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August 30, 2007

Big East Breakdown: Taking it easy early

MORE WEEK 1 BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

Fox's Big East picks
Thursday's Games:
Cincinnati 35, Southeast Missouri State 10
Rutgers 42, Buffalo 3
Louisville 38, Murray State 7
Friday's Game:
Washington 17, Syracuse 14
Saturday's Games:
Connecticut 10, Duke 7
West Virginia 38, Western Michigan 14
Pittsburgh 28, Eastern Michigan 10
South Florida 34, Elon 7

Best matchup: Washington at Syracuse. In a week that will get you acquainted with some new terminology, it will be nice to see two BCS teams play a nonconference game. There won't have to be any differentiation here between Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) and Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA). The trouble is this game is being played in 2007, not the late 1990s. Watch the matchup between Syracuse defensive end Jameel McClain and Washington offensive tackles Ben Ossai and Chad Macklin. McClain is the returning sacks leader in the Big East. The Orange and the Huskies are turning to young quarterbacks Washington to Jake Locker and Syracuse to Andrew Robinson.

The pressure is on: Syracuse coach Greg Robinson. Syracuse has lost three consecutive season openers, a distinction that is almost unthinkable among major-conference teams. Syracuse has lost these games by a combined score of 86-17. An opener at home against Washington (5-7 last year) could break the streak.

Newcomer who could have an impact: Cincinnati QB Ben Mauk. The Wake Forest transfer was named the starting quarterback last week, beating out 2006 starter Dustin Grutza. Mauk steps into Brian Kelly's spread offense, a scheme that helped Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour become the MAC freshman of the year.

Key stat: 200. Rushing yards Rutgers running back Ray Rice needs to tie the school's career record held by Terrell Willis (3,114 yards).

They said it: "We got our guys' attention when we showed them that they beat Virginia at Virginia last year and very nearly beat Florida State at Florida State. Those are two ACC programs with a lot of tradition and some outstanding players."
-- West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez on Week 1 opponent Western Michigan.

Injury update: West Virginia safety Quinton Andrews, linebacker James Thomas and cornerback Ellis Lankster have been suspended following arrests. Syracuse running back Curtis Brinkley (hamstring) says he will play, although he is not 100 percent. Rutgers wide receiver Tim Brown (broken hand) has an outside chance of playing against Buffalo. Rutgers linebacker Ryan D'Imperio, who suffered a broken leg in the spring, has not been cleared to practice. Connecticut linebacker Ryan Henegan (leg) is day to day.

Worth noting: Pizza chain Papa John's and its founder donated $10 million to Louisville's athletic department. The funds will be earmarked for an expansion of Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. South Florida freshman running back Jamar Taylor, who transferred from Alabama, will be eligible this season after receiving a hardship waiver from the NCAA. Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly already has one win under his belt as the Bearcats head coach. After leaving Central Michigan, he guided Cincinnati to a 27-24 win over Western Michigan in the International Bowl. No. 16 Rutgers begins the season as a ranked team for the first time in school history. Butler Benton will start at running back for Cincinnati. Greg Moore, last year's leading rusher, is expected to get plenty of playing time. Syracuse will be without leading pass catcher Tom Ferron, who left the team earlier this month.

MORE WEEK 1 BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC

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