Non-conference tilt highlights Big East's weekend

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Connecticut at Rutgers (Friday, 7:30 ET)

THE LINE: Connecticut -6.0

THE PLOT: As great as Connecticut has been the past three seasons, the Huskies areonly 4-16 on the road within the Big East. Head coach Randy Edsall has been with theteam since 1999, and his record on the road is not any more impressive: 21-34.

Rutgers, however, has had Connecticut’s number, compiling a 20-9 record against the Huskiesin the rivalry’s history. The past two games have ended in Scarlet Knight victories by just acombined six points. This Greg Schiano-led group is 32-27 at home.

THE PICK: If we were to base the outcome of this game on how the two schools haveplayed thus far on the year, then Connecticut would win by three scores. The Huskies playedtough in the only two road games played so far, a 30-10 loss at Michigan and a 30-16 loss atTemple. The three home wins have seen an average score of 49-15, one of which was a 40-21victory over Vanderbilt, one of two Big East wins over BCS opponents on the year.

The Scarlet Knights are dead last in the Big East in both points-per-game and yards-per-game.Rutgers nearly lost at Florida International on September 11th, and did lose to Tulanelast Saturday. Schiano’s squad will need to rely on its conference leading defense–first in points,second in total yards–to put Connecticut’s Jordan Todman on hold. That last feat,though, has been difficult to do.

In the four games Todman has played, he has rushed for 638 yards on 98 carries and seventouchdowns–good enough for fourth in the nation in both total yards and yards-per-game.

THE SCORE: Connecticut 23, Rutgers 10

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Syracuse at South Florida (12:00 ET)

THE LINE: South Florida -7.5

THE PLOT: The Bulls of South Florida and the Orange of Syracuse have nothistorically made for great football games. Of the five meetings between the two schools, eachgame was won by South Florida in convincing fashion: at least 14 points.

That’s not to say the Orange is not making strides. Syracuse has scored as many, if not morepoints as the year prior in games against the Bulls.

But this year should arguably be the most evenly matched stint between the two schools. Bothschools are 3-1 with losses at better BCS programs and neither team has surrenderedmore than 14 points in any win.

THE PICK: Something that has gone ridiculously overlooked this year is the fact thatthe Big East lacks quarterback experience. No other conference has taken more bashing from themedia and/or fans than the Big East. (Okay, maybe the ACC.) Of the eight teams, fiveboast sophomore starting quarterbacks. The next closest BCS conference is the Pac-10, whichhas six of 12 teams starting sophomores or freshmen.

If the Bulls had a healthy Matt Grothe–hell, if they had an injured Grothe–then I wouldeasily have South Florida winning this match. Head coach Skip Holtz is making his BigEast debut, so it would be unfair to gauge him just yet.

As for Orange head coach Doug Marrone, he has had seven opportunities to win a BigEast game. His lone victory was last year’s second-to-last game at home against No. 25 Rutgers,a 31-13 win.

I think Syracuse wins its first Big East road game since 2007 on Saturday. The Orange lost atWashington by three touchdowns, but it was a great game, and it never hurts to come off a byeweek.

THE SCORE: Syracuse 28, South Florida 21

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Pittsburgh at Notre Dame (3:30 ET)

THE LINE: Notre Dame -6.0

THE PLOT: Unless Pittsburgh reaches a bowl game against a formidable opponent,this will be the last chance the Panthers have at impressing media members, coaches, and/orvoters. The remainder of the slate for Dave Wannstedt‘s group is comprised of Big Eastadversaries, and a victory of none would prove as helpful as a win over the Irish of Notre Dame.

The Irish have owned Pittsburgh since 1988, holding a 12-4 record. But since the departure ofBrady Quinn and the full implementation of Charlie Weiss, Notre Dame hasbeen awful. Over the past three years the Irish are 16-21. This year has not been much betterseeing just a 2-3 start with two home losses. The Irish have lost to Pittsburgh each of the past twoseasons, including a four-overtime thriller in 2008.

THE PICK: On paper, Pittsburgh should win. The Panthers have a much better defenseand two sophomore running backs that can kill you in Dion Lewis and RayGraham. Then what is the Panthers’ kryptonite? If it is not the quarterback situation withsophomore Tino Sunseri, then it is Wannstedt. Both of Pittsburgh’s losses have comeat the hands of currently ranked teams–a 27-24 overtime loss at now No. 10 Utah and a 31-3shellacking by now No. 13 Miami (FL).

But no one cares what happens on paper; that is why we play the games.

I know you have heard it a thousand times over, but Notre Dame truly could be 4-1 right now.

The Irish lost to Michigan and Michigan State on final drives, and have beat both Purdue andBoston College handily.

Notre Dame’s home record has not been great the past few years, but that does not mean the Irishdo not feel comfortable at home. I expect Brian Kelly to get his third career win withNotre Dame, put the Irish back at .500, and set the wheels in full motion before hitting the softerportion of its schedule.

THE SCORE: Notre Dame 28, Pittsburgh 17

LAST WEEK Straight up: 3-1 Vs. spread: 1-3

OVERALL Straight up: 14-2 Vs. spread: 6-10

(I failed to predict scores before Week One, but if you would like to count my predictions onWeek One from an outside source, you can add the following: Straight up 2-1, Vs. spread 0-3)

(Odds courtesy of SportsBook.com by way of our friends at NBCSports.com.)

