction: Rutgers 37, Buffalo 7
SOUTHEAST MISSOURI STATE (0-0) AT CINCINNATI (0-0) (Thursday)
Time/TV: 7 p.m./ESPN360
Favorite Cincinnati by 36
Nippert Stadium ushers in the Brian Kelly era as UC hosts SEMO St. tonight at 7. All-conference tackle Terrill Byrd is suspended for the contest, but that won't stop a Division I-AA foe with a freshman quarterback from being completely and utterly unable to move the football.
The only real draw here is to see how Ben Mauk looks in his first start since last year's opener when he was at Wake Forest. Kelly's spread passing attack would seem to be a perfect fit for Mauk, but if something goes wrong the embattled Dustin Grutza is still on the sidelines.
CC Prediction: Cincinnati 38, Southeast Missouri State 0
WASHINGTON (0-0) AT SYRACUSE (0-0) (Friday)
Time/TV: 8 p.m./ESPN
Favorite: Washington by 3.5
Likely the best Big East matchup of week one, despite the fact that it includes two teams coming off of less than stellar seasons who don't figure to fare significantly better in 2007.
The pressure is on a pair of Syracuse Robinsons as Greg could very well be the first coaching casualty of the season if the Orange don't win a couple of early games, and Andrew is taking over for the oft-maligned Perry Patterson at quarterback. Robinson, along with tailback Curtis Brinkley and highly talented receiver Mike Williams, will look to take advantage of a Husky defense that lost its top six tacklers from '06. Probably easier said than done as the Orange's average of 17.4 ppg last season ranked 102nd nationally.
Ty Willingham is also breaking in a sophomore quarterback in the versatile Jake Locker. When he looks over his shoulder he'll have to hope that he doesn't see SU defensive end Jameel McClain, the Big East's reigning sack champ, lumbering towards him. The Orange were abused by the run a year ago, but the Husky ground attack was inconsistent at best in 2006. Louis Rankin is the top returning U-Dub tailback, he also might be the Devil if his 666-yard rushing total of a year ago is any indication.
Both teams are evenly mysterious on paper right now, and while I really want to pick Syracuse, I just can't do it.
CC Prediction: Washington 21, Syracuse 17