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.)

East Carolina grad transfer QB Gardner Minshew will reportedly visit Alabama this weekend

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It appears the Jalen Hurts Transfer Protection Plan™ is close to being implemented.

Earlier this month, it was reported that Alabama had an interest in Gardner Minshew, the quarterback who announced late last month that he had withdrawn from East Carolina to tend to a personal matter in his home state of Mississippi.  That interest has ramped up since as al.com is reporting that Minshew will be visiting the Crimson Tide’s campus this weekend.

As a graduate transfer, Minshew would be eligible to play immediately this season at UA, or any other FBS program for that matter.

Alabama’s interest in a grad transfer at the position will do nothing to quell the rumors that Hurts, the starter for each of the last 29 games over the past two seasons, is a potential candidate for a transfer. Hurts was benched in favor of Tua Tagovailoa in the national championship game, with the true freshman’s comeback heroics signaling a likely changing of the guard under center.

As for Minshew, he started five games for the Pirates last season, throwing for 2,140 yards, 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions in completing just over 57 percent of his 304 pass attempts. Prior to his departure from ECU, he was penciled in as the Pirates’ 2018 starting quarterback.

Wake Forest WR Greg Dortch cleared for spring practice

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Unlike how his 2017 season ended, Greg Dortch‘s 2018 offseason is trending much more positively.

In Wake Forest’s late-October win over Louisville, Dortch went down with what turned out to be a season-ending abdominal injury. Four months after sustaining the injury, and with spring practice right around the corner, the wide receiver has been medically cleared to fully participate in practice.

Despite missing the last month of the regular season as well as the postseason, Dortch still led the Demon Deacons in receiving yards with 722. His 53 receptions and nine receiving touchdowns were tied for tops on the team as well.

In the game in which he was injured, he set the school record with four touchdown catches.

Jeff Brohm stays in-house for new Purdue assistant

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When it came to filling out his Purdue coaching staff, Jeff Brohm didn’t have to look very far.

Kevin Wolthausen, the football program confirmed in a release, has been hired as the 10th of Brohm’s allotted 10 Boilermakers assistant coaches.  Per the school, Wolthausen will be working with the team’s special teams and defense.

This marks a positional homecoming of sorts for Wolthausen as he spent the 2012 season as the defensive line coach at Purdue.  Last season, Wolthausen served as a quality control coach for both special teams and defense for the Boilermakers.

In between his two stints in West Lafayette, Wolthausen was the special teams coordinator and linebackers coach at UConn in 2016; the two years prior, he was the Huskies’ defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator.

In 2013, Wolthausen was the special teams coordinator at Florida International.  The 60-year-old long-time college football assistant has also spent time on staffs at Louisville, Arizona, USC, Arizona State and Oklahoma.

Neal Brown completes Troy staff with FCS co-DC

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For the most recent addition to his Troy coaching staff, Neal Brown has dipped into the Football Championship Series.

The Sun Belt Conference program confirmed Tuesday that Brandon Hall has been hired by Brown as his new linebackers coach.  Hall had spent the past four seasons as the co-defensive coordinator at FCS Jacksonville State.

“Brandon is an outstanding defensive coach and has experience coaching at a lot of different levels,” a statement from Brown. “He is relentless on the recruiting trail and already has developed strong relationships in the areas that we believe are key. Looking at his track record, it comes as no surprise that Brandon helped build one of the top defenses in the FCS at Jacksonville State over the last four years.”

Prior to JSU, Hall had spent time at Arkansas State, Auburn and Oklahoma.

“I’m excited for the opportunity to join this program and coaching staff,” Hall said in his statement. “You can’t help but get excited as a coach when you look at what Coach Brown and the rest of this staff has done over the past three years with the Troy program. My family and I are looking forward to becoming part of the Trojan Family and continuing the strong tradition of Troy football.”