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Tag:Syracuse
Posted on: September 18, 2011 5:32 am
Edited on: September 18, 2011 5:56 am
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Sep. 17)



Posted by Adam Jacobi

1. It's Wisconsin, then everybody else. In a week where Ohio State and Michigan State both flunked their first major tests and Nebraska looked increasingly like a three-loss team in the making, Wisconsin blew out yet another opponent, this time working NIU 49-7. And yes, Northern Illinois is a MAC team, but a good one at that, and one that was expected by Vegas to keep the game within three scores. That went out the window by halftime, and the Huskies never looked capable of challenging Wisconsin. Russell Wilson (pictured above, striking a perhaps prophetic figure) looked fantastic once again, and now it's down to him and Denard Robinson in early consideration for first team All-Big Ten at QB.

As for things that aren't perfect about Wisconsin, it's a pretty short list. Russell Wilson did finally threw an interception, so he's clearly mortal, but even that's bad news for the Big Ten -- if he's mortal, then the rest of the Big Ten can't play its games against Wisconsin under protest (because immortal QBs have to be illegal, right?). We'll know way more once Nebraska comes to Madison on October 1, but until then, this is a one-team race.

2. It's Ohio State's turn to have no quarterbacks: Last week, Penn State's duo of Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin combined for a horrific 12-39, 144-yard passing tally in a 27-11 loss to Alabama. McGloin in particular submitted a near-impossible 1-10, 0-yard performance. But hey, at least it was against Alabama; facing Temple on Saturday, PSU went a much more reasonable 22-37 through the air for 216 yards (and confoundingly, McGloin looked far better than Bolden). Not great, but not awful.

No, awful had somewhere else to be, and this week, that was "under center for Ohio State." Ohio State lost to Miami under the lights at Sun Life Stadium, 24-6, and it looked capital-B Bad in the process. Facing Miami's secondary, which certainly isn't as good as Alabama's, QBs Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller combined for the following line, which contains no typos: 4-18, 35 yards, 1 INT. Passer rating: 27.4. HELPFUL POINT OF COMPARISON: Penn State's passer rating vs. Alabama was 56.7. Yes, for as awful as Penn State look against the Crimson Tide defense, Ohio State was way, way worse on Saturday.

Needless to say, the OSU tailbacks weren't thrilled at the result. "I felt like me and Jordan were doing a great job in the run game, so I felt we should have just come out and ran at them," OSU tailback Carlos Hyde said after the game. "We should have manned up and ran straight at them, see if they could stop us. I think it would have worked. I mean, to me, I don't think they were stopping us on the run, so I feel like it probably would have worked."

Just as with Penn State last week, there will be better days for both OSU QBs over the rest of the season. There just has to be. Otherwise, we'll have two stadiums on the east side of the Big Ten, filled with 100,000+ fans who'll have nothing to say. And for once, neither will be the Big House. I KID, I KID, Michigan. You're a peach.

3. The Big Ten is almost certainly not expanding east: If one continues to subscribe to the theory that the Big Ten will join the ranks of the 16-team superconferences, one would have thought recently that its expansion would be largely eastward, with both the Big East and ACC seemingly vulnerable. Slight problem for that plan, though: the ACC is getting proactive in a hurry, and now the main suspects for Big Ten expansion to the northeast are all off the table. Syracuse and Pitt are in the ACC, and if the USA Today report is correct, UConn and Rutgers are next for the ACC. That basically dooms Big East football, and of the five football-participating conference members left (TCU, South Florida, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Louisville), none look like strong candidates for Big Ten membership and all that entails, to say nothing of their limited geographical desirability.

Moreover, even the potential big-ticket schools out there have severe challenges for fitting in the Big Ten. Texas and Notre Dame have their own lucrative television deals already, and thus probably zero interest in equal revenue sharing in the Big Ten Network's plan. The remaining Big 12 North teams are more likely to join the rest of the Big East's football programs en masse than to split entirely off of their traditional base of rivals and go it alone in a new conference. And after all that, there just aren't a lot of schools that would bring more value to the Big Ten than they'd command in an equal revenue sharing program -- at which point it makes no sense to expand at all.

