With the holiday week, I'm moving this up a day from its usual spot. Safe to say I'll be stocking up on turkey and stuffing, while my physical fitness will see its stock go down.
1. Kendall Reyes: UConn has moved Reyes between defensive tackle and defensive end this year. He was inside against Syracuse and was highly disruptive, coming up with an interception and knocking the ball out of quarterback Ryan Nassib's hands to lead a dominant effort by the Huskies' front four.
2. Bruce Irvin: Last week, I wrote that West Virginia's defensive end was mostly just a specialist. Well, Irvin is putting the special in specialist with 10 sacks on the year. And he's starting to play a bigger role; normally just a third-down guy, he appeared on several second-down situations last week at Louisville.
3. Brandon Mills: The Cincinnati defensive tackle had 10 tackles, three sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble against Rutgers to earn Big East defensive player of the week honors. Of course, going up against the Scarlet Knights' spotty offensive line when they were forced to pass every down in a 69-38 loss could make a lot of defensive players look good. But Butch Jones says Mills "is playing with a lot of energy right now."
4. West Virginia's third-down defense: The Mountaineers' last two opponents, Louisville and Cincinnati, have gone a combined 2-for-25 on third downs. West Virginia leads the FBS in third-down defense. Safety Robert Sands described third down thusly: "It's like a race to the quarterback."
5. Dontavia Bogan: The USF receiver had only four catches against Pitt, but he drew four pass interference or holding calls as Panthers cornerbacks -- especially Antwuan Reed -- struggled to contain him on the deep ball.
1. Rutgers' defense: Remember when defense was the Scarlet Knights' calling card? Not so much after surrendering 661 yards and 69 points to Cincinnati. Rutgers has allowed more points in conference games than any Big East team. And it's not like their offense can pick up the slack.
2. Syracuse's offense: The Orange defense has been great most of the year, but it is not getting much help from the offense lately. Syracuse is averaging just 16.6 points per game in conference play and managed just one touchdown in its last two games combined.
3. Louisville's passing game: West Virginia blitzed to stop the run and dared the Cardinals to beat it with the passing game. They couldn't. Louisville hasn't had more than 146 yards passing in its last four games, and its offense has become far too one-dimensional.
4. South Florida's two-minute drill: The Bulls looked terrible earlier this year in trying to move the ball late in the first halves against West Virginia and Florida, leading to game-killing turnovers. Against Pitt, USF got the ball back with 1:31 left, needing to go 74 yards to tie the score. Quarterback B.J. Daniels didn't seem to have any idea how to manage the clock in that situation as valuable seconds drained away before a final heave was intercepted.
5. West Virginia's second-half offense: The Mountaineers have strangely scored just one touchdown after halftime in their five Big East games, and it came against Cincinnati's easily-punctured defense. Sometimes they seem more content with running out the clock than adding on points. Combine that with Pitt's first-half slow starts -- the Panthers have managed just 30 total points in their last four first halves -- and there could be some major momentum changes in this week's Backyard Brawl.