Big East Rivarly
The Panthers have just complemented their rushing attack much better than their Big East rival in recent weeks.
With LeSean McCoy leading the offense, the 23rd-ranked Panthers look to win nine games in the regular season for the first time in 26 years as they visit Donald Brown and the struggling Huskies on Saturday.
Oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made Connecticut –2.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 69% of bets for this game have been placed on Pittsburgh +2.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
McCoy and Brown are two of the nation's most talented runners, and they'll be featured extensively as their teams close out the regular season.
Brown is tops in the country with 148.5 rushing yards per game, while McCoy ranks first in scoring with 10.9 points a contest and eighth in yards a game (118.9).
Connecticut (7-4, 3-3) has gotten 727 yards and five touchdowns on the ground from Brown in its last six games, but has gone 2-4 during that stretch.
Pittsburgh (8-3, 4-2) has won four of its last six games, including a 19-15 victory over West Virginia on Nov. 28 in which McCoy ran for a career-high 183 yards and scored twice.
McCoy, who has rushed for at least 140 yards six times this season, said that he'll pass up the NFL draft and return for his junior season.
With McCoy leading the way, the Panthers have a chance to win nine games in the regular season for the first time since going 9-2 in 1982. Pitt also can win 10 games, counting a bowl, for the first time since 1981 (11-1).
"I don't feel like we've accomplished enough here yet," McCoy said. "I want to get Pittsburgh back to where it used to be at. We're a young team and we've got a lot of guys coming back, and if you look at this team (in 2009), obviously, we're going to be pretty good."
McCoy spent a year at a prep school so, as a third-year player by NFL standards, he would be eligible for the draft. He certainly could change his mind after the Panthers play their still-to-be-determined bowl game, but he sounds like a player who isn't ready to leave college football.
McCoy has scored 35 TDs in two seasons, the most for any Pitt player over that period and one more than Arizona Cardinals star receiver Larry Fitzgerald had in his only two seasons (2002-03) with the Panthers.
Last season, McCoy had 148 yards rushing to spark the greatest upset in Panthers history, 13-9 over then-No. 2 West Virginia.
When it does pass, Pitt hasn't been very efficient, throwing for 2,414 yards with eight TDs and 12 interceptions. On defense, though, the Panthers have improved, giving up 15 points or fewer in two of their last three games.
Pitt has the third-ranked rushing defense in the Big East, allowing 3.5 yards per carry, but allowed 157 yards and a TD on the ground last week against the Mountaineers.
The Panthers most certainly will be working on shoring up their rushing defense entering Saturday's game. UConn, which has passed for four TDs while getting picked off 12 times, relies heavily on Brown.
Brown was limited to 96 yards - his second-lowest total of the season - on 28 carries in a 17-13 loss to South Florida on Nov. 23.
UConn, though, has had its top quarterback in the lineup the past two games.
Tyler Lorenzen, playing his second game since returning from a broken foot that sidelined him for four contests, completed 10 of 24 passes for 119 yards and a TD and no INTs against the Bulls. It was Lorenzen's first loss in seven games this season.
Lorenzen passed for 174 yards in the Huskies' 34-14 win over the Panthers on Sept. 22, 2007. Brown was held to 53 yards on 18 carries, while McCoy ran for 70 on 11 attempts.
Huskies tailback Andre Dixon, whose playing time has been reduced greatly this season due to Brown's emergence, has been charged with drunken driving and suspended from the team indefinitely. Dixon, who also was suspended last season for two games for violating team rules, was a second-team All-Big East running back in 2007 when he ran for 828 yards.
"Andre is a great kid and a great player," Brown said. "But to be honest with you I don't know what happened. If anything bad happened, you don't wish that on anybody and that's a shame."
UConn leads the all-time series 3-1, winning each of its two home games.
Public Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
CONNECTICUT is 3-1 against the spread versus PITTSBURGH since 1992
CONNECTICUT is 3-1 straight up against PITTSBURGH since 1992
2 of 4 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
CONNECTICUT is 2-0 against the spread versus PITTSBURGH over the last 3 seasons
CONNECTICUT is 2-0 straight up against PITTSBURGH over the last 3 seasons
2 of 2 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
All games played at CONNECTICUT since 1992
CONNECTICUT is 2-0 against the spread versus PITTSBURGH since 1992
CONNECTICUT is 2-0 straight up against PITTSBURGH since 1992
1 of 2 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games played at CONNECTICUT over the last 3 seasons.
CONNECTICUT is 1-0 against the spread versus PITTSBURGH over the last 3 seasons
CONNECTICUT is 1-0 straight up against PITTSBURGH over the last 3 seasons
1 of 1 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
Key Player Injuries
No significant injuries.
[TE] Steve Brouse is out 6 - 8 weeks - Leg - 09/28/08
[OL] Alex LaMagdelanie is out for the season. - Shoulder - 09/12/08
[DT] Jarrell Miller has left the team. - Personal - 08/02/08
[DB] Darius Butler out 4 - 6 weeks - Ankle - 11/03/08
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Posted: 12/2/08 5:33 PM ET