So when Jim Delany says the Big Ten's "as comfortable as we could be" staying at 12 teams... he probably means it.

4. Even Michigan State can disappear on offense: I mentioned in the Big Ten Bullet Points that MSU had to put up large amounts of points to hang with Notre Dame, because the Irish were going to get theirs pretty much no matter what. Notre Dame held up its end of the bargain, racking up 31 points in a variety of ways. MSU? Not so much. The Spartans managed 13 points of their own, and that's almost entirely due to Notre Dame's rushing defense coming up big. The vaunted Spartan rushing attack managed just 29 yards on 23 carries, and MSU effectively abandoned the run in the second half after Notre Dame established a double-digit lead.

That's a shocking result for a backfield that was universally regarded as the second-best in the Big Ten, and the only one even close to matching the potency of Wisconsin's ground game. MSU's got plenty more tough road dates coming its way once conference play starts, and plenty more stout front sevens to face. If this is the way Michigan State responds to tough defenses, it's going to be a long year in East Lansing. 

5. James Vandenberg and Iowa are not dead (yet): When Pittsburgh took a 24-3 lead at Iowa late in the third quarter, Hawkeye fans began panicking; this was the worst deficit the Hawkeyes had faced in four years, and a larger deficit than Iowa had ever overcome for a win. Ever. Quarterback James Vandenberg looked out of sorts for most of the first three quarters, and announcers were wondering for the second straight week if he just couldn't overcome a shaky set of nerves. All of this on top of a three-overtime loss to rival Iowa State the week prior made the outlook dim and grim for Iowa.

All of a sudden, Vandenberg and the Iowa offense sprang to life, racing to a 60-yard touchdown drive in 1:55 of play, and when Pittsburgh could only manage a field goal in response after achieving a first and goal at Iowa's 3-yard line, Iowa smelled blood. The Hawkeyes stayed in a hurry-up offense for the rest of the game, and Vandenberg engineered three fast but sustained touchdown drives in the fourth quarter to bring Iowa back for the 31-27 victory. Vandenberg went 14-17 for 153 yards and three TDs in the 4th quarter alone, and none of his last four touchdown drives lasted any longer than 2:11 -- or went for any fewer than 60 yards.

Iowa can't rely on 153-yard, 3-TD quarters from its quarterbacks, ever, so this will almost certainly be a result in isolation from the rest of the season -- especially since there were a lot of recurring problems that Pitt exploited in both Iowa's pass rush and its secondary. But at the very least Iowa's not 1-2 right now, and it's not on the ledge of disaster and/or apathy before the conference season even begins. Whether the Hawkeyes can parlay this comeback into big things down the line remains to be seen, but it was a magical afternoon at Kinnick Stadium either way.

6. Northwestern is not kidding about bringing Dan Persa back slowly: Northwestern put Dan Persa in uniform for its Week 3 matchup against Army, and Persa warmed up with the offense, but when the Wildcats struggled for most of the contest, it was Trevor Siemian why came in to spell Kain Colter, not Persa. Siemian would throw a game-tying pass to Jeremy Ebert, but Army still ended up prevailing in a stunner, 21-14. With a bye week next for Northwestern, Persa should be ready to go for the next game on October 1. If so, that's a merciful end to the Kain Colter era for the time being, and Persa can probably right the Good Ship Northwestern just a tad.

One does have to wonder, though -- shouldn't someone in the football program have notified the athletic department that Persa probably wasn't going to play a snap until October before the department put up Persa For Heisman billboards? The billboards came down after just two weeks; did nobody know he'd still be out today? And here Northwestern was supposed to be the "smart" member of the Big Ten.

