BY CHRISTOPHER J. MOGOLLON
BIG EAST INSIDER
Don’t Look ahead games: 12:00 – ESPN: North Carolina 1-2 (0-1) @ South Florida 2-0 (0-0) - It has been a big two weeks for the USF program, a week ago they defeated Auburn on the road and after a bye they broke into the AP poll for the first time in school history at number 23. It is important for the Bulls to keep it up and not look ahead to next week’s game when the Mountaineers come to town. These two teams played last year in Chapel Hill where Matt Grothe played well throwing for 158 yards and a touchdown in a South Florida 37-20 victory.
Key Match up: T.J Yates vs. USF Secondary - North Carolina is trying to avoid there third straight loss and in order to do so they need to continue to throw the ball successfully. In the first three games of the season, Yates has thrown for 901 yards and nine touchdowns. He has thrown a pass of at least 53 yards in each of his first three games and managed rack up 339 yards versus ACC rival Virginia -- not to shabby for a freshman. Now he has to face maybe one of the best secondaries in the country, the same one that held Auburn to only 165 passing yards and forced two interceptions. Trae Williams is an absolute superstar corner but don’t forget about Mike Jenkins who is a big time playmakers. UNC has no defense to speak of and haven’t established a running game, the only way they can pull off this upset is if Yates continues to put up three scores a game -- let’s see how the freshman does against this smart and speedy secondary.
12:00 - ESPN2: East Carolina 1-2 (0-1) @ West Virginia 3-0 (0-0) - West Virginia comes back to Morgantown after back to back victories on the road and they plan on continuing their winning steak. They host East Carolina who is coming off a tough loss at home to Southern Miss, when they blew the lead in the fourth quarter. ECU isn’t your normal cream puff Conference USA school, this is the same team that defeated North Carolina and had Virginia Tech on its heels in Blacksburg. West Virginia has won five straight games in this series including a 27-10 victory last year. Pat White threw for 216 yards and two touchdowns but did throw three interceptions as well.
Key Match up: Steve Slaton/Pat White vs. ECU Run Defense – Don’t be fooled by the 1-2 record -- the Pirates have some players on defense. In the opening game in Blacksburg, they allowed only 33 total rushing yards on 31 attempts and held Brandon Ore to 70 yards. It was more of the same when they played North Carolina only allowing 79 rushing yards. There is a reason why this unit is ranked 25th in rush defense. Quentin Cotton leads the team in tackles and has 4.5 for a loss, while Zack Slate is also having a fine start to the year with 5.5 tackles for a loss. ECU has a challenge in stopping Steve Slaton who has rushed for 392 yards this year, which ranks ninth in the country. Slaton is a Heisman candidate for a reason and should be able to put up his dominant numbers. If ECU can possibly slow down Slaton and force White to pass instead of running, they can make this game like they did versus Virginia Tech.
Blowout City Games: 12:00 - ESPN369/Gameplan: Syracuse 0-3 (0-0) @ Louisville 2-1 (0-0) - After being upset by rival Kentucky expect the Louisville Cardinals to be extra focused this week when they play a winless and banged up Syracuse squad. The Orange really cannot catch a break -- this is not a good time to be facing an angry and talented football team. Syracuse nearly pulled off an upset for the ages last year when these two Big East schools hooked up in late October. In that game, the Orange put up 303 passing yards and forced three turnovers in what ended up as a fifteen-point defeat.
Key Match up: SU receivers vs. Louisville Secondary – It’s been back to back weeks that this Louisville secondary has played poorly allowing 42 points to Middle Tennessee State and then 40 to rival Kentucky. Meanwhile Syracuse’s offense looks like there still in spring practice but do have some underrated receivers who are just dying to make some plays. Last year against Louisville Mike Williams had five receptions for 98 yards and a touchdown, he is a big play receiver who needs to make a couple of them this week at Louisville. We already know Brian Brohm is a lock to throw for 300+ yards again but can the Orange offense respond? This is a major statement game for both of these units and the senior defensive backs on Louisville like Bobby Buchanan and Dean Palmer need to play better.
7:00 – ESPNU: Connecticut 3-0 (0-0) @ Pittsburgh 2-1 (0-0) - A huge conference opener for both teams who are off to good starts and hope to squeak into a bowl game. Last season Connecticut was winless in conference road games so a victory in Heinz Field would be enormous for the Huskies. Last year when these two schools faced off, it was Connecticut who came on top in a double overtime thriller. In the game, Donald Brown rushed for 205 yards and two touchdowns. Both these teams have had major contributions from young running backs. Brown has rushed for 240 yards averaging 4.6 a carry and three touchdowns. Pitt freshman LeSean McCoy is 17th in the country in rushing yards and has only touched the ball 54 times -- far less than anyone else on that list. McCoy has rushed for 347 yards averaging an outstanding 6.4 yards a carry including a 172-yard game in East Lansing last week.
Key Match up: Tyler Lorenzen vs. Kevan Smith - Both these offenses rely a lot on the ground game but the lack of a passing game cost Pitt a win in East Lansing and nearly cost Connecticut against Temple. Both teams have solid defenses, Pitt is a little more talented but the true test this week will be the quarterback play. Although the Pitt defense isn’t the greatest -- it will be the best that Lorenzen has seen all year (no offense Maine). Lorenzen had a superb game at Duke throwing for 298 yards and even rushing for 56 yards. A couple of drives stalled in their game against Temple because of some poor throws but Lorenzen did throw for 222 yards. Kevan Smith has not been as efficient since becoming the starter with a pretty poor performance at Michigan State. He was 9/18 for 86 yards and threw two interceptions, with the running game he is getting all Smith needs to do is not make mistakes which sometimes can be difficult for a freshman quarterback.
7:30 - ESPN360/Gameplan: Marshall 0-3 (0-0) @ Cincinnati 3-0 (0-0) - This is a game of two schools going in two very different directions. Marshall has lost three consecutive games -- including a 13 point loss to Championship Subdivision New Hampshire, while Cincinnati is trying to become 4-0 and ranks 11th in scoring in the country.
Key match up: Bernard Morris vs. Cincinnati Defense - The Bearcats have allowed a total of 16 points in three games and now face a school whose rushing attack is ranked 103rd in the nation. The only way Marshall has a chance to stay in this game is if senior Bernard Morris can work a little magic, but don’t count on it.