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October 25, 2006

Big East: Week 9 Breakdown

Fox's Big East picks
Rivals.com national writer David Fox's predictions for Week 8 in the Big East.
Saturday:
Cincinnati 24, Syracuse 17
Sunday:
Rutgers 35, Connecticut 10

Last week: 2-2. Season: 42-8.

Light slate: It's a slow week for the Big East, with only two games on the schedule. West Virginia and Louisville both have open dates before their Thursday matchup on Nov. 2.

Best matchup: Syracuse at Cincinnati. In a week with only two conference games and only one team with a winning record playing, this is all relative. This should be a close one - with bowl eligibility implications for both teams.

Worst matchup: Connecticut run defense vs. Rutgers running back Ray Rice. The Huskies allowed 263 rush yards and 6.3 yards per carry to West Virginia last week. The schedule does no favors for Connecticut, who will now try to stop the nation's second-leading rusher. Rice averages 160.57 yards per game.

Most to gain: Rutgers running back Ray Rice. Rice won't catch Garrett Wolfe's 1,413 total yards, but he could take over the lead in average yards per game if he has a big day against Connecticut and Wolfe continues to struggle against Iowa.

Most to lose: The loser of Syracuse at Cincinnati. Both teams are teetering on the edge of bowl eligibility. The Bearcats still have to face West Virginia and Rutgers in the last four games, so a win over Syracuse is imperative if Cincinnati hopes to reach the postseason. If the Orange can't put together a win streak against the Bearcats, South Florida and Connecticut, Syracuse will probably have to wait another year to return to a bowl game.

Who's hot: Syracuse wide receiver Mike Williams. The true freshman has emerged in the absence of Taj Smith. Williams has a touchdown catch in each of the last three games to go with 11 receptions for 254 yards.

Who's not: Connecticut quarterbacks. Randy Edsall is once against considering a change at quarterback. Matt Bonislawski started the last four games, but was pulled in the third quarter against West Virginia after going 8-for-20 for 58 yards with an interception. D.J. Hernandez was 7-for-14 for 57 yards with a touchdown and an interception in relief.

Must see TV: Connecticut (3-4, 0-2 Big East) at No. 16 Rutgers (7-0, 2-0 Big East), Sunday 8 p.m. Eastern, ESPN. It's the only Big East game on national television.

Key stat: 2. Consecutive games against ranked opponents (West Virginia and Rutgers) for Connecticut. It's the first time the Huskies have done that since moving to Division I-A in 2000.

Take the line: Rutgers is a 17-point favorite over UConn. Take the Scarlet Knights and Ray Rice to beat the spread at home. Season: 5-3.

They said it: "Everyone said this was a big test. But we passed it. So, I guess the next one will be a big test. But I think more people outside of this locker room are starting to believe now." -Rutgers running back Ray Rice to the Newark Star Ledger following the Scarlet Knights' 20-10 win over Pittsburgh.

Injury update: Connecticut defensive end Cody Brown, who leads the Huskies with 4.5 sacks, is out for the season with a broken arm sustained in practice last week. South Florida quarterback Matt Grothe left Sunday's game against Cincinnati after receiving a cut on his nose that required stitches. Bulls wide receiver Jackie Chambers also left the game with a broken hand.

Worth noting: Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich announced plans Tuesday to expand Papa John's Stadium from 42,000 seats to 63,600 with an upper deck and 75 luxury boxers. Syracuse has failed to rush for 100 yards in its last three games against Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Louisville. The Orange bottomed out against the Cardinals last week with 19 yards on the ground. Syracuse quarterback Perry Patterson threw for a career-high 303 yards against Louisville. Louisville reserve wide receivers Chris Vaughn and Scott Long were suspended after being arrested Sunday on charges of second-degree assault after allegedly shooting a woman with a paintball gun.

Looking back: In the biggest conference game of the season so far, Rutgers running back Ray Rice took over against Pittsburgh to keep the Scarlet Knights among the unbeaten. Rice ran for 225 yards and one touchdown against the Panthers. Cincinnati took a big step toward bowl eligibility by beating South Florida at home for the Bearcats' fourth win. Cincinnati held the Bulls to a season-low 219 yards of offense. West Virginia and Louisville remained unbeaten by winning on the road against Connecticut and Syracuse.

Freshman who impressed: Louisville running back Anthony Allen has given the Cardinals a third running option behind Kolby Smith and George Stripling. Against Syracuse, Allen ran 10 times for 45 yards and two touchdowns. He also lost a fumble.

Week 9 conference previews: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC



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