The Big East takes center stage tonight when Paul Chryst's Pittsburgh team visits Paul Pasqualoni and Connecticut at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
After a very slow start to his tenure at Pittsburgh, a 31-17 loss to Youngstown State followed by a 34-10 loss to Cincinnati to open the season, Chryst's Panthers have won four of their last six and came within a hair of upsetting Notre Dame last week. Pittsburgh must win two of their last three games to achieve bowl eligibility, and considering they still have 7-1 Rutgers on the schedule, tonight is a game they need to win.
Panthers running back Ray Graham is heating up with two straight 100-yard games, rushing for 109 yards against Temple and 172 yards versus Notre Dame. Coupled with an efficient passing game, the Panthers place 12th nationally with 14 touchdowns against two interceptions, and it's clear where Pittsburgh's turnaround has come from.
Connecticut has dropped all four Big East games thus far, and scoring has been a major struggle for the Huskies. Connecticut has scored 3, 14, 10 and 6 points in four consecutive losses. The other side of the ball, however, has performed well throughout the year. The Huskies' defense ranks first in the Big East and ninth nationally with just over 290 yards allowed per game, first in the Big East in pass efficiency defense (112.1 opposing quarterback rating), and second in the conference in rushing defense (114.2 yards per game) and scoring defense (18.6 points per game).
The home team has won the last three games in this series and to keep that trend alive Connecticut must find a way to reverse its Big East-worst turnover margin, convert turnovers into points, and use its attacking defensive front (2.67 sacks per game, 7.22 TFL per game) to stifle the Panthers' offense.