Big East Game of the Week: Rutgers vs. Pittsburgh

Week 13 Feature Game

#21 Rutgers Scarlet Knights (9-1, 5-0) at Pittsburgh Panthers (4-6, 1-4)

Saturday, November 24 • Noon ET • ESPN2

Heinz Field • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

While Rutgers is in the hunt for its first Big East Conference championship, the school announced this week that it will join the Big Ten Conference beginning in 2014. With soaring emotions throughout the Scarlet Knights’ program, head coach Kyle Flood no doubt has his hands full in keeping his players focused on the mission in front of them: defeating the Panthers to stay in charge of their postseason destiny.

Undefeated in 2012 conference play, RU is looking for its tenth victory overall and sixth road win of the season. A victory in Pittsburgh means at least a share of the league title. The Knights host the Louisville Cardinals next week, in the regular season finale, for the outright claim to the Big East’s BCS bowl berth.

Pitt leads the all-time series 21-8, which began in 1981. Rutgers has won five of the previous seven meetings however, including last year’s game (34-10) in Piscataway. RU is 3-11 all-time at Pitt, but has won two of the last three games at Heinz Field.

The Panthers must win to maintain hopes of playing in the postseason. They can also add a much needed highlight to their season by defeating the conference front runner. To date, Pittsburgh’s season has been marked by a humiliating Week 1 loss to (FCS) Youngstown State at home, 31-17, as well as by taking #1 Notre Dame to three overtimes in South Bend before falling 29-26 in Week 10.

First year head coach Paul Chryst has the talent as his disposal to upend the best of opponents, but Pitt’s game plan execution has lacked consistency. The Panthers need success from their signature rushing attack if they expect success against Rutgers. The lessons to be learned from Kent State, which handed the Knights their only loss this season, are ball control and forcing RU to play from behind in the score.

For an under .500 Pitt team to be favored against a ranked opponent, odds makers obviously perceive this game as a trap for Rutgers. Pitt has little to lose and everything to gain by knocking off the conference front runner. Rutgers will be dealing with distractions Saturday, including the buzz associated of the conference switch announcement, pressure of the conference title race and a potential look ahead to the Louisville game next week. Keeping focused and poised could be a real challenge for the Knights.

If the Panthers keep the RU offense on the sidelines and work the clock to their advantage, look for them to score the upset. On the other hand, if Rutgers’ defense easily controls the Pitt offense, it won’t be much of a contest. Look for it to fall somewhere between the two extremes, with Rutgers’ edging out a modest victory.

Line: Pitt (-2)

Pick: Rutgers 24-17

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Big East Power Rankings:

1. Rutgers (9-1, 5-0) #21

2. Louisville (9-1, 4-1) #19

3. Syracuse (6-5, 4-2)

4. Cincinnati (7-3, 3-2)

5. Temple (4-6, 2-4)

6. Pitt (4-6, 1-4)

7. UConn (4-6, 1-4)

8. USF (3-7, 1-4)

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Other Big East Week 13 games:

Syracuse (-7.5) at Temple

USF at Cincinnati (-13)

UConn at Louisville (-11.5)

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Big East Week 12 Recap

Rutgers 10, at Cincinnati 3

Temple 63, at Army 32

USF 9, at Miami 40

Syracuse 31, at Mizzou 27

 

Conference Players of Week 12:

Offense: Montel Harris, RB, Temple

Defense: Khaseem Greene, LB, Rutgers

Special Teams: Brandon McManus, K/P, Temple

 

Pete Sonski is a contributor to College Football Zealots. Follow him on Twitter @29sonski and check out his work at Big East Coast Bias. and his Three Point Stance show every Tuesday at 9 PM on Blog Talk Radio.

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