Posted on: September 18, 2011 1:19 am
Edited on: September 18, 2011 1:26 am
 

What I learned from the ACC (Sept. 17)



Posted by Chip Patterson


1. When it comes to expansion, ACC moves swiftly and silently. While Mike Slive and Larry Scott continue to make headlines with their cryptic quotes about realignment and expansion, ACC commissioner John Swofford once again made the moves necessary to protect the future of the conference. Before Legends, before Leaders, and before the Pac-12 matched their name with their membership; the ACC added Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College from the Big East in order to hold a conference championship game. I knew that September 17 would be a big day for the ACC, but I did not know it would be a day that defined the future of the conference.

Before Big East commissioner John Marinatto could say "clambake," Pittsburgh and Syracuse reportedly submitted formal applications to the ACC for membership. CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy broke the story Saturday morning, and Gary Parrish is reporting the ACC presidents could vote on the expansion as soon as Sunday. "It's done," a source said to Parrish.

The addition of the two schools paired with last week's decision to raise the conference's exit fee to $20 million protects the future of the ACC. If we are indeed headed towards superconferences, Swofford has prepared his league to be one of them. By the time the story broke, the deal was reportedly already done, and there was no need for cryptic quotes or loaded statements. While Texas A&M's move was the first domino to fall, Saturday's developments may have expedited more major moves. Buckle up folks, the shift is happening now.

UPDATE: At 11:37 p.m. (ET), the ACC announced a media teleconference for Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m.. CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy is reporting that the university presidents will meet prior to the teleconference. Stay tuned to CBSSports.com for more details of the conference's announcement, whatever it may be.

2. Florida State displays resilience in loss, but now what? The Seminoles fought with every ounce they could pull together from their beaten and battered roster in a losing effort to the top-ranked Sooners. The options were laid out plainly before the game: win and become a national title contender, lose and fall from the national title discussion entirely. Granted there are plenty of scenarios that could feature the Seminoles in the national title game as a 1-loss or even 2-loss team, but I wouldn't put any money on those outcomes.

The challenge for Jimbo Fisher's team is avoid a hangover from this frustrating loss. Florida State can still set their sights on the ACC Championship and a BCS bowl victory. The Seminoles haven't won an ACC title since 2005 and haven't won a BCS bowl game since defeating Michael Vick and Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl to win the National Championship for the 1999 season. There is plenty of room for growth, and the loss does not mean that the Seminoles "aren't back." The atmosphere in Doak Campbell Stadium was electric on Saturday night, and hopefully a sign of things to come in Tallahassee rather than a one-time occasion.

3. Miami got Jacory Harris back, but the difference was on defense. Jacory Harris may have matured, and changed in many ways off the field. But against Ohio State, Jacory Harris still looked very much like the Jacory we know and love. Great footwork, incredible athleticism, and wildly inconsistent in his reads and decision making. Harris finished the game with 123 yards passing, two touchdowns, and a pair of interceptions to match. The Hurricanes got their boost from their defense, which swarmed all over the field with high energy and held the Buckeyes to just 209 yards of total offense. Senior linebacker Sean Spence led the way in his first game back from suspension as the team's leading tackler while Adwele Ojomo and Marcus Forston provided depth on the defensive line that was lacking in Miami's season opening loss to Maryland.

4. Georgia Tech's offense is for real. Record-setting real. Georgia Tech's frustrating 2010 season included a 28-25 loss to Kansas. If the Yellow Jackets were out for revenge on Saturday, they certainly showed it in their 42-point second half output against the Jayhawks. When the final buzzer sounded 12 different Georgia Tech players had combined for 604 yards rushing in the 66-24 win. The total set a new school record, and the 12.1 yards per carry as a team set a new NCAA record. (NOTE: the official game notes list it as a record, but CBSSports.com's Adam Jacobi points out that Northern Illinois recorded 15.5 last November. Regardless, impressive performance by the Jackets).  Georgia Tech's offense has been steamrolling their opponents, using a stable of home-run threats to deflate their opposition with big plays. Against Kansas, the Yellow Jackets had scoring plays of 95, 63, 67, and 52 yards. Quarterback Tevin Washington has become a wizard in Paul Johnson's option offense, freezing defenders with fakes and reads while his teammates set up the perimeter blocking for the playmakers. High point totals against inferior opposition is normal for early season games, but hanging 66 on Kansas and giving the Jayhawks their first loss of the season made a statement. This offense is a force to be reckoned with.

