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September 6, 2006

Big East: Week 2 Breakdown

Fox's Big East Week 2 picks
Rivals.com national writer David Fox's predictions for Week 2 in the Big East.
Friday, Sept. 8:
Pittsburgh 35, Cincinnati 14
Saturday, Sept. 9:
Louisville 42, Temple 7
Rutgers 28, Illinois 14
South Florida 21, Florida International 7
Iowa 31, Syracuse 3
West Virginia 56, Eastern Washington 10
Last week: 8-0. Season: 8-0.

Best matchup. Illinois at Rutgers.
In a weak slate for the Big East this week, Rutgers' game against Illinois has a few storylines. The Illini (2-9 in 2005) beat Rutgers 33-30 in overtime a year ago, depriving the Scarlet Knights an eight-win season. This year, Illinois could be the barrier to a 4-0 start with Rutgers' next two games coming against Ohio and Howard.

Worst matchup: Eastern Washington at West Virginia.
Eastern Washington trailed 42-7 at the half to Oregon State (5-6 in '05) last week in the opener. Get ready to see a lot of West Virginia's backups.

BCS implications: None.
The two teams with BCS hopes, West Virginia and Louisville, should roll against Eastern Washington and Temple. Pittsburgh could have an outside shot at the conference title, starting this week against Cincinnati.

Most to gain: Louisville running backs.
After the loss of Michael Bush for the season, the Cardinals will have to find a replacement. From a combination of Kolby Smith, George Stripling and Anthony Allen one could emerge, or the Cardinals could use a committee approach. Coach Bobby Petrino will have a week to adjust his offense before a key non-conference game against Miami on Sept. 16.

Most to lose: Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights are coming of a high-profile win over North Carolina. A letdown at home against Illinois, which defeated Rutgers 33-30 last year in overtime, wouldn't be devastating but would sap some of the momentum gained from beating an ACC opponent on the road.

Who's hot: Raymell Rice, Rutgers
After rushing for 201 yards against North Carolina, Rice became the first Rutgers player with three consecutive 100-yard games since Jacki Crooks in 1998.

Who's not: Pittsburgh on the road.
The Panthers were 0-5 on the road last year. That streak should end Friday.

Must see TV:Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, Friday 8 p.m., ESPN2
We'd rather watch the NFL equivalent, but at least this is a conference game. Pittsburgh made easy work of Virginia last week and could be ready to join Louisville and West Virginia among the conference elite. We start to find out if the Panthers are for real this week - and next when Pitt plays host to Michigan State.

Backup who could have an impact:: Pittsburgh running back Shane Brooks.
The redshirt freshman should see more time this week with LaRod Stephens-Howling's status up in the air because of an ankle injury sustained against Virginia. Brooks ran nine times for 43 yards against the Cavaliers.

Key stat: 418.
Connecticut's rushing yards on the season, good enough to lead the country. The Huskies averaged 8 yards per carry in a 52-7 win over Rhode Island.

Take the line: Rutgers is favored by 13.5 at home over Illinois, but don't be surprised if the Scarlet Knights win by more than a couple of touchdowns. The Illini gave up 30 points and 517 yards of total offense at home in a win over Rutgers last year.

They said it: "You can call Notre Dame and ask for a one-and-one, but is that going to happen? I don't think so. You (can't) call a team in February and they'll say 'Oh, yeah, I'll come to Morgantown.' It doesn't happen that way. We were lucky to find a I-AA team, we might have had to go to the (Division II) West Virginia Conference."
-West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez on having to replace Buffalo on the schedule in February.

Injury update: West Virginia quarterback Pat White is nursing a rib injury and has missed some practice time early this week. … Louisville running back Michael Bush (knee) is out for the season. … Louisville starting defensive tackle Adrian Grady (leg) will be out for 2-4 weeks. Pittsburgh running back LaRod Stephens-Howling (ankle) is day-to-day.

Worth noting: Redshirt freshman Matt Grothe will start for South Florida this week in place of Pat Julmiste, who left the game early Saturday with a thigh bruise. …Cincinnati will continue to rotate quarterbacks Dustin Grutza and Nick Davila for another week. … Connecticut has an open date this week. … Pittsburgh is visiting Cincinnati for the first time since 1922.

Looking back: Pittsburgh linebacker Clint Session made an emphatic return after an injury-plagued 2005 with nine tackles, two tackles for a loss and a 78-yard interception return for a touchdown. … The Big East went 7-1 last week. The only loss was Wake Forest's 20-10 defeat of Syracuse. Two wins came against ACC teams with Pittsburgh beating Virginia and Rutgers beating North Carolina.

Freshman who impressed: Connecticut running back Donald Brown ran nine times for 118 yards and two touchdowns. His performance highlighted the second-best team rushing day in school history with 418 total yards on the ground. USF's Grothe claimed the starting job after replacing Julmiste. Grothe entered the game in the second quarter and went 9-of-13 for 171 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 58 yards and another TD.

More Week 2 Conference Previews: ACC | Big Ten | Big 12 | Pac-10 | SEC



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