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Week Five Big East Preview

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There was no summary last week partly because of all the understandable trauma, and partly because I didn't want to reveal that I had incorrectly picked two games in the same week for the first time all season. I actually had Connecticut written down before pulling a Point Break (inability to pull the trigger), and then I got Kragged for the second time in as many weeks (U of L has now accounted for half of my season losses).    

I feel shame, but now I get free.

WEST VIRGINIA (4-0) AT SOUTH FLORIDA (3-0)

Time/TV: 8:00/ESPN2

Favorite: West Virginia by 7

I'm 23-years-old and feel like I've established a somewhat respectable social track record since my high school years (Rocks). I'm not completely ready to hand in my cool card just yet (starting my own sports blog was a big step), but I'm not even going to pretend like I'm not totally staying home on a Friday night to watch this game.

The demise of Louisville - which has not been exaggerated - has made tonight's game even more marquee than it appeared it would be this summer. Whatever happens in Tampa this evening will almost certainly have an enormous effect on who obtains the Big East's automatic bid to the BCS, and could very well end up having a large effect on the mythical national title race.

The mayor of Tampa has proclaimed it "Green and Gold Day," and the 65,657-seat Raymond James Stadium will more than likely be filled to capacity for the first time for a South Florida home game.

Both teams are playing for more than just their first Big East victory.

For the first time in the brief history of their program, the Bulls will partake in a game where both teams are ranked. USF has never seen the kind of support they're going to see tonight, and a poor performance could jeopardize such widespread enthusiasm in the future.

Not only is No. 5 West Virginia playing to keep their hopes of a national title alive, but they're playing to avenge last season's shocking 24-19 home loss that knocked them out of the league title race. In that game Steve Slaton was held to just  43 yards, a performance that did a large amount of damage to his postseason awards status. As impressive as South Florida's win was, it'd be foolish not to note that Slaton and White were both hobbled in that game, the latter of which so much so that he was forced to sit out WVU's season finale against Rutgers.

West Virginia is the superior team, I don't think anyone who has seen the two play multiple times can disagree, the question is whether or not South Florida can use all the positive mojo it has coming into the game to springboard it to a landmark victory.

Me thinks not.

CC Prediction: West Virginia 34, South Florida 17

AKRON (2-2) AT CONNECTICUT (4-0)

Time/TV: Noon/ESPN Regional

Favorite: Connecticut by 15.5

I do feel bad for not picking the Huskies in a minor upset I had a hunch might happen, but even die-hard Uconn fans had to have been surprised at the 20-point hurting their boys put on host Pitt last weekend, especially considering that it came just a week after squeaking by Temple at home in a game they actually lost (he was in bounds).

The quest for 5-0 (good God) now goes through an Akron team averaging only 18.8 ppg and 2.7 yards per carry on the ground. The offense shouldn't find much solace against a stingy throwback (circa 2003) Connecticut defense that is holding opponents to 11.2 ppg and an average 250.5 yards of offense.

Akron has struggled mightily against the run, which bodes well for sophomore slumping Donald Brown, as well as fellow sophomore Andre Dixon, who was held in check last week after a 100-yard plus rushing performance against Temple. Quarterback Tyler Lorenzen has been solid in his first year behind center in Storrs, but he produced his worst game of the season last week, going 12-of-25 for 174 yards and no touchdowns.

Expect Randy Edsall to try and get his quarterback's confidence back, but look for Brown to finally break the 100-yard mark and lead his team to their fifth straight win.

CC Prediction: Connecticut 27, Akron 13

SYRACUSE (1-3) AT MIAMI OF OHIO (1-3)

Time/TV: 3:00/ONN (I don't know what it is either)

Favorite: Syracuse by 1.5

Well as spitefully as it may have occurred, the Orange played someone to within two touchdowns and thus get an honest preview for the first time in three weeks.

Folks close to the Syracuse program are calling this the biggest game of Greg Robinson's career, and they're probably right. The Louisville game didn't save Robinson's job, but it did take it off life support for the time being. If coach Rob can produce four more wins, or maybe just win this one, the Buffalo game and spring another big upset, then he's probably going to get another year.

Miami is coming off of consecutive blowout losses, including a 42-0 defeat last week at the hands of Colorado where they were shutout for the first time in 158 games. The Redhawks have lost seven straight at Yager Stadium, a trend that could result in Shane Montgomery not becoming one of the more memorable names in the vaunted cradle of coaches fraternity if it continues.

Miami's struggling offense should find strength in the tape of Brian Brohm throwing for a Big East record 555 yards against the Orange secondary last week, but the images of Andrew Robinson looking like Peyton Manning (when Peyton Manning throws to a receiver whose defender fell down when he started his drop) have to be less comforting.

I don't envy anyone being forced to sit through all 60 minutes of this one, unless you're an ugly football-loving 'Cuse fan because you're going to be able to see your team win for the second straight week.

CC Prediction: Syracuse 27, Miami of Ohio 24

MARYLAND (2-2) AT RUTGERS (3-0)

Time/TV: 3:30/ABC

Favorite: Rutgers by 18

The mental state of both teams should play a large role in the outcome of Saturday afternoon's contest in Piscataway.

Rutgers has rolled over each of its first three opponents, and has had two weeks to gear up for its first real test of the season. Maryland is coming off of one of the most heart-breaking defeats in program history, a 31-24 overtime loss at Wake Forest in which the Terps squandered a late third-quarter 24-3 lead.

Whether Maryland comes into the game thinking about redemption or their own plight will be key, especially if things don't go their way early.

Rutgers is entering the toughest portion of their schedule, and must avoid looking ahead. After the Terps, RU plays No. 24 Cincinnati, Syracuse, No. 18 South Florida and No. 5 West Virginia.

Ball control will be another key factor as Maryland and Rutgers boast solid running backs in Keon Lattimore and Ray Rice respectively. The Scarlet Knights have the superior defensive line, but Navy did have enough success on the ground to keep things relatively close in the second half two weeks ago.

I think this is where we see Mike Teel show that he's human. The junior has just been too good the first three weeks, and I think he comes into tomorrow's game a little too confident and ends up being brought back to earth a little bit. It's still not enough for Maryland to spring the upset.

CC Prediction: Rutgers 24, Maryland 14

PITTSBURGH (2-2) AT VIRGINIA (3-1)

Time/TV: 7:00/ESPNU

Favorite: Virginia by 6

If there was good thing that came out of Pitt's humbling Big East opener against Uconn it was that they found a quarterback in Pat Bostick.

The freshman threw three interceptions and led the offense to just 14 points, but he made enough throws (in 41 attempts) to instill confidence into his teammates, and I expect that the last week of practice was improved because of it.

I think heading into the game knowing Bostick is going to be the guy, as well as simply having LeSean McCoy on the team, will make the difference as the Wannstaches spring the tiniest of relatively unnoticed non-con upsets.

CC Prediction: Pittsburgh 27, Virginia 10

CINCINNATI (4-0) AT SAN DIEGO STATE (1-2)

Time/TV: 10 p.m./Versus

Favorite: Cincinnati by 14.5

With either Mauk or Grutza, Cincinnati is way better than San Diego State. If you have Versus you'll be able to see for yourself.

Vegas needs to start giving the Bearcats a little more love or intelligent folks are going to continue to make mas dinero off of them.

CC Prediction: Cincinnati 31, San Diego State 7