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


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


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 by way of our friends at

Notre Dame AD: Brian Kelly ‘will lead this team out of the tunnel opening day next year’

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 01:  Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and his team wait to head on to the field for the start of the game against the Syracuse Orange at MetLife Stadium on October 1, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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For those looking — or hoping — for Brian Kelly to be on the coaching hot seat, it appears you’ll have to wait another year or more.

Kelly’s Notre Dame squad, which began 2016 ranked 10th in the Associated Press Top 25, has had its fair share of issues on the field, stumbling to a 2-5 start that’s the program’s worst since 2007.  There have also been issues off the field related to those on-field struggles, with Kelly firing his defensive coordinator and throwing his players under the bus for good measure.  Former Irish football players have sounded off and taken aim as well.

Add it all up, and it had some thinking that Kelly might not be long for South Bend.  At least publicly, Kelly’s boss is emphatically putting the kibosh on such talk.

“Brian will lead this team out of the tunnel opening day next year,” Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick told earlier today. “I can tell you I continue to have complete confidence in Brian. … I get to see the program day in and day out and I continue to have great confidence in Brian and confidence in our future as a program.”

Kelly is in the midst of his seventh season at the school.  In the previous six, he’d led the Irish to a 55-23 mark.  Included in that total are a pair of 10-plus win seasons as well as an appearance in the BCS title game following the 2012 regular season.

In late January of this year, Kelly and the university reached an agreement on a six-year contract extension that runs through the 2021 season.

When did Nick Saban realize he missed college football? His ‘first press conference’ in Miami

Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban watches play   against the   Carolina Panthers   September 25, 2005 in Miami.  The Dolphins defeated the Panthers 27  to 24.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
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Yeah, he’s playing to, using the vernacular of the political season, his very fervent base, but it’s still not the least bit surprising.

When Nick Saban left LSU for the job with the Miami Dolphins in 2004, there were more than a couple of observers who were surprised the coach would leave the college game to get back into the NFL. When Saban, after infamously denying it, left the Dolphins to take the job at Alabama after just two seasons, there were more than a couple of observers who were not surprised the coach made such a decision.

Why? Because Saban just seemed like a coach who could relate better to — some would say control more — college players than those in the NFL. With Verne Lundquist serving as a guest on Saban’s weekly radio show Thursday night, the retiring college football broadcaster asked the Alabama head coach, writes, “when in his Miami Dolphins tenure he realized he missed coaching college football?”

Saban’s answer was illuminating…

“Well, the day I landed in Miami and went to the first press conference,” Saban said. “I started to realize the difference between the NFL then and what the NFL was like before when I was in it with Bill Belichick from 1991-94 in Cleveland, before we had free agency, before the media had infiltrated sorta everything that was happening. I guess right then.”

… but not as illuminating as the coach, once again, addressing his version of the Drew Brees situation as it relates to the level control, or lack thereof, in the NFL compared to what he has in Tuscaloosa.

“When [the Brees situation] happened, I said I can’t control my destiny here,” Saban said. “I can’t control my destiny here. There’s too many things that, no matter how hard I work or no matter what I do, I can control my destiny better in college by working hard and making good choices and decisions and creating a good program for players. I think that happening made me lean back to coming back to college.”

Yes, Saban may have, in the eyes of some, unfinished business in the NFL. At 64 years old — he’ll be 65 Oct. 31 — don’t expect him, though, to at any point in the near or distant future to rectify that “hole” in his coaching résumé.

Long-time starting guard ruled out by Tar Heels for rest of season

CHAPEL HILL, NC - OCTOBER 17:  Quinshad Davis #14 and Caleb Peterson #70 of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrate after a touchdown against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during their game at Kenan Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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As it turns out, the short-term hit North Carolina took to its offensive line last weekend will turn into a long-turn one.

Caleb Peterson (pictured, being uplifted) suffered a back injury earlier this month that kept him out of both the Virginia Tech (Oct. 8) and Miami (Oct. 15) games. Thursday night, the school announced that the offensive lineman will undergo surgery Friday at the Carrell Clinic in Dallas.

As a result, the senior guard will miss the remainder of the 2016 season. Peterson used his redshirt in 2012 and isn’t eligible for any type of waiver, meaning the 6-5, 300-pound lineman has likely seen his collegiate playing career come to an end.

In his Tar Heel career, Peterson had started a total of 42 games. He had a streak of 30 straight starts snapped when he missed the Tech game.

Following the 2015 season, Peterson was named second-team All-ACC by the league’s coaches.

In addition to Peterson, the football program also announced that Jonathan Smith underwent season-ending surgery Thursday to repair a fracture in his right foot. The freshman linebacker initially suffered the injury during practice in the week leading up to the game against the Hokies.

A three-star member of UNC’s 2016 recruiting class, Smith was rated as the No. 21 inside linebacker in the country and the No. 25 player at any position in the state of North Carolina. He had appeared in six games as a true freshman this season, and was credited with one tackle.

Beavers dealing with injury issues in their backfield

Oregon State running back Ryan Nall, right, looks back at California cornerback Darius Allensworth, left, during an 80-yard touchdown run in the second half of an NCAA college football game in Corvallis, Ore., on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Timothy J. Gonzalez)
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It’s looking more and more likely that Oregon State will be at less than full strength in their backfield when they line up against No. 5 Washington Saturday evening.

Leading rusher Ryan Nall aggravated a foot injury in last Saturday’s loss after just one carry and is officially listed as doubtful for the game against the Huskies. Nall did not practice Thursday and was still wearing a boot to protect the injured foot.

Additionally, Nall’s backup, Artavis Pierce, is dealing with a stinger and did not participate in the portion of practice open to the media, The Oregonian reported.

Nall currently leads the Beavers with 464 yards and six rushing touchdowns. He’s also third on the team with 13 receptions.

Pierce is second behind Nall with 262 yards.

If neither Nall nor Pierce are available, the bulk of the running game load would be shouldered by Tim Cook. The senior has carried the ball nine times this season for 22 yards.