By CHRISTOPHER MOGOLLON - BIG EAST INSIDER
In their first four games the Syracuse defense hasn't proven they can stop anyone, even allowing 21 points and 293 passing yards last week versus Northeastern. They have had trouble tackling, putting pressure on the quarterback and defending on passing downs. This week the Panthers look to start off conference play with a victory in the Carrier Dome—with good receivers and a star running back they shouldn't have too much trouble. LeSean McCoy has not had a break out game yet but still ranks fourth in the conference with 242 yards. Pittsburgh’s backup tailback LaRod Stephens-Howling rushed for 221 yards last time he played in the Carrier Dome in 2006. Syracuse cornerbacks Mike Holmes, Nico Scott and Da'Mon Merkerson have been very shaky and still learning the position, so expect Pittsburgh receivers Oderick Turner and Derek Kinder to be open and put up a lot of receiving yards. The Syracuse rushing attack of Curtis Brinkley, Delone Carter and Doug Houge should be able to carry on the success from last week. Brinkley, who is second in the conference in yards, is healthy and having himself a great senior season. If the Orange can run the ball early it will set up the play action pass and allow quarterback Cameron Dantley to roll out, which is when he is most effective. This week Syracuse AD Darryl Gross stated this week that he has not seen any obvious progress from the football team since coach Greg Robinson has taken over—it will be interesting to see if this has any effect on how the ‘Cuse come out and play.
Both West Virginia and Rutgers are on losing steaks and have must win games on Saturday at home. West Virginia has lost two-in-a-row and look to get a victory in Morgantown versus rival Marshall. It is no secret the Mountaineers’ rushing attack is their bread and butter, Quarterback Pat White and running back Noel Devine should be able to run all over their Conference USA opponent. Last season when these instate rivals matched up White rushed for 125 yards and threw for 149 yards and two touchdowns. Devine touched the ball five times and rushed for 76 yards with two touchdowns. It will be important for West Virginia to improve in their efficiency, they were pitiful on third downs in their losses at East Carolina and Colorado. Rutgers welcomes Morgan State with open arms, desperate for a win. The winless Knights gave the ball to their freshman tailback Jourdan Brooks last week and will do the same on Saturday. If Rutgers needs a score they should not have trouble passing the ball, Morgan State just does not have the ability to shut down Kenny Britt, who ranks third in the conference with 21 receptions or Tiquan Underwood. What to watch for is the defensive shuffling by Rutgers and how the fans will react to Quarterback Mike Teel. Head Coach Greg Schiano said he has been very disappointed with his defense and will try different players and looks in this game. Teel was caught on camera last week punching a teammate and is off to a bad start with one touchdown and six interceptions, if he and offense are off to a bad start they will hear it from the Rutgers faithful. Nevertheless, both West Virginia and Rutgers will probably get their much needed victories before meeting up next week in Morgantown.
South Florida and Cincinnati are favorites to win on the road this week but will be tested in their respected match-ups. The USF Bulls had scares on the road already this season and will face off at North Carolina State, who are fresh off of their overtime upset of East Carolina. When South Florida quarterback Matt Grothe plays well his team usually wins, Grothe leads the conference in passing yards and touchdown passes despite throwing none last week. Expect South Florida to throw the ball and wide out Taurus Johnson to have a bounce back game. Because of an injury to Russell Wilson, Harrison Beck will start at quarterback for the Wolfpack. Beck was not effective in his last two games against Clemson and East Carolina. Cincinnati will visit Akron at the Rubber Bowl this Saturday. Watch for how quarterback Tony Pike performs in his only second start. The Zips offense has been good led by quarterback Chris Jacquemain who has thrown for 960 yards and seven touchdowns in four games.