Big East Picks: Cincinnati, USF Look to Separate From Pack
A Cincinnati victory would solidify the Bearcats as a legit Top 10 team. A USF victory would propel the Bulls into the national spotlight and establish them as the team to beat in the Big East.
Before that can happen, both squads have to dispose of a couple of teams that have merely been a bug on the windshield the past few years as Cincinnati visits Miami, Ohio, while USF opens Big East play at Syracuse.
The Bearcats have won the last three meetings, including the past two by an average margin of 46-15. This is the 114th meeting between the Bearcats and RedHawks, making it the nation's longest non-conference series no one outside of Ohio cares about.
This week Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly used the cliche that this is a rivalry game and you can throw out the record books. Actually, that's what they would have said before the first game between the Bearcats and RedHawks back in 1888 - if record books had existed back then.
And, by the way, who can ever forgot that 0-0 tie on Dec. 8, 1888?
No matter what the record books say, this year's game will have way more offense than the 1888 meeting, most of it coming from Cincinnati. Quarterback Tony Pike is quietly becoming a Heisman contender and WR Mardy Gilyard continues putting up freakish numbers.
As efficient as Pike has been lately, he could probably complete 70 percent by throwing a record book instead of a football. Cincinnati covers the 28-1/2.
USF at Syracuse: This has trap game written all over it. Don't believe me, just look at the ticket stubs. It says it right there above USF at Syracuse, Carrier Dome, Oct. 3 "Trap game."
The Bulls have dominated their series with the Orange, winning all four meetings by 27, 17, 31 and 32 points, and are coming off a 17-7 upset at Florida State - A victory USF coach Jim Leavitt called the biggest in school history.
The Bulls, with No. 10 Cincinnati on deck, visit the Carrier Dome and a revitalized Syracuse club featuring QB Greg Paulus and WR Mike Williams.
Unfortunately for the Orange, Paulus and Williams can't play defense. In fact, at Syracuse, not many are playing defense. The Orange allowed 754 yards passing the past two weeks to Northwestern and Maine and has allowed 11 touchdown passes, the second-most in the nation this season.
USF has dominated Syracuse the past four seasons because the Bulls were simply more athletic and faster. Trap or no trap, the song remains the same Saturday as the Bulls cover the 6-1/2.
Pittsburgh at Louisville: The Panthers and Cardinals meet Friday night in their Big East opener.
If it's possible to be a desperate team two days into October, that would describe the 1-2 Cardinals. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, is coming off a 38-31 head-scratching loss at N.C. State.
Take desperation over disappointment. At least, that's what the record books say. Pittsburgh wins, but doesn't cover the 6-1/2.
Colorado at West Virginia (played Thursday night): On Thursday night, I posted on my Twitter account -- follow me here -- "WVU by less than 17." WVU won 35-24.
Last week: Straight up 5-2; against the spread 2-3
Season: Straight up 24-5 (82.8 percent); against the spread 8-12 (40 percent)
Lock of the week: Florida State fans won't e-mail me this week about not voting for them on my AP Top 25 ballot.
Each Friday, FanHouse Big East writer Brett McMurphy will preview the Big East and make his weekly predictions.