5. Don't give Clemson WR Sammy Watkins any space. None. At least not if you plan on keeping him from burning your defense. The true freshman wide receiver has drawn the praises of coaches, fans, and teammates since arriving on campus this fall. On Saturday he made his presence known to the nation in the Tigers' 38-24 win over Auburn in Death Valley. Watkins led all receivers with 10 catches for 155 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Both scores came on short/mid-range passes that Watkins reeled in and took to the house. Against a defense that carries the reputation of "SEC speed," Watkins looked supersonic as he left the Auburn secondary in his dust headed towards the end zone. Watkins is an early favorite for Rookie of the Year already, and likely will be giving defensive coordinators headaches for the foreseeable future.

6. Things have gone from bad to worse at Boston College. Heading into the season, all the buzz around Boston College was about an upgraded offense that would feature Preseason Player of the Year Montel Harris rather than rely on the star running back. The defense, ranked among the best in the nation, returned arguably the game's best linebacker in Luke Kuechly and touted sophomore Kevin Pierre-Louis. Kuechly still leads the nation in tackles, but that's about all that has been going write for the Eagles. Offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers has taken a medical leave of absence, Montel Harris is struggling to get back to the field after undergoing his second arthroscopic knee surgery in a year, and leading receiver Ifeanyi Momah might be lost for the season with his own knee injury. But frustrations have spilled over to kicking game as well, with Nate Freese missing an extra point in the second quarter and a 23-yard field goal with 43 seconds remaining in a 20-19 loss to Duke in the ACC opener for both squads. What started as a season of hope for BC (and even some chatter about ACC Atlantic dark horse) has turned into an 0-3 start with Clemson, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Florida State, and Miami left on the schedule.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview
Posted on: September 17, 2011 4:21 pm
Edited on: September 17, 2011 4:23 pm
 

UNC AD: ACC expansion 'right thing to do'

Posted by Chip Patterson

Conference realignment accelerated on Saturday, with CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy breaking the news that Pittsburgh and Syracuse are "likely gone" to the ACC.

Each school individually submitted letters of application to the ACC, according to high ranking ACC and Big East officials. The news comes a week after the ACC presidents meeting, where the schools unanimously voted to raise the conference exit fee to $20 million. The exit fee was previously between $12 million and $15 million.

While Big East commissioner John Marinatto wouldn't comment on the reports while attending West Virginia's victory against Maryland in College Park, North Carolina athletic director Dick Baddour weighed in on the ACC's reported expansion.

"It's obvious that the world is turning upside down and we want the ACC to be in a position where we are strong," Baddor said. "It's absolutely the right thing to do."

This would be the second time the conference has expanded in the last decade, after adding Virginia Tech, Miami, and Boston College in the 2004 and 2005 seasons. The combination of adding expansion with the raised exit fee would make it appear that the ACC has positioned itself to survive any poaching from the SEC - which still has not identified a 14th member to balance the divisions after Texas A&M's addition.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview
Posted on: September 16, 2011 11:24 pm
Edited on: September 16, 2011 11:34 pm
 

Report: Syracuse, Pitt in talks with the ACC

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Big East schools Syracuse and Pittsburgh are in talks with the ACC to join the conference, according to the New York Times.

Officials from each school and both conferences denied the discussions were taking place to the Times and did not offer a comment.

The person with knowledge of the talks declined to speculate on a timetable or the seriousness of the discussions. But in this delicate time for conferences and their futures, the discussions between the 12-team A.C.C. and two Big East members is significant.

