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November 22, 2006

Big East: Week 13 Breakdown

Fox's Big East picks
Rivals.com national writer David Fox's predictions for Week 13 in the Big East.
West Virginia 42, South Florida 17
Connecticut 16, Cincinnati 10
Rutgers 24, Syracuse 16
Louisville 38, Pittsburgh 21

Last week: 2-2. Season: 48-14

Best matchup: West Virginia's Pat White and South Florida's Matt Grothe. The Big East's top dual-threat quarterbacks will face off in Morgantown, W.Va. Grothe averages 252.4 total yards per game; White averages 240.3 yards.

Worst matchup: Louisville's offense vs. Pittsburgh's defense. The Panthers have not been able to stop anybody lately. Ray Rice, Donald Brown, D.J. Hernandez, Pat White and Steve Slaton have all had success against Pitt. Since Sept. 23, Pittsburgh has allowed more yards to each opponent than the previous one. West Virginia amassed an amazing 641 yards last week. Louisville should have little trouble moving the ball at Heinz Field.

The pressure is on: Pittsburgh. The Panthers enter the final game of the season on a four-game losing streak after starting the season 6-1. A loss to Louisville in the finale would equal the Panthers' loss total from a year ago.

Upset alert: Connecticut over Cincinnati. The Bearcats are winless on the road this year. Plus, look at the track record of big wins in the Big East: Louisville beat West Virginia at home before losing at Rutgers. Rutgers beat Louisville at home before losing at Cincinnati.

Most to gain: Cincinnati. The Bearcats already gained a good amount of notoriety for knocking off undefeated Rutgers last week, but the Bearcats still have a good chance to finish in fourth place in the conference. For that to happen, UC needs to earn its first road win of the season at Connecticut.

Most to lose: Louisville. The Cardinals are in good position for a BCS bowl bid after Rutgers' loss to Cincinnati on Saturday. If West Virginia beats Rutgers, the Cardinals would have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Mountaineers. But first, Louisville has to get through Pittsburgh.

Who's hot: Cincinnati at home. At Nippert Stadium, the Bearcats are 6-1 while allowing 248.4 yards per game. In the win over Rutgers, Cincinnati allowed Ray Rice to rush for 54 yards and intercepted Mike Teel four times.

Who's not: Pittsburgh's running game. The Panthers have averaged 75.25 yards per game on the ground in the last four games, including minus-1 against West Virginia on Thursday.

Must see TV: South Florida (7-4, 3-3) at West Virginia (9-1, 4-1), noon Saturday, ESPN2; Louisville (9-1, 4-1) at Pittsburgh (6-5, 2-4), 3:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPN

Backup/newcomers who could have an impact: Connecticut senior Brandon Young is taking over for injured receiver Larry Taylor the Huskies' best wideout. Freshmen Brad Kanuch and Terence Jeffers will also see action at receiver against Cincinnati this week.

Key stat: 514.6. Yards per game West Virginia is averaging against Big East opponents this season after putting up 641 against Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Take the line: West Virginia is a 19-point favorite at home over South Florida. Expect the Mountaineers to continue blowing out opponents. Season record: 7-5.

They said it: "I guess in the perception or mentality of the national media, we're still fighting some things. That's unfortunate. I know people said the high scoring (in our game with Louisville) was because there's no defense. But there were some great offensive skill players in that game. The Michigan-Ohio State was a great game for college football, but I think we have skilled players in Big East, too." -West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez

They said it II: "Maybe what it is, is trying to find a reason not to like the Big East. When we played West Virginia, it was two teams battling it out. We thought we played great defense to hold them to what we did." -Louisville coach Bobby Petrino

Injury update: Connecticut wide receiver Larry Taylor (concussion) will not play against Cincinnati. Cornerback Darius Butler (hamstring), running back Terry Caulley (hand) and right tackle Mike Hicks (ankle, knee) are all questionable. Pittsburgh defensive end Chris McKillop (knee) will not play against Louisville. Rutgers cornerback Derrick Roberson (groin) could return against Syracuse after missing four games. South Florida linebacker Ben Moffit (knee) will miss most of the week but should return for the West Virginia game.

Worth noting: Louisville leads the country with 38 sacks in 10 games after dropping South Florida quarterback Matt Grothe six times. With Elvis Dumervil last year, the Cardinals had 46 sacks in 12 games. Pittsburgh tight end Darrell Strong will play against Louisville after a two-game suspension for an obscene gesture made in the loss to South Florida on Nov. 4. In his first start replacing Dustin Grutza, Cincinnati quarterback Nick Davila was 11 of 15 for 277 yards with a touchdown against Rutgers. He added six carries for 23 yards with a touchdown. Against Pittsburgh, West Virginia's Pat White (220 rushing yards) and Steve Slaton (215 rushing yards) became the third teammates in NCAA history to run for more than 200 yards each in a game. White (204 passing yards) became the first player in Big East history and eighth in NCAA history to run and pass for 200 yards in a game.

Looking back: First it was Louisville, then Rutgers. Now, it's Cincinnati. The Bearcats were the latest Big East team to pick up a season-defining upset win at home with a 30-11 rout of undefeated Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights' loss puts Louisville in good position to claim the conference title if the Cardinals and West Virginia continue to win.

Freshmen who impressed: Syracuse running back Delone Carter carried 16 times for 115 yards in the Orange's 20-14 win over Connecticut. Pittsburgh receiver Oderick Turner had 95 receiving yards and a touchdown in the 45-27 loss to West Virginia. Louisville running back Anthony Allen ran for two touchdowns in the 31-8 win over South Florida.

Bowl watch:Cincinnati (6-5) became bowl eligible last week with the win over Rutgers. Louisville (9-1), Rutgers (9-1), West Virginia (9-1), South Florida (7-4) and Pittsburgh (6-5) are also eligible for the postseason.

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