Congratulations are in order for the Big East. After all, the league finished 4-1 in games last week and all four wins came against FBS competition. Let's just forget that the wins came against Arkansas St, Florida Atlantic, Florida International and Vanderbilt. Let's also forget the loss came against Tulane.
Here's a quick recap of last week's action:
UConn picked up the league's second win against a BCS conference opponent, beating Vanderbilt handily. Pittsburgh ran away from FIU in the second half while Louisville notched a relatively easy road win at Arkansas St. USF bounced back from their listless effort against WKU and dispatched Florida Atlantic.
The lone loss was quite embarrassing, though. The slow, steady descent of the Rutgers program may have reached its nadir in a home loss to Tulane. The Scarlet Knights were only able to muster 7 points after scoring on a 91-yard run on their opening series and lost 17-14 to the pitiful Green Wave. I like to think I witnessed the beginning of the descent on September 29, 2007. On that day, a top ten ranked Rutgers lost at home to unranked Maryland. Rutgers lost again the next week to Cincinnati and went to finish 3-4 in the Big East after their 11-2 season in 2006.
But back to the positives. League play starts this week, and someone has to win this thing, so let's get to the picks after the jump.
Connecticut (-4) @ Rutgers 6:30 ESPN
Prediction: UConn 24 Rutgers 13
This seems to be a pretty clear pick for UConn. Rutgers struggled offensively against Tulane in their loss last week and appear unsettled at QB with the injury to Tom Savage. UConn used a blistering second half to humble Vanderbilt last week. In the process, they may have found their new quarterback in Cody Endres. Jordan Todman continues to be the man for UConn. He rushed for 190 yards last week and should carry the load again this week.
Syracuse @ South Florida (-12) 11:00 ESPN3
Prediction: South Florida 28 Syracuse 17
This game is tough to call since neither team has played teams of note. Syracuse is 3-1 on the year, which is quite a feat for the Orange, though those three wins came against Akron, Maine and Colgate. USF is also 3-1, with their wins coming against Stony Brook, WKU and FAU. I have trouble taking USF to cover because their passing offense and has been dreadful and they haven't surpassing 31 points against FBS competition.
Memphis @ Louisville (-17.5) 1:00 ESPN3
Prediction: Louisville 38 Memphis 13
Louisville has steadily improved so far this year, though they are far cry from their halcyon Bobby Petrino years. Their strength, the offense, is 29th in total yards, but only 74th in scoring. On the other sideline, Memphis is 110th in total offense and 94th in total defense and they have a real shot at going winless. It's really hard to pick a team with that track record, so Louisville gets the nod.
Pittsburgh @ Notre Dame (-8) 2:30 NBC
Prediction: Notre Dame 31 Pittsburgh 17
This is a classic game of strengths and weaknesses not matching up for Pitt. Notre Dame's defense leaves a lot to be desired. They've simply been pantsed against good competition. Michigan: 532 total yards, Michigan State: 477, Stanford: 404. Unfortunately for the Panthers, they haven't been able to move the ball against quality competition. They racked up only 266 and 232 yards respectively against Utah and Miami. Be sure to watch who gets the majority of carries for Pitt. Back-up running back Ray Graham has outplayed Dion Lewis all year, yet he's still second on the depth chart. Pitt has to get either Lewis or Graham going to have a shot, because Tino Sunseri can't beat ND with his arm alone. On the other side of the ball, Pitt's strength is their run defense, which will be neutralized by ND's aversion to running the football. Pitt is middle of the pack in the nation in passing, scoring and total defense statistics.
UNLV @ West Virginia (-27.5) 2:30 ESPN3
Prediction: West Virginia 41 UNLV 17
I can't figure out why UNLV is such a large dog in this game. UNLV has played both Nevada and Wisconsin fairly close. UNLV's total offense and total defense numbers are terrible at 110th and 86th respectively, but they've played one of the more difficult schedules in the country thus far. West Virginia has been far from an offensive juggernaut, averaging only 25 points/game. They haven't eclipsed 31 points despite playing Coastal Carolina, Marshall (OT) and Maryland. To make matters worse, Noel Devine is nursing a toe injury and may not see significant action. West Virginia's defense has been stout but 27.5 is a ton of points, so UNLV is the pick here.
Zoloft Game of the Week
Miami (OH) @ Cincinnati (-17) 6:00 ESPN3
Prediction: Cincinnati 31 Miami 17
Throw out the record books when Miami and Cincinnati meet for the Victory Bell! It's the preppy RedHawks versus the urban Bearcats! Who's going to win? Who cares? Cincinnati is 1-3 and Miami is 3-2 with wins over Kent St, Eastern Michigan and Colorado St. These are two dreadful teams, but Miami's defense will keep them close.
Last Week: 5-1 straight up, 3-3 ATS
Year to Date: 21-4 straight up, 12-13 ATS