Syracuse is a founding member of the Big East and Pitt has been in the league since 1982. The ACC has already raided the Big East once before, adding Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech in 2004. Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg was instrumental in keeping the league together following the three schools departure.

“We’ve been dealing with the fluidity of the conference landscape on multiple levels for a week,” Amy Yakola, the ACC.’s associate commissioner for public relations and marketing told the Times, “and at this point we wouldn’t be able to comment on speculation.”

Reports surfaced earlier in the week that the ACC might be a possible landing spot for Texas as well, should the Big 12 fall apart with the departures of Texas A&M to the SEC and Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to the Pac-12.


Posted on: September 13, 2011 4:40 pm
Edited on: September 13, 2011 6:50 pm
 

CBSSports.com Conference Power Rankings: Week 3

Posted by Chip Patterson

Look around you, you can't avoid conference realignment rumors. Local media, message boards, and national insiders everywhere are ruminating on the future of the FBS and how it will look in 2012, 2013, and beyond. But there is a college football season going on in 2011, and these teams can only control 60 minutes of football each week. So taking the current conference shifts out of the picture, we are proud to roll out the first edition of the CBSSports.com Conference Power Rankings.

It was particularly important to preface these rankings with that clarification with the Big 12 sitting right below the mighty SEC at No. 2. While Texas A&M's exit and Oklahoma's Pac-12 flirtation have led some to consider the conference "dead," the 2011 league roster has shown up to play this season. Led by top-ranked Oklahoma, the conference currently boasts five teams in the AP poll with three of them among the top ten.

Every week for the rest of the college football season we'll rank these FBS conferences, taking into consideration their presence in the national rankings, non-conference performances, and depth. The Sun Belt Conference, for example, finds themselves in the cellar of these power rankings despite FIU's upset of Louisville last Friday. That's because outside of the Panthers and Troy, the conference has taken some beatings here in the first two weeks of play.

So without further adieu, the first set of 2011 Conference Power Rankings.

1. SEC - The best until proven otherwise. Five straight BCS National Championships combine with a pair of SEC West giants trading places in the top 3 of early 2011 polls. Alabama and LSU each look worthy of a title game spot at this point, and are joined by five more SEC teams in the current AP Top 25.

2. Big 12 - With Oklahoma leading the way in the polls, other Big 12 schools held their own in non-conference showdowns this past weekend. Oklahoma State gassed Arizona while Iowa State escaped in an overtime thriller over Iowa. Depth will be tested this weekend as Texas looks for revenge against UCLA and Kansas travels to Georgia Tech. Oh yeah, and rumor has it there's a scrimmage in Tallahassee between Oklahoma and Florida State that might be important.

3. Big Ten - Penn State was muted offensively by Alabama in Week 2, but Wisconsin's dismantling of Oregon State gave the conference a new frontrunner on the national scene. Ohio State got a scare from Toledo, but will have the chance to bounce back in a primetime road game against Miami. Big question marks for me among the ranked conference teams here lie with Nebraska and Michigan State, but each will have the opportunity to flex their muscles against some competition in Week 3. Michigan was able to represent the conference in the depth argument, and 2-0 Northwestern hits the road for a test against a winless Army team.

4. Pac-12 - Oregon reminded us how many points they can score, and Andrew Luck did Andrew Luck things in a cross-country visit to Duke in Week 2. USC's sanctions hold no bearing in these rankings, and I expect them to take care of Syracuse at home with very little trouble (though no promises about covering the spread - I know better than that). Arizona State has a chance to boost the standing of the conference with a road test against 2-0 Illinois, and Utah will try to provide some support to the conference's depth with a non-conference battle against BYU.

