October 11, 2007

Bearcats get chance to prove themselves

MORE WEEK 7 BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

FOX'S BIG EAST PICKS
Week 7 games
USF 21, UCF 10
Rutgers 35, Syracuse 14
Virginia 17, UConn 14
Cincinnati 42, Louisville 35
Overview: The Big East is the only conference in the country with three undefeated teams, but you wouldn't know it by looking at the polls. USF, Cincinnati and Connecticut are a combined 16-0, but only the Bulls have a high ranking to show for it. Connecticut is in the "others receiving votes category," and Cincinnati is ranked ahead of only Hawaii and Kansas among the unbeatens. The Big East's three unbeatens have played only four teams (I-AA Elon, Rutgers Auburn and West Virginia) with winning records and three of those wins belong to USF. This week will be an opportunity for the other two to pick up some national respect with Cincinnati facing defending (yet struggling) Big East champion Louisville and Connecticut facing Virginia - the leader in the ACC's Coastal Division - in Charlottesville.

Best matchup: UCF TB Kevin Smith vs. USF's run defense. The Bulls are the only team this season to hold West Virginia to fewer than 200 rushing yards. Then again, they also allowed Florida Atlantic to run for 152 last week. LB Ben Moffitt and Co. will try to duplicate their WVU effort against Smith, who leads the nation in rushing at 172.0 yards per game.

The pressure is on: Connecticut. The Huskies (5-0) are the only unranked undefeated team in the country. Here are five reasons: Duke (1-5), Maine (1-4), Temple (1-5), Pitt (2-3, through Tuesday), and Akron (3-3). This week's opponent, Virginia (5-1), isn't ranked either, but at least the Cavaliers are a name opponent in a major conference. The Huskies will have to beat the Cavs to be taken seriously in the Big East race.

Who's hot: Cincinnati P Kevin Huber is averaging 50.1 yards per punt. That would lead the country, but his 21 punts are not enough to qualify. Connecticut backup TB Andre Dixon has 336 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns in three games. Louisville has won eight of nine games against Cincinnati. The Bearcats last won the Keg of Nails in 2002.

Who's not: For the first time since the third game of his freshman year, West Virginia junior TB Steve Slaton hasn't reached the 100-yard mark in consecutive games. He had 54 yards against USF and 69 against Syracuse. It's also the first time since Sept. 24, 2005, he has gone consecutive games without a touchdown. USF has turned the ball over 11 times in the past three games but also forced 11 turnovers during that span. Louisville has not been at .500 this late in the season since 1999, when the Cardinals also were 3-3. Rutgers QB Mike Teel has thrown four interceptions in the past two games after throwing one in the first three.

Keep your eye on: Rutgers will be the last team in the country to play a road game when the Scarlet Knights go to Syracuse for their sixth game of the season. Back-to-back losses to Maryland and Cincinnati at home were somewhat surprising. Back-to-back home games with USF and West Virginia follow the trip to Syracuse, making a win in the Carrier Dome that much more important.

Numbers game: USF has had only two 100-yard rushers this season and both did it last week. Benjamin Williams ran for 186 yards and Matt Grothe for 120 against Florida Atlantic. Cincinnati is averaging 41 points per game in seven games under Brian Kelly, including last season's International Bowl. The Bearcats averaged 22.4 points per game in former coach Mark Dantonio's final seven games.

BIG EAST STANDINGS
TeamConf.All
Cincinnati1-06-0
Connecticut1-05-0
South Florida1-05-0
West Virginia1-15-1
Syracuse1-11-5
Rutgers0-13-2
Louisville0-13-3
Pittsburgh0-12-3
Freshman to watch: Cincinnati WR Marcus Barnett is the team's leading receiver and has 15 catches for 239 yards and five touchdowns over the past three games. He could have a breakout day against Louisville's struggling pass defense.

Injury update: Louisville WR Harry Douglas (leg) could return against Cincinnati. West Virginia QB Pat White (bruise) is expected to return Oct. 20 against Mississippi State after an off week. Rutgers SS Ron Girault (ankle) might not play against Syracuse.

They said it: "To see him making a mockery of something we take so seriously, something we work hard at, something we really believe in, just to satisfy his selfish, arrogant way. ... I wish I had another shot to play Cincinnati. But I don't. Hopefully next year these guys will take care of business."
Rutgers DT Eric Foster on Cincinnati QB Ben Mauk mocking the Rutgers "chop" in the Bearcats' 28-23 win

"On Facebook, they have this stupid, ridiculous thing called 'Poke the Opposing Team's Quarterback.' I've probably been poked three or four times by other schools all year. I've probably been poked about six million times this week."
USF QB Matt Grothe, in the St. Petersburg Times, in a story about the social networking Web site Facebook.com

"I've seen more quarterbacks get hurt in the pocket than in the option. We've had just one (major injury) in the last two years. I've been running this offense for 16 years, and we haven't had any more or less troubles with it than the dropback guys. Maybe less."
West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez on whether an option-based offense leads to more quarterback injuries

Etc.: Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe now will issue injury reports on players on the day before a game that will list players as "questionable" or "probable" but not the nature of the injury. He previously declined to discuss injuries that weren't season-ending. Louisville WR JaJuan Spillman has been suspended for the rest of the season. TB George Stripling is eligible to play against Cincinnati after serving a suspension for the Utah game. Syracuse WR Mike Williams has been invited to walk-on to the basketball team. He would need approval from coach Greg Robinson to do so.

MORE WEEK 7 BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.



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