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.)

Pair of Alabama defenders undergo surgery after Tide’s spring game

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Alabama’s spring game wrapped up on Saturday and with it, the last of the Crimson Tide’s spring practices. While that means the coaching staff is free to fly across the country to visit recruits during the evaluation period, it also results in several players going under the knife to correct injuries in order to be back by fall camp.

Two of those players are starting cornerback Anthony Averett and (likely starting) linebacker Christian Miller, both of whom underwent sports hernia surgery this week according to AL.com.

The report states that Averett played with the hernia most of last season while the Tide marched their way to the national title game. Miller was one of the stars of the show on Saturday during Alabama’s spring game, recording two sacks while dealing with the injury.

Both are expected to be fully healthy for camp in August as Nick Saban and company vie for yet another conference title and berth in the College Football Playoff.

SEC commissioner hints at review of rules regarding alcohol sales in football stadiums

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The prohibition of alcohol at football stadiums has undergone one interesting about-face in college athletics the past 15 years or so. While various suite levels at stadiums across the country have generally had access to a few adult beverages, there’s been some very large programs that have opened up the taps in the general seating areas the last few years.

From West Virginia to Texas to Ohio State, more and more programs are selling beer and/or liquor across the board and raking in hundreds of thousands (if not millions) in added revenue while doing so. One conference that isn’t jumping in on that trend however has been the SEC, which has numerous restrictions on where those types of beverages can be sold. That may be about to change in the near future however according to SEC commissioner Greg Sankey.

“At some point, I’m relatively certain, there will be further review of the prohibition,” said Sankey on Monday, per The Tuscaloosa News. “That doesn’t predict any outcome.”

While you may think that the league is close to opening the floodgates on alcohol being served at stadiums across the conference, you probably shouldn’t jump to any conclusions on the matter as Sankey seemed to hold his ground and stand firm on keeping things as is right now.

“The conference has a policy that says that we’re not selling alcohol in the general seating area,” he added. “Now, you can agree or disagree with that policy, but that’s the policy. The basis for changing that or maintaining it is one that’s developed in the conversation.

“I think we were at like 98 percent ticket sales in football… So is that one-percent margin a trade that we’re going to make?”

It’s no secret that of-age fans can easily find a few beverages at SEC tailgates prior to games nowadays but it seems momentum is slowing building in the conference to allow fans to buy some during a game. It might not happen anytime in the very near future but the conversation is certainly going to keep popping up each year with many more schools across the country jumping in on this trend.

QB Malik Zaire reportedly sets timetable for transfer decision while adding Harvard to the mix

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While we don’t yet know where former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire is transferring to, we might have an idea of when he plans on making a move this offseason.

Per Orangebloods.com’s Anwar Richardson, the signal-caller has zeroed in on the end of May for an announcement on his new school in a timetable that coincides with the Irish’s graduation ceremonies. Perhaps just as interesting is the fact that there may also be a new school in the mix and it’s known for being a powerhouse of a different kind away from the gridiron.

“In addition, I was told a new school is in the mix. Zaire is still considering Texas, Wisconsin and Florida, and the grad transfer quarterback has added Harvard to his short list. It remains unclear how serious Zaire is about playing Ivy League football. If he does go that route, Harvard would be his landing spot.”

The Ivy League power is an interesting new destination for Zaire and could be a pretty good backup option given what’s going on at his other finalists.

While Texas and Wisconsin are both on his shortlist, both the Longhorns and Badgers return their starting quarterbacks from last season in Shane Buechele and Alex Hornibrook. Richardson reports that Zaire wants to start in 2017 and not hold a clipboard but he is still keeping his options opens when it comes to the thin depth charts at the position in both Austin and Madison.

Complicating things is Florida, which should be a prime landing spot for Zaire were it not for an SEC rule passed last year that is preventing him from transferring him there this offseason. The league is set to talk about changes to that rule at their spring meetings in Destin, Fla. but it remains unclear if the QB will wait and see before making a decision (and it’s entirely possible the SEC keeps things as they are).

Either way, the former Irish starter does not appear to be lacking options when it comes to the graduate transfer market.

Tennessee hires College Football Playoff CFO for administrative role

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Tennessee might not be a favorite to make the College Football Playoff in 2017 but the school is doing their best to bring a little bit of the sport’s postseason to Knoxville.

Athletic director John Currie announced on Tuesday that the Vols would be hiring the College Football Playoff’s Chief Financial Officer Reid Sigmon as Tennessee’s new Executive Associate Athletics Director and Chief Operating Officer. The hire isn’t too surprising considering the two worked together for several years at Kansas State in very similar roles.

“It is with great enthusiasm that I welcome Reid Sigmon to the Tennessee Athletics family,” Currie said in a statement. “He has earned national credibility as part of a visionary leadership group creating the College Football Playoff organization for the last four years, and his tremendous integrity and understanding of college athletics make him a perfect addition to our Tennessee leadership team.”

Sigmon served in a variety of roles in college athletics as well as the NFL before eventually landing with the College Football Playoff. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that he starts at Tennessee on May 15 with a salary of $285,000 per year.