Big East Week 3 Preview – "Hey, We’re Not the ACC!"

The Big East lurched through Week 2 of the football season with a couple positive developments.  Firstly, the ACC's self immolation ensured that no one paid attention to the Big East's continued struggles.  Also, unlike Virginia Tech, the Big East was able to quite easily dispatch all of its FCS foes.  After that, it's slim pickins for the positives.

West Virginia needed a 15 point 4th quarter comeback to beat Marshall in overtime in Morgantown.  In a game that I was strangely drawn to, Rutgers gained a measly 3.2 yards/play and FIU doubled the Scarlet Knights' yardage total.  On the upside, Rutgers was able to overcome the FIU Stadium record crowd of 19k+ (obvious Smarmy Tom Crean creative people counting) to come away with the 19-14 Failure in Victory award.  Syracuse stuck around for a bit in Seattle, but couldn't overcome a 4 touchdown passing night from Mel Kiper's man crush, Jake Locker in a 41-20 loss.  Pittsburgh struggled a bit with New Hampshire.  More importantly, they lost defensive end Greg Romeus for a significant length of time with a back injury.  Also, Dion Lewis continued to struggle and now has only 102 yards on 35 carries for the year.  Finally, USF fell to Florida 38-14, but had plenty of opportunities to make it a closer game.  The Bulls were undone by 5 of 20 passing from B.J. Daniels.  .250, that's acceptable for a catcher's batting average, not so much for completion percentage.

Fortunately, Week 3 offers the Big East the opportunity to turn over a new leaf and improve their national reputation with a solid slate of games.  As always, predictions and quasi-analysis after the jump.

Thursday

Cincinnati @ North Carolina St (-2.5) 6:30 ESPN

Prediction:  NC State 27  Cincinnati 23

A national TV audience gets a rare glimpse into the vortex of dull that is Tom O'Brien football at NC State.  After three consecutive 7-loss seasons, Mr. O'Brien's seat is getting pretty hot in Raleigh.  Then again, when isn't a coach on the hot seat in Raleigh?  (Arizona St thanks you for Herb Sendek)  This is a big game for Cincinnati after their struggles in Fresno in Week 1 and before Oklahoma rolls into Paul Brown Stadium next week.  Can Cincinnati protect Zach Collaros and establish some sort of running game on the road?  UC only totaled 47 yards from their backs against Fresno.  They ran wild over Indiana St last week, but Larry Bird wasn't available for the Sycamores.  Russell Wilson can chuck it for NC State and will probably carve up the suspect Bearcat defense.

Saturday

Maryland @ #21 West Virginia (-13) 11:00 ESPNU

Prediction: West Virginia 29 Maryland 17

Maryland and West Virginia renew their series on Saturday.  They played every year from 1980 to 2007, with West Virginia winning the past four meetings.  Both teams come in with shaky 2-0 records.  Navy rang up 412 rushing yards against Maryland on Labor Day, but a Terps goal line stand on the last play of the game preserved a 17-14 win.  Maryland only managed 272 yards in that game, including an amazingly low 11 yards passing on five attempts.  Davin Meggett, the son of oft-injured Tecmo Bowl return whiz David Meggett, is the Terps main offensive weapon at running back.  West Virginia hasn't been dominant, either, beating Coastal Carolina 31-0 and then turning back Marshall in OT.  Look for the West Virginia offense to get back on track with a couple big Noel Devine runs against a shaky Maryland run defense.  We may not see more than 10 pass attempts in this game.

UConn (-5) @ Temple 11:00 ESPN3

Prediction: UConn 20 Temple 10

Temple is off to a 2-0 start after wins over Villanova and Central Michigan.  Temple's main offensive force is Mr. Kensington's NCAA Football 2011 hero, RB Bernard Pierce.  Pierce is off to a slow start with only 147 total yards in two games, but he's a tough runner who should eclipse 1,000 again after a stellar freshman year.  Outside Pierce, the Temple offense is a bit shaky.  This should allow UConn to key on Pierce and shut down the Owls.  The Owls D will be a good test for UConn's offense.  If Zach Fraser can stay INT free again, UConn should get the win behind solid running from Jordan Todman and Robbie Frey.  UConn is still my pick to win the Big East and they need to come out of the Linc with the win.

Louisville @ Oregon St (-14) 4:30 FSN

Prediction: Oregon St 34 Louisville 10

This is a tough situation for Charlie Strong's Cardinals.  They were only able to muster 23 points against Eastern Kentucky last week and now they have to travel across the country to Reser Stadium to face the angry Beavers.  Adam (Abe) Froman has only averaged 6.7 yards per passing attempt, which won't cut it on the road against a fringe Rose Bowl contender.  On the other side of the ball, Louisville has shown defensive improvement this year, but they won't be able to stop Jacquizz & James Rodgers.  UL's only hope is for another subpar performance from OSU's sophomore QB, Ryan Katz.  He was 9-25 in their opener against TCU.  Unfortunately, UL's defense doesn't compare to the Frogs' D and this game is in Corvallis, not Dallas.

Notre Dame @ Michigan St (-3.5) 7:00 ABC

Prediction: Notre Dame 24 Michigan St 20

Brian Kelly goes on the road to face the man he replaced at Cincinnati, the crazed Mark Dantonio.  Michigan St loves to run the football with Edwin Baker (300 yards, 9.4 yards/carry, 3 TD, 80 yard long) and Le'Veon Bell (190 yards, 9.5 yards/carry, 3 TDs, 75 yard long).  Notre Dame's defense was spotty against the run last week, but MSU will throw a more conventional running attack at the Irish compared to the Denard Robinson fireworks display.  First down will be critical for the Spartans as they are only 4-18 on third down conversions this year.  Dayne Crist has been solid, but unspectacular in his first two games plus he is recovering from a concussion last week.  Therefore, ND really needs to get Armando Allen going.  The pick here is ND because MSU won't be able to take advantage of ND's rather weak secondary or simply run the ball down their throats.  East Lansing is a tough place to play, especially at night, but Brian Kelly will pull off the win.

Saturday's Zoloft Special

Maine @ Syracuse 6:15 SNY

Syracuse starts their 30th season in the Carrier Dome on Saturday.  There's not much more to say about this game.  There's no prediction on this game since Maine is a FCS opponent, but I will provide a trivia question.  Which very successful and handsomely paid college football coach started his head coaching career at Maine with a losing record?  Don't Google that shit, just guess in the comments.

Off to contemplate their key injuries, inept offense and horrific passing offense respectively.

Pittsburgh

Rutgers

South Florida

Accountability Time

Last Week: 4-0 straight up, 2-2 ATS

Year to Date:  6-1 straight up, 4-3 ATS 

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