UNC and Minnesota line up future home-and-home deal

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While one football series between an ACC and Big Ten team may be hard to come by, North Carolina and Minnesota have put together a future home-and-home scheduling agreement to look forward to. The Tar Heels and Gophers will meet for the first time on the football field in 2023 and follow up with a second game in 2024, the schools announced on Wednesday.

North Carolina will host Minnesota on Sept. 16, 2023. The two schools will then open the 2024 season at Minnesota, either on August 31, 2024 or for a Thursday opener on August 29, 2024.

The ACC and Big Ten each require their members to play one game against another power conference opponent each season. North Carolina already satisfied that requirement in 2024 with a season-opener against South Carolina scheduled to be played in Charlotte, NC, but the 2024 game fulfills the power conference scheduling requirement for the Tar Heels. The home-and-home series will also satisfy Minnesota’s obligation to the Big Ten scheduling policy for both seasons (Minnesota is getting an exemption for 2018 and 2019 due to previous scheduling arrangements being in place prior to the Big Ten’s stance on strength of schedule in non-conference play.

Pitt leaves renewal of football series in Penn State’s hands

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Ever since the in-state rivalry between Penn State and Pitt came to a temporary end in 2001, it has been a struggle to get the two schools back on the field for any stretch of time. With the third in a four-game series upcoming this fall, Pitt is hoping to find a way to continue playing the Nittany Lions on future schedules, but the offer is now apparently in Penn State’s hands awaiting a response.

Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke told reporters Wednesday she has proposed a four-year series beginning in 2026 to her Penn State counterpart, Sandy Barbour, but Penn State has not responded to the offer.

“We’re going to wait a tad more patiently, but not much,” Lyke said, according to Trib Live. “We can’t. We have people who want to play us and good opportunities to play what would be a very attractive game.”

The four-game series currently ongoing between the Panthers and Nittany Lions comes to a close after their meeting in the 2019 season in Happy Valley. According to FBSchedules.com, Penn State will not have another opening for a non-conference game until 2021. That is also the first season Pitt will have scheduling availability for non-conference matchups. Both schools already have power conference opponents lined up through 2025 as well, perhaps eliminating the desire to add another power conference opponent to the schedule.

Both Penn State and Pitt have scheduling requirements for non-conference play from the Big Ten and ACC, respectively, to include at least one game against another power conference opponent. It seems like a natural solution for Penn State and Pitt to agree to a long-term scheduling commitment to satisfy their respective conferences’ scheduling requirements, but the old issue has always come down to the financial incentive of a game. With Penn State playing in a larger stadium, it would be losing out on potential revenue that could be gained by an extra home game when possible. And playing road games at Pittsburgh only helps another program in the state by filling the seats more than any other home game on Pitt’s schedules in just about any season (Notre Dame and West Virginia would be other candidates to help Pitt fill Heinz Field).

It took so long just to get the two schools together for a two-year series, which was later expanded to a four-year arrangement. Don’t count on this in-state rivalry being renewed for quite some time after the 2019 season.

QB Blake Barnett reportedly transferring from Arizona State

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Quarterback Blake Barnett is now on the graduate transfer market. According to Bruce Feldman of Sports Illustrated, via Twitter, Barnett will find a new program to wrap up his college football career as a graduate transfer. South Florida is reportedly set to get an official visit from the former Sun Devils and Alabama quarterback.

Barnett started his football career at Alabama, where he sat out the 2015 season as a freshman. During his redshirt freshman in 2016, Barnett appeared in just three games as Jalen Hurts rose to become Alabama’s starting quarterback that would lead the Tide for the next two seasons (until halftime of last season’s national championship game). Barnett transferred to Arizona State, leaving behind a seemingly tumultuous relationship with Nick Saban, and played in just two games for the Sun Devils last fall, while Manny Wilkins established himself as the quarterback for former head coach Todd Graham.

A former four-star recruit out of high school, Barnett has played in just five games and completed 14 of 24 pass attempts for 259 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Barnett’s latest transfer news comes a day after former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen took a swipe at Barnett, who was ranked ahead of Rosen in various recruiting rankings out of high school.

“Blake Barnett was the Elite 11 MVP,” Rosen said, per SEC Country. “He was the dude that was going to go to ‘Bama, win a couple championships, call it quits and go to the league as the first overall pick. You don’t really hear about him too much.”

As a graduate transfer, Barnett will be eligible to play immediately this fall.

Transferring BYU QB Kody Wilstead finds new home at Kansas JUCO

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With eight quarterbacks on the roster, Kody Wilstead opted to leave the Cougars in mid-March.  A little over a month later, Wilstead has found a new home, albeit a little further down on the college football ladder.

According to the Deseret News, Wilstead has signed to play at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas.  As Coffeyville is a junior college, the quarterback will be eligible to play immediately in 2018.

It’s expected that Wilstead will spend at least one season at the JUCO level before looking at making a move back up to the FBS.

Wilstead, a three-star 2015 signee, took a redshirt as a true freshman last season after serving an LDS mission the previous two years.

After Wilstead’s departure, the seven remaining Cougar signal-callers are, in alphabetical order, Stacy ConnerJoe CritchlowHayden GriffittsBeau HogeTanner MangumBaylor Romney and Zach Wilson. Mangum, last year’s starter, is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury he suffered in November of last year but remains on track to return for the start of summer camp in August.