October 6, 2011

Week 6 preview in the Big East

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When Ray Graham chose to play tailback at Pittsburgh rather than at Rutgers, he knew he eventually could face his older brother, Khaseem Greene.

They had competed before, mostly around their houses in Elizabeth, N.J., or in pickup basketball games. As teammates in basketball, Graham said, they're unbeatable. Going head-to-head on the football field, though, has been rare.

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"We always competed," Greene said. "Whether it was being first to get a drink out of the refrigerator, or video games or basketball or anything, we always wanted to win."

Graham and Greene have the same father, but different mothers. They grew up in different homes, but were teammates in youth football and through high school.

Even when Graham succeeded Greene as running back at Elizabeth High, Greene said they didn't compete for that job. Greene had a growth spurt and moved to receiver just as Graham was moving up to the varsity as a freshman.

"He took somebody else's spot - but he didn't take mine," Greene said.

Graham and Greene have been on opposite Big East sidelines twice before, but neither of those games will be quite like Saturday's for the brothers, who are separated by 19 months.

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After splitting carries with Dion Lewis last season, Graham now is the centerpiece of Pittsburgh's offense. After rushing for 226 yards last Thursday against USF, Graham is the nation's No. 3 rusher. His 734 rushing yards are 232 more than anyone else in the Big East.

Greene also is enjoying a career season. Thanks to his move from free safety to weakside linebacker, Greene will be closer to the line of scrimmage and, therefore, closer to Graham. Greene leads Rutgers with 34 tackles.

Though both will be in the spotlight, that doesn't mean Graham and Greene will step out of the routine of talking during the week and wishing each other luck before the game.

"We don't trash talk at all, really," Graham said. "We're more competitive when we're playing pickup basketball games. On the field, we really don't talk trash."

Greene says he hasn't laid a good hit on Graham since Pop Warner. He'll try to do so Saturday. Greene is a sure tackler, but Graham is one of the most elusive players in the country.

"He's as elusive a back as I can remember," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. "Some of the cuts, he reminds me of Barry Sanders when I was coaching [as an assistant] for the Bears. He can stop on a dime and make you miss, and then accelerate."

Maybe not if Graham's brother is in the way.

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BEST MATCHUP: Rutgers WR Mohamed Sanu vs. Pittsburgh's secondary. The Panthers already have faced one top-flight receiver this season and handled him well. Notre Dame's Michael Floyd caught only four passes for 27 yards in the Irish's win. Part of the success came because of a blitz-happy scheme that kept Irish QB Tommy Rees off-balance. Sanu has caught 43 passes for 428 yards and five touchdowns in four games. With Rutgers' struggles along the offensive line and at quarterback, Pitt almost certainly will make Chas Dodd and/or Gary Nova to make quick decisions.

PLAYER ON THE SPOT: Syracuse RB Antwon Bailey. Bailey, a senior, topped 100 yards in back-to-back games against Toledo and Rutgers, the first time in his career he has done that. More will be on his shoulders now because backup Prince-Tyson Gulley will miss the rest of the season with a broken collarbone. With little depth behind him, Bailey likely will continue to get 20 carries per game.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Connecticut DT Kendall Reyes. The Huskies' defense flopped against Western Michigan, but don't blame Reyes. He finished the game with two sacks and three tackles for loss. Reyes has nine tackles for loss in his past four games and four sacks in his past two. This week, he'll face an improving West Virginia offensive line. His play will be key in disrupting WVU QB Geno Smith.

NUMBERS GAME: The Connecticut-West Virginia matchup will feature teams that have been involved in games with three 100-yard receivers for a single team. West Virginia had three 100-yard receivers in a Sept. 17 victory over Maryland ; Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and Ivan McCartney all hit triple digits. Connecticut was on the other side of that last week, allowing three Western Michigan receivers to top 100 yards in a loss to the Broncos.

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QUOTES OF THE WEEK

"You only get seven opportunities a year. What's so hard about it? It's too cold? Wasn't too cold for our players. Wasn't too cold for our coaches or managers or trainers; they're out there. So why did we have 20,000 people less at this one than we did last week? ... The funny thing about it is we're all talking two weeks ago about how much difference the fans and the crowd's going to make to the LSU people. Well, LSU played well in front of 62,000 of our people and then turned around and went home and played a 1-4 Kentucky team at noon and [they] have 95,000 people there. You want to talk about an elite program, that's one of them. I don't know about this place." - New West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, on attendance. WVU's announced attendance for the LSU game was 62,065; that dropped to 46,603 last week for Bowling Green

"I kind of do feel like an honorary coach. I am still watching game film, talking with the guys, talking with the coaches about everything. I know the game plan, so I still know everything on game days. I feel like I am Coach Brown's [defensive coordinator Don Brown] little sidekick." - Connecticut CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, who did not play in last week's loss to Western Michigan because of a sprained knee. He will be out for a few more weeks

"If I ask my players to treat every game like a business trip, and I go down there and I get outside of my schedule, then I'm not doing the right thing because I'm not showing the right example. I have gotten a few phone calls, but I told them, 'Hey, I'll come down sometime during vacation, but right now we're going down there on a business trip trying to win a football game.' " - Syracuse coach Doug Marrone, on returning to the Superdome to face Tulane. Marrone was the offensive coordinator for the Saints from 2006-08 and lived in the same New Orleans neighborhood as Tulane coach Bob Toledo

POLL WATCH: After the 44-17 loss to Pittsburgh, USF dropped out of both polls. The Bulls had been ranked 16th in the coaches' poll. West Virginia is the only ranked Big East team, at No. 19 in the coaches' poll. USF, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati appeared in the "also receiving votes" category.

ETC.: Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said he remains undecided on who will play quarterback this week against Pittsburgh. Freshman Gary Nova relieved an ineffective Chas Dodd against Syracuse. Nova led a comeback that culminated with a 19-16 win in double overtime. ... Connecticut was hit with two season-ending injuries with RB D.J. Shoemate (shoulder) and OT Jimmy Bennett (knee). Shoemate was a potential starter at running back. Bennett had become Connecticut's top lineman, coach Paul Pasqualoni said. ... Pittsburgh G Lucas Nix (knee) could miss the Rutgers game after being injured against USF. ... Syracuse DE Chandler Jones was cleared to practice on a limited basis. He has not played since the opener because of a lower body injury and is not expected to play against Tulane. S Shamarko Thomas also returned to practice. ... Louisville QB Will Stein returned to practice in full pads this week after missing part of the Kentucky game and all of the Marshall game with a shoulder injury. He is day-to-day. Louisville freshman QB Teddy Bridgewater made his first career start in the loss to Marshall, going 20-of-29 for 221 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also rushed for a touchdown. ... Louisville TB Victor Anderson, who was hurt against Marshall, is questionable. ... West Virginia freshman RB Dustin Garrison's 291 yards against Bowling Green last week is the most for any FBS player this season. ... Pittsburgh, which is installing a no-huddle, up-tempo offense, ran 91 plays in the win over USF, the most for a Big East team in regulation this season. ... After throwing four interceptions and no touchdowns in the first three games of the season, Connecticut QB Johnny McEntee has thrown six touchdowns and no picks in the past two games. ... Cincinnati and Rutgers lead the nation in takeaways with 18. USF is sixth at 14.

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com, and you can follow him on Twitter.




 

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