Rutgers (1-0 Big East, 6-0 Overall) is sitting right around 19th in all national polls (16th in the BCS). Pittsburgh (2-0 Big East, 6-1 Overall) is close to making it into the AP Top-25 (they were 26th this week). Both are in the Big East and both teams have given that conference more credence than itâ€™s had in recent years.
Louisville and West Virginia continue to be ranked in APâ€™s Top-10. But the emergence of the Scarlet Knights and a better-than-expected showing thus far by the Panthers has people considering the power of the Big Eastâ€”is it rising?
This weekâ€™s game at Pittsburgh will certainly say something about both teams. The Panthers are 6.5 favorites at home. If they lose, forget about any shot at the Top-25 for the rest of the season. If the Knights lose, theyâ€™ll certainly drop off the chart and Pittsburgh will crawl into one of the final 5 spots.
Consider thisâ€”both teams possess tough defenses. On offense, itâ€™s the ground game that has been Rutgers meat and potatoes, while Pittsburgh has used a more balanced attack of air and turf. Pittsburgh QB Tyler Palko has been a dynamic, dependable force all season. The Pittsburgh passing game is explosive and Rutgers has to slow it down and shut it down.
Rutgersâ€™ QB Mike Teel has shown steady improvement and had his best game last week against Navy (215 YDS, 3 TDs, 157.54 Rating). The key for the Knights is their potent and diverse running attack. If they can establish that, theyâ€™ll be able to do three things. Control the clock and keep the ball out of Palkoâ€™s hands. Theyâ€™ll also be able to open up the field and use their passing game, keeping the Panthers off balance.
On special teams, the edge in kicking goes to Rutgers. Pittsburgh has home field advantage.
Who has the most to lose? The Big East does. If conferences could make wishes, The Big Eastâ€™s would be for Rutgers to win and win big. Why? A major win by the Knights solidifies a Top-25 ranking for probably the next few weeks and it says the Big East has three highly competitive teams, not simply two in Louisville and West Virginia and then two sort-of-competitive clubs in Rutgers and Pittsburgh. Rutgers can really give the Big East a new credibility.
Everyone is giving Pittsburgh the win, and they should. The Panthers have a higher scoring offense and a more accomplished field general. Pittsburgh outscores Rutgers by 37.6 to 31.7. The Knights have a little extra in the coaching area and on defense (Rutgers: 8.3 PA, Pittsburgh: 13.3 PA). Pittsburgh has a more accomplished defensive line, which is able to pressure QBs.
If defense wins games, then the Scarlet Knights should come out ahead. But chances are all of the experts are right– Pittsburgh wins, but will they cover the spread?Â You find out by purchasing this weeks premium football picks against the spread.