Big East Battle

One week after beating a Top 25 team for the first time in school history, Connecticut finds itself ranked for the first time.

No. 16 Connecticut will try to extend its first-place lead in the Big East as it plays host to Rutgers on Saturday.

Oddsmakers from have made Connecticut -1.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday's game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 50% of bets for this game have been placed on Connecticut -1.5 (View College Football bet percentages).

The Huskies (7-1, 3-0 Big East) have a one-half game lead in the conference and the same overall record as No. 7 West Virginia, which is idle this week. They will play the Mountaineers on the road Nov. 24.

But before Connecticut can look ahead to that contest, it must first face Rutgers (5-3, 1-2), which holds an 18-8 edge in the all-time series. The Huskies, a perfect 5-0 at East Hartford's Rentschler Field, have never been 8-1 in their 109-year history.

They also hadn't won in 10 games against Top 25 opponents heading into last Saturday's matchup with then-No. 11 South Florida. Connecticut, though, got a career-high 167 rushing yards from Andre Dixon and used a late goal-line stand en route to a 22-15 victory.

UConn linebacker Danny Lansanah said the team was motivated by talk from South Florida players, who indicated the Huskies' narrow wins earlier this season over Louisville and Temple had been tainted by bad calls from officials.

"What can they blame it on this week, the weather or something," he said. "You look at the scoreboard. We won."

Junior college transfer Tyler Lorenzen completed just 13-of-25 passes for 194 yards with a touchdown and an interception in rainy conditions. Though Lorenzen's numbers aren't eye-popping - he's thrown for only 198.8 yards per game with just nine touchdowns - he brings stability to the position for the first time since Dan Orvolsky left for the NFL after the 2004 season.

"The quarterback is the most important position on offense, if not on the football team," Huskies defensive end Dan Davis said. "He's the general. If your general is not stable, you're not going to have much success."

A key for the Huskies run defense, ranked third in the conference despite allowing 164.6 yards per game, will be containing tailback Ray Rice. He leads the Big East with 1,177 rushing yards and is tied with West Virginia's Steve Slaton for the conference lead with 13 touchdowns.

Rice ran for 142 yards last Saturday against the Mountaineers, but was held without a touchdown for the second straight game as then-No. 25 Rutgers lost 31-3. It's Rice's longest stretch without a rushing touchdown since a five-game span from Sept. 17-Oct. 22, 2005.

"We got outplayed," Rice said after Rutgers lost for the third time at home and had its BCS chances ended by West Virginia for the second straight year.

Facing UConn in 2005, Rice had 27 carries for 217 yards to help Rutgers to 26-24 road win. Last year, the Huskies limited Rice to 79 yards on 22 rushes, but his 5-yard touchdown run in the first quarter opened the scoring and propelled the Scarlet Knights to a 24-13 victory.

Quarterback Mike Teel, playing with a bruised right throwing hand that is "on the mend" according to coach Greg Schiano, was 14-of-30 with a season-low 128 yards with two interceptions.

With two losses, Rutgers no longer controls its fate as far as winning the Big East, but Teel said they'll continue to prepare.

"We know what's on the line," Teel said. "But the bottom line is, that's down the road. If we don't prepare and give ourselves a chance to win a football game against Connecticut, all that stuff is out the window."

The Scarlet Knights are 1-2 against ranked foes. Only the 1988 squad has beaten two Top 25 teams in one season, posting wins over Michigan State and Penn State.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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