Iowa State at Connecticut - Friday, September 16, 2011 - 8:00 p.m. - ESPN2/ESPN3.com
Rentschler Field - East Hartford, CT
Point Spread: Connecticut -4
Connecticut needs to win this game in order to salvage any hopes of returning to the postseason in the first year of Paul Pasqualoni's tenure. It won't be easy with an offense struggling as as much Connecticut's is. The Huskies will host Iowa State on a short week, coming off of a thrilling overtime win over rival Iowa. Quarterback Steele Jantz has been a revelation for the Cyclones who hope to ride the momentum of last week's win to a 3-0 start.
Iowa State 2-0 (0-0)
Connecticut 1-1 (0-0)
The Paul Pasqualoni era has begun with something of a thud. After the opening week's game opened to a less than capacity crowd due to it being moved from a Thursday to Saturday, the Huskies lost a snoozefest of a game on the road to Vanderbilt. The Huskies failed to score an offensive touchdown in the game. That extended Connecticut's streak of game against FBS opponents without a touchdown to three, dating back to last season. The issues with the offense are clear: the Huskies cannot throw the ball consistently. The three-headed monster rotation of quarterbacks hasn't worked to date, and eventually Psaqualoni and offensive coordinator George DeLeone will need to settle on a starter. Against Vanderbilt, Connecticut was only able to muster 103 yards passing against an otherwise porous Commodores defense. Vanderbilt had no fear of the pass and while Connecticut ran the ball well early, was able to shut them down by clogging up the box. It was a shame to see a masterful performance by the Huskies' defense go to waste. This might be a theme that repeats itself all year long.
Iowa State has found its key piece to build around for the 2011 season: quarterback Steele Jantz. Jantz was downright heroic in the Cyclones' come from behind win over rival Iowa last Saturday, leading the team on a game tying fourth quarter drive and then the game winning touchdown in the third overtime. Jantz finished the game with 279 yards and four touchdown passes. Jantz will have his hands full with an aggressive, complex Connecticut defense led by defensive tackle Kendall Reyes. The Huskies are in the top 20 nationally in rushing defense, passing, and total defense. Under new coordinator Don Brown, the Huskies are a multiple front defense that brings pressure from all over the defense and can be tough to prepare for in a short week. Jantz had a big game last week, but he'll have his hands full this week.
The Connecticut will be the best that Iowa State has faced so far this season, so it's unlikely Jantz puts up the big numbers he put up against Iowa, especially with less than a full week to prepare. But, until Connecticut can settle its quarterback situation and develop the ability to at least punish teams for bunching up to stop the run, it's hard to see it winning games.
Prediction: Iowa State 21 Connecticut 13