Maybe you've heard the story before: The Big East favorite heads to the state of North Carolina to face a school coming off a big win.
The Tar Heel State has been no fun for the Big East, handing the league arguably its biggest setbacks of the season so far. First was West Virginia's 24-3 loss to East Carolina. A week later came North Carolina's 44-12 demolition of host Rutgers.
The league can trace its North Carolina woes back to league co-champion Connecticut's 24-10 loss to Wake Forest in the Meineke Car Care Bowl – played in Charlotte – last season.
The only ranked team in the Big East, South Florida, heads to N.C. State on Saturday, and needs no reminder it is on upset alert. The Bulls are an eight-point favorite in Raleigh, but East Carolina's BCS bid ended there last week with a 30-24 loss in overtime. NCSU, then coached by Chuck Amato, defeated USF 14-0 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in 2005.
"I wasn't surprised (at the East Carolina result)," USF coach Jim Leavitt said. "I wasn't surprised one bit. I think they're very good."
USF enters the game off an emotional 17-9 victory at Florida International. Starting linebacker Brouce Mompremier collided with safety Carlton Williams on a tackle in the second half, leaving Mompremier temporarily unconscious on the field. He was taken off the field by ambulance, then airlifted to the hospital. Mompremier was cleared of any serious spinal injuries and doesn't need surgery. He returned to Tampa to watch practice Tuesday.
"His helmet hit me on the hip. As I got up, I didn't know he was on the ground," Williams said. "I was devastated when I first heard the news. He looks fine. Brouce is one of our leaders on our defense and on our team."
Mompremier will miss at least the next two games before he is re-evaluated. In the meantime, five other USF defensive starters missed practice early this week because of injury, including end George Selvie, tackles Aaron Harris and Terrell McClain, cornerback Tyller Roberts and Williams.
NCSU is beat up, too. Redshirt freshman Russell Wilson, who quarterbacked the win over East Carolina, and linebacker Nate Irving will not play because of injury. Harrison Beck will start at quarterback for the Wolfpack. Beck is from Clearwater, across the bay from Tampa and USF's campus. Beck, a transfer from Nebraska, has thrown 12 interceptions and four touchdowns in 10 games at State.
"You can't underestimate anyone," Williams said. "I know a couple of guys that played with him. A couple of guys said Beck was highly recruited. He can throw the ball."
Connecticut tailback Donald Brown vs. Louisville's rush defense. No one is suggesting they will end the season this way, but for now, Brown leads the nation in rushing and Louisville is second in rush defense. The Cardinals haven't faced a top-50 rushing attack. Can Brown bull through the Big East like he did Connecticut's non-conference schedule? Has coordinator Ron English really resurrected the Louisville defense? We'll start to get answers Friday night.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel. He should put up nice numbers against Morgan State, but this game is more important for Teel's psyche. He has thrown six interceptions and one touchdown in three games. He has been booed mercilessly by the home crowd. On Saturday, he threw a punch at teammate Glen Lee on the sideline in the final minutes of the loss to Navy. "It was a situation that was an unfortunate one, but one that was put behind them immediately," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said.
Louisville is allowing only 42 rushing yards per game. Only TCU has had a better rush defense this season. … Louisville wide receiver Doug Beaumont is the Big East receiving leader with 23 catches. He had nine receptions for 119 yards in last week's win over Kansas State. … Connecticut is 6-1 in games decided by one score the past two seasons and 2-0 this year. … Cincinnati faces Akron this week; the Bearcats are 6-1 against the MAC since joining the Big East. … Louisville running back Victor Anderson has rushed for 290 yards and four touchdowns in the past two games.
West Virginia has lost consecutive games for the first time since closing the 2004 season with losses to Boston College, Pittsburgh and Florida State (in the Gator Bowl). … The Mountaineers' 17 total points against East Carolina and Colorado is their lowest two-game output since September 1999. … Rutgers is the only team in the country that has not forced a turnover and is 0-3 for the first time since 1999, when the Scarlet Knights went 1-10. … Cincinnati has forced five turnovers; after three games last season, the Bearcats had forced 17.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
"We're a little off. We're not executing as well as we're capable of. … This is not something that's going to last."
– Rutgers coach Greg Schiano
"We got to whip 'em, but it's like whipping family."
– West Virginia coach Bill Stewart on facing in-state rival Marshall
"We thought he was well-prepared and thought he had the tools necessary, but you really don't know until you go out and play. Tony had just held a clipboard over the last two years. Exceed expectations? We didn't really have them other than we expected him to be successful. He had an outstanding day."
– Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly on junior quarterback Tony Pike, who passed for 241 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start, against Miami University.
"He's very elusive; he's hard to tackle. He's a guy that you never seemingly get a clean shot on. You're always trying to get a profile shot on him and he bounces off a lot of those tackles. He catches the ball well out of the backfield. The thing I see when I look on film is that he can stick his foot in the ground and change directions very easily."
– Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe on Connecticut's Brown.
Some Board of Governors members and donors are not pleased with West Virginia coach Bill Stewart's buyout clause in his contract, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Tuesday. The clause stipulates that if Stewart is fired before Jan. 3, West Virginia will owe him a prorated sum of $850,000 for every year left on his contract. Stewart will owe the school $1 million if he leaves for another coaching job. Neither provision was in the original agreement in January. Stewart signed a new contract Sept. 10. … Pittsburgh linebacker Adam Gunn is out for the season after having surgery to repair cracked vertebrae in his neck. … Rutgers running back Mason Robinson, who started against North Carolina, did not carry the ball against Navy. In his place, Jourdan Brooks (22 carries, 134 yards, two touchdowns) and Joe Martinek (eight carries, 61 yards, touchdown) shouldered the load. … West Virginia linebacker J.T. Thomas suffered a head-first collision in the Colorado game last week but is expected to play against Marshall. …. Louisville starting offensive linemen George Bussey and Mark Wetterer missed the Kansas State win because of ankle injuries, but they could return for Connecticut on Friday. … Syracuse running back Delone Carter (hamstring) is questionable for the Pittsburgh game.