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November 15, 2006

Big East: Week 12 Breakdown

Fox's Big East picks
Rivals.com national writer David Fox's predictions for Week 12 in the Big East.
West Virginia 35, Pittsburgh 14
Louisville 33, South Florida 20
Connecticut 21, Syracuse 10
Rutgers 22, Cincinnati 14
Last week: 2-2. Season: 46-12

Best matchup: Louisville wide receivers Mario Urrutia and Harry Douglas vs. South Florida cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams. South Florida will counter Louisville's dangerous receiving duo with one of the best tandem of cornerbacks in the conference. Urrutia and Douglas have combined for 82 catches for 1,404 yards and six touchdowns, but Jenkins has 11 pass break-ups on the year and Williams leads the Big East with six interceptions.

Worst matchup: West Virginia's backfield vs. Pittsburgh. The Backyard Brawl could get ugly with Pittsburgh's inability to stop the running game of quarterback Pat White and running back Steve Slaton. Connecticut's D.J. Hernandez and Donald Brown and Michigan State's Drew Stanton and Javon Ringer all rushed for more than 100 yards against the Panthers this year.

The pressure is on: Rutgers. Beware of the letdown. Louisville lost the game after the biggest game in its school's history. Now, Rutgers has to go on the road to Cincinnati. The Bearcats didn't put up much of a fight against West Virginia after the first quarter.

Upset alert: Connecticut is a slight underdog to Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. The Huskies found some answers on offense against Pittsburgh last week and should take that into Syracuse.

Most to gain: Cincinnati. The Bearcats have lost four games to ranked opponents this year with losses to Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Louisville and West Virginia. If Cincinnati can finally pull off the upset, the Bearcats can earn bowl eligibility and national respect with a win over Rutgers.

Most to lose: West Virginia. West Virginia has a chance to win the Big East and a trip to a BCS bowl game if it can win its last three games. One of those wins would be over the Cinderella Scarlet Knights of Rutgers on Dec. 2. The Mountaineers should be leery of the Panthers this week. Home underdogs have won the last two Thursday night Big East games with Louisville's win over West Virginia and Rutgers' win over Louisville.

Who's hot: Rutgers linebacker Devraun Thompson. The senior had two sacks, an interception and a forced fumble in the 28-25 upset of Louisville last week.

Who's not: Pittsburgh. The Panthers have lost three in a row to Rutgers, South Florida and Connecticut. Against the Huskies on Saturday, UConn running back Donald Brown ran for 205 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback D.J. Hernandez ran for 130 yards and passed 164 and four scores. Not an encouraging sign the week before facing West Virginia's White and Slaton. Pittsburgh finishes the season with Louisville.

Must see TV: No. 8 West Virginia (8-1, 3-1) at Pittsburgh (6-4, 2-3), 7:30 p.m. Eastern Thursday, ESPN

Backup who could have an impact: Louisville wide receiver Jimmy Riley. Riley has had five catches for 82 yards and touchdown in the last two games against Rutgers and West Virginia. He had just two catches through the first seven games. Riley could continue to be a factor in the passing game if Louisville's top two receivers have trouble with South Florida's cornerbacks.

Key stat: 42. Points surrendered by Cincinnati against West Virginia. The Bearcats allowed a total of 32 points in the three previous conference games against Syracuse, South Florida and Louisville.

Take the line: Ignore the last two Thursdays in the Big East. The home underdog has won twice in a row, but that ends this week. Pittsburgh is an 11-point underdog against West Virginia, but the Mountaineers have won by at least 17 in each of their victories. Season: 6-5.

They said it: "Yeah, I got some numbers on Thursday night, some just walking down College Avenue. They were, like, 'You want my number?' I mean, people knew who I was before, but nothing like that." --Rutgers kicker Jeremy Ito, who kicked the game-winning field goal against Louisville, from the Newark Star-Ledger.

They said it II: "I'm sure the big question on everybody's mind is, 'What happened?' The last eight minutes of the game, it is really simple for whatever reason, we looked like a team coming out of the third week of training camp." --Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt on his team's 46-45 double-overtime loss to Connecticut.

Injury update: West Virginia fullback Owen Schmitt (ankle) is questionable for the Pittsburgh game. Connecticut running back Terry Caulley could miss the remainder of the season with a broken hand. Offensive tackle Mike Hicks (ankle, knee sprains) will not play against Syracuse. Pittsburgh defensive end Chris McKillop (knee) will not play against West Virginia.

Worth noting: Rutgers' 28-25 win over Louisville on Thursday night was ESPN's second-highest audience for a Thursday night college football game it reached 4,642,000 households. The largest audience came a week earlier when 4.9 million households tuned in for Louisville-West Virginia. South Florida dismissed offensive tackle Theodric Watson and wide receiver Jackie Chambers for unspecified violations of team rules. The Big East has three teams in the top 10 in the Bowl Championship Series standings: No. 6 Rutgers, No. 8 West Virginia and No. 10 Louisville. Against Cincinnati, West Virginia did not score in the first quarter for the first time in 15 games. South Florida sacked Syracuse quarterback Perry Patterson seven times on Saturday.

Looking back: Rutgers was the story of college football for a few days after the Scarlet Knights upset Louisville 28-25 on Thursday. In the rest of the conference, West Virginia rebounded from its loss to Louisville with a 42-24 win over Cincinnati. Big numbers from quarterbacks D.J. Hernandez and Matt Grothe powered Connecticut and South Florida over Pittsburgh and Syracuse, respectively.

Freshmen who impressed: Connecticut running back Donald Brown had 43 carries for 205 yards and three total touchdowns in a 46-45 win over Pittsburgh in double overtime. Not bad for Terry Caulley's backup. South Florida quarterback Matt Grothe completed 25 of 35 passes for a school-record 364 yards and two touchdowns in the Bulls' 27-10 win over Syracuse. Louisville kick returner JaJuan Spillman set a school record with 192 kickoff return yards against Rutgers. He scored on a 100-yard return. South Florida kicker Delbert Alvarado had field goals of 56 (a Big East record) and 47 yards against Syracuse.

Bowl watch: Rutgers (9-0) is in control of its destiny for the Big East's BCS bowl bid. Louisville (8-1), West Virginia (8-1), South Florida (7-3) and Pittsburgh (6-5) are all bowl eligible. Cincinnati (5-5) needs to beat either Rutgers or Connecticut to head to the postseason. Connecticut (4-5) will have a chance at a bowl game if the Huskies win two of their last three against Syracuse, Cincinnati and Louisville.

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

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