November 17, 2011

Week 12 preview in the Big East

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The Big East race now rests on a sophomore quarterback named Munchie.

Munchie Legaux is Cincinnati's new quarterback, and how he plays will go a long way toward deciding the Big East titlist.

Louisville at Connecticut, noon
Cincinnati at Rutgers, noon
Miami at USF, 3:30 p.m.
The Bearcats lead the conference at 3-1. The loss came last week to West Virginia, and Cincinnati senior quarterback Zach Collaros suffered a broken ankle on a sack by Bruce Irvin in the second quarter. He had surgery Monday and will miss at least the rest of the regular season.

Four Big East teams sit at 3-2. The Bearcats will face one of those teams on the road this week when they visit Rutgers. After that, Cincinnati has another road trip to Syracuse (1-4), then the regular-season finale at home against Connecticut (2-2).

Legaux may lack game experience, but Cincinnati coach Butch Jones said his new starting quarterback has had the same amount of practice reps as Collaros since the spring.

"We hope that the cumulative amount of practice reps will pay dividends," Jones said.

A four-star quarterback recruit from New Orleans' Edna Karr High, Legaux originally committed to Colorado. But after Cincinnati expressed interest, Legaux opened up his recruitment and eventually signed with Cincinnati.

And since you're probably asking: Yes, Munchie is a nickname. His given name is Benton. Around age 5, though, Benton Legaux lacked his front teeth, which caused him trouble when he ate. His grandparents nicknamed him "Munchie" - and it has stuck.

Now grown, Munchie has all his teeth. Meanwhile, Cincinnati hopes its offense will as well.

"We may open it up," Jones said. "That may be hard to imagine, but he can throw the football and he can run the football."

Despite having limited tape on Legaux, Rutgers coach Greg Schiano expects Cincinnati to adjust its offense.

"Whatever his strengths are, they're going to be emphasized in the game plan," Schiano said. "We have to be able to adjust as the game goes on."

Legaux already has showed an ability to adjust. On his first possession after Collaros' injury, Legaux floated a pass that was intercepted. But he finished 10-of-21 for 144 yards and also rushed for 77 yards and a score, and led two scoring drives.

"I knew he was going to be OK because when he came off the field [after the interception], he could tell me the coverage and what had happened and he knew he made a poor decision," Jones said. "As the game went on, the speed of it slowed down for him. He was able to make faster game-speed decisions."

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BEST MATCHUP: Connecticut's backfield vs. Louisville's defense. In a 28-21 win over Syracuse two weeks ago, Connecticut made the most extensive use of its two-quarterback system since the early part of the season. In place of an ineffective Johnny McEntee, run specialist Scott McCummings rushed for two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Meanwhile, TB Lyle McCombs rushed for a season-high 152 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. Louisville is coming off its worst performance of the season against the run. Pitt rushed for 200 yards and two touchdowns in a 21-14 win over the Cardinals last week.

PLAYER ON THE SPOT: Cincinnati RB Isaiah Pead. Pead, a senior, may be the nation's best-kept secret at running back. Schiano called him a decisive, downhill runner. West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said Pead is as "good a running back as I've seen in a while." Cincinnati's offense has been tilted toward his running talents, but more is going to be on his shoulders with Collaros out. Pead is 20th in the nation in rushing at 103.8 yards per game and leads the Big East with 12 total touchdowns.

KEEP AN EYE ON: USF. Since 2007, USF is 13-21 in Big East games, but 8-3 against teams from other Big Six conferences and Notre Dame. The Bulls play host to Miami on Saturday. The Bulls are 5-1 against the ACC in that span, including a split of two games against Miami since 2007. USF's other wins over ACC programs: Clemson in the Meineke Car Care Bowl last season, at Florida State in 2009, North Carolina State in 2008 and North Carolina in 2007.

NUMBERS GAME: Rutgers led the nation in turnover margin on Oct. 8, but the Scarlet Knights have slipped since. Rutgers was plus-14 in turnover margin in the first five games. But the Scarlet Knights are minus-8 in the last five games, finishing in the red in four of the past five games. Rutgers has not been on the plus-side of the turnover margin since an Oct. 8 win over Pitt.

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"We had guys miss class because they stayed up all night playing that video game [Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3]. It's such a big deal." - Louisville coach Charlie Strong

"The Big East is crazy. One second you are out, then you are right back in it. Anyone can win it now. There are games to be played still for everyone. We have to win one game at a time, though. It's anyone's in the league to win." - Connecticut DT Kendall Reyes

"Our players don't live in a cave. They know what's at stake. But it can be dangerous. If we do something extra to prepare here, I'll be disappointed in what they were doing to prepare in the first 10 weeks." - Rutgers coach Greg Schiano

POLL WATCH: Cincinnati's loss to West Virginia knocked the Big East out of the BCS standings. The Bearcats had been 23rd. West Virginia returned to the human polls, checking in at No. 22 in the Harris poll and tied at No. 23 in the coaches' poll.

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ETC.: Rutgers WR Mohamed Sanu set the Big East single-season record with 94 catches this season, breaking the record of 92 set by Pittsburgh's Larry Fitzgerald in 2003. ... Cincinnati, Rutgers and West Virginia are bowl-eligible, and no Big East teams have been eliminated from bowl eligibility. ... West Virginia's win over Cincinnati was the Mountaineers' first road victory over a ranked opponent since 2007. ... Pittsburgh coach Todd Graham said his offensive line had its best game of the season in the win over Louisville. After an off week, Graham expects to have starting lineman Lucas Nix back from injury against West Virginia. ... Louisville S Shenard Holton and CB Adrian Bushell did not play last week against Pittsburgh because of suspensions. Holton has been suspended indefinitely since Oct. 21. DE Marcus Smith (ankle) did not play against Pitt because of an injury. ... Connecticut CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson (knee) will be a game-time decision. He has not played since Sept. 24.

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

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