Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Everyone is anxiously awaiting what is prematurely being dubbed the "Big East Championship" game on Monday afternoon between Cincinnati and Rutgers. It doesn't make much sense to speak of conference championships before a single snap has taken place. Additionally, there is plenty of football to be played long before the titans take the field in Piscataway. Let's look at the rest of the Big East match ups this weekend:

Minnesota (-3.5) over Syracuse (Saturday, Noon, ESPN2)

The odds makers made this one an easy pick. The outcome of this game was never in doubt and the spread is small enough to make this one a no brainer. Minnesota comes into the Carrier Dome losers of 5 straight (including a 55-0 thrashing by Iowa and a 42-21 loss to Kansas in the Insight Bowl) they did start off 7-1 last year and have 18 starters returning this year. By contrast, Syracuse had 18 scholarship players leave the program. Orange fans are rightfully excited by the arrival of first year head coach Doug Marrone but should not expect miracles.

West Virginia (No Line) over Liberty (Saturday, Noon, SNY)

This one should be a laugher as the Mountaineers open up vs. an FCS opponent from the Big South Conference. West Virginia certainly is a different team than it was two years ago after having lost 4 offensive stars to the NFL (Steve Slaton - 2008 Texans, Owen Schmitt -2008 Seahawks, Darius Reynaud - 2008 Vikings and Pat White - 2009 Dolphins) but still have some offensive firepower. The departure of UConn's Donald Brown to the NFL means that Noel Devine returns as the leading rusher in the Big East at 6.3 yds/carry. Quarterback Jarrett Brown is 2-0 as a starter and has never lost a game in which he entered with the lead. It will also be interesting to see this team begin the transition from "Rich Rodriguez' team" to "Bill Stewart's team."

Pittsburgh (No Line) over Youngstown State (Saturday, 1PM)

While Pitt will easily roll over its FCS opponent from the Missouri Valley Conference, the real question here is what will happen with the rest of their season? The Panthers were once again praised for their recruiting class in 2009, and were picked 1st in the Big East media poll. Is Bill Stull the quarterback that can lead the Panthers to a BCS berth? It will be difficult to replace LeSean McCoy (1,448 yds., 21 touchdowns) and LaRod Stephens-Howling (312 yds., 5 touchdowns) at tailback, especially with true freshman Dion Lewis (don't worry - if he gets hurt, he'll be replaced by true freshman Ray Graham). The Pitt two-deep is currently littered with freshman (15 to be exact). There is also the Dave Wannestedt factor. He has no problem recruiting, but has difficulty bringing the best out of his players and also gets out coached each and every Saturday. Is this really a championship team?

USF (No Line) over Wofford (Saturday, 7PM)

This is the Bulls' first of two FCS opponents this year (the other being Western Kentucky). USF should win this game handily over its opponent from the Southern Conference. The Bulls have the talent this year to make a run for their first ever Big East Title and BCS berth. Quarterback Matt Grothe enters this year only 287 yards behind Pat White on the Big East Total Offense list (which he could rack up vs. Wofford) and only 1,287 yards behind former Louisville quarterback Chris Redman who holds the Big East record. That record is well withing reach for this season. On the other side of the ball, defensive end George Selvie is just as exciting. The two-time All-American decided to fore go the NFL draft this spring and will return to anchor the Bulls defense. He routinely runs over anybody not named Anthony Davis on his way to opposing quarterbacks.

UConn (-5) over Ohio (Sunday, 7PM)

The biggest question in this game is not whether or not UConn will cover the spread (they will), it's whether or not Ohio can sell out 24,000 seat Peden Stadium with tickets going for $5 each. The economy is currently in the toilet and UConn-Ohio is not exactly Florida-Georgia, but $5 to see a Division IA College Football game is a great deal no matter the circumstances. Let's see if the people of Athens agree. UConn should fall back to the bottom half of the Big East this year after losing six players to the NFL Draft, including Donald Brown, the nation's leading rusher in 2008.

Louisville (No Line) over Indiana State (Saturday, 7:30 PM)

Indiana State is already 0-1 this season after losing their season opener to Quincy last Thursday. Yes, Quincy, an NAIA school. Not even Louisville, with all its troubles, can lose to Indiana State. The remnants of Bobby Petrino's time in Louisville are almost gone. Most of his players have either graduated, transferred or otherwise lost eligibility. This is truly Steve Kragthorpe's team now, and that's not a good thing if you're a Louisville fan. A sub .500 finish is certainly possible for the Cardinals this year. Even worse, they may finish behind Syracuse.

Of course, all of this is just the undercard. These games will hold us over until the main event on Monday afternoon. Until then - enjoy your weekend.


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