Let's start off with a quick recap of last week. Syracuse upended South Florida 13-9 for their first ever win against the Bulls. This game was riveting television, and by that I mean car wreck riveting. Terrible, terrible football.
Rutgers surprised the hell out of the Big East by getting off the mat after the Tulane debacle. Back-up freshman quarterback Chas Dodd helped pull off a home win against UConn.
Pittsburgh wins a gold star for being competitive at Notre Dame, losing 23-17. Coming up empty on two red zone chances and losing two turnovers doomed the Panthers.
West Virginia smoked UNLV 49-10 and Louisville eviscerated hapless Memphis 56-0. (Easy money this week in the Southern Miss-Memphis game at -14 for USM. Memphis is a train wreck)
Big East conference play is here and do you know what that means? It means that the league becomes allergic to Saturdays in their quixotic quest for attention and respect. Why compete with the other big boy leagues on Saturdays when you can have Thursdays and Fridays all to yourself? A pair of weeknight ESPN games highlights the schedule along with the interesting Pittsburgh-Syracuse tussle on (gasp) Saturday.
Louisville and Syracuse are both showing signs of life, starting 3-2 and 4-1 respectively. The vanquished competition hasn't been impressive, but these beleaguered fan bases will take what they can get. Both teams can take a big leap towards bowl eligibility, and Big East title competitiveness, with winnable games at home. Their opponents are Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, pre-season conference favorites who have fallen on hard times. Will the upstarts continue their upward trajectory? Picks after the jump.
South Florida @ West Virginia (-10.5) 6:30 ESPN
Prediction: West Virginia 34 USF 10
West Virginia is the clear-cut favorite to win the Big East with a sound defense and average offense (hey, that passes for dominance in the Big East). South Florida, meanwhile, has struggled, particularly on offense. They rank 86th in the nation in yards per game and racked up a season low 219 yards against Syracuse last week. B.J. Daniels has struggled mightily, completing just over 50% of his passes with 7 interceptions. USF does rank 18th in total defense, but West Virginia will pull away for the easy win. I even would have picked WVU at the original -13.5 line.
Cincinnati (-3) @ Louisville 7:00 ESPN
Prediction: Cincinnati 26 Louisville 21
We will learn a lot about Cincinnati on Friday at Papa John's Stadium. Are they team that was blown out at Fresno or the team that played Oklahoma close and then blew the doors off Miami (OH)? A fun match-up to watch is Louisville RB Bilal Powell and his 138 ypg on the ground versus Cincinnati's run defense, which is yielding only 85 ypg. I think Cincinnati has righted the ship and Louisville is still a year (or two) away.
Pittsburgh & Syracuse (-1) 11:00 ESPN3
Prediction: Syracuse 16 Pitt 13
Congrats to Syracuse. The Orange are off to their best start since 1999. I know, I know, the wins have come against Akron, Maine, Colgate and South Florida. Despite the cream puff schedule, Syracuse is only a middle of the pack offensive team. Pitt acquitted themselves well at Notre Dame last week, but still struggled to move the ball. The Syracuse bandwagon will get a little heavier this week with another win before the wheels fall off later in the year.
Rutgers (-6.5) vs. Army (East Rutherford) 1:00 ESPN3
Prediction: Rutgers 31 Army 20
Rutgers lost at home to Tulane. Army beat Tulane in NOLA by 18 points. This is an easy win for the Cadets, right? I don't think so. Rutgers bounced back with a big home win against UConn last week and may have found a new quarterback in Chas Dodd. It's hard to root against Army, but Rutgers has too many athletes in what will amount to a Scarlet Knights home game in East Rutherford.
Zoloft Game of the Week
Western Michigan @ Notre Dame (-24.5) 1:30 NBC
Prediction: Notre Dame 34 Western Michigan 13
For years Notre Dame bragged about their schedule. They played national competition and never bent to the temptation of a buy game. Now, they have joined everyone else with some Directional School Michigan MACtion! Can you feel the excitement in South Bend and in the NBC headquarters? Later in the year, they welcome Tulsa in addition to their annual tussles with the academies. ND lost TE Kyle Rudolph for the year, but that won't matter on Saturday. The Irish won't have any trouble, but they are due for a bit of a letdown. WMU will come in jacked up and 24.5 points is too much to take the Irish.
Bye Week: UConn
Last Week: 4-1 straight up, 2-3 ATS
Year to Date: 25-5 straight up, 14-16 ATS