5. ACC - With only Florida State and Virginia Tech representing them in the rankings, the conference is struggling once again to command national respect. The ACC is looking to erase the stigma of losing on the big stage this weekend, with the Seminoles hosting Oklahoma while Miami welcomes Ohio State to town in South Beach. Maryland also gets a chance to show off their latest uniform combination against a ranked West Virginia team and Clemson will try to knock off Auburn in a rematch of 2010's 23-20 overtime thriller. This is the biggest week of the season for the conference as a whole, and it is imperative they show up on the big stage.

6. Mountain West Conference - With Boise State leading the way, the shifting MWC sits on top of their non-AQ counterparts. TCU was able to bounce back from their season-opening loss to the Baylor RGIII's, and a pair of 2-0 teams (San Diego State and Colorado State) will get a chance to showcase their talent against Pac-12 opponents this weekend. Boise State and TCU can't anchor the entire conference for long, so they will need to show up in these last opportunities against respectable non-conference opponents to hold onto No. 6.

7. Big East - After starting the season 8-0 in the first week of play, the Big East looked unimpressive as a whole in Week 2. Pittsburgh and Syracuse played down to their FCS competition, each escaping with a one-score victory. The eight team conference usually boasts parity as a strength of the league, but when a preseason title contender shows weakness (Pittsburgh) or defending champion drops an early non-conference matchup (Connecticut) the argument falls short.

8. Conference USA - Rice blocked a late field goal to knock off Purdue, Houston kept their high-powered offense rolling, and UCF pulled away late in an impressive 30-3 win over Boston College.  At the same time, Memphis was very - well - Memphis in their 47-3 loss to Arkansas State and Southern Miss looked hardly like a division favorite in their loss to Marshall.  But for a 12-team non-AQ conference being top-heavy is not a terrible thing.  At least you have teams that can contend on a national stage to represent the league.

9. MAC - Temple is fielding one of their best teams in recent years, and head coach Steve Addazio will get a chance to show their full potential against Penn State. I also like what we've seen from Toledo and Ball State did upset Indiana in the opening week of play before falling 37-7 to a very talented South Florida team.

10. WAC - The depleted WAC can't quite hold their own in rankings like these without their former heavy-hitters. Nevada hasn't quite gotten back on track offensively since losing Colin Kaepernick and Vai Taua, and Fresno State has looked out of sync in a challenging start to the schedule.  However New Mexico State will have a chance to give the conference some depth this weekend. After knocking off MInnesota on Saturday the Aggies will host the UTEP Miners of Conference USA on Saturday.

10. Sun Belt - As I mentioned earlier, outside of FIU and Troy the performances have not been very impressive out of the Sun Belt. That does not, and will not, change the powerful grassroots #Hilton4Heisman campaign for all-purpose threat T.Y. Hilton. The Panthers' wide receiver is averaging 275.5 all-purpose yards per game and outside of the farewell tour for FAU head coach Howard Schnellenberger is the story in this conference.

Check back in to the Eye On College Football next week for the updated edition of the Conference Power Rankings.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview
Posted on: September 11, 2011 9:31 pm
Edited on: September 12, 2011 1:38 pm
 

Big East poll reactions, Week 2

Posted by Chip Patterson

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Big East fared, from the top of the polls to its bottom, and what it means.

West Virginia (AP:18/Coaches: 20) - The Mountaineers got a quick scare from Norfolk State when they trailed 12-10 at the half, but quarterback Geno Smith got the offense clicking in the third quarter and West Virginia pulled away with a 55-12 win. But things will not get any easier for Dana Holgorsen's squad in the next weeks with a road game at Maryland on Saturday and then a visit from No. 3 LSU on Sept. 24.

South Florida (AP: 20/Coaches: 22) - The Bulls were all business against Ball State on Saturday, showing no signs of a Notre Dame hangover in front of the largest crowd for a home opener since 2008. BJ Daniels set career-highs for completions (28), attempts (29), and passing yards (359) while the defense put together a three quarter shutout. South Florida's greatest challenge this season begins Sept. 29, when the Bulls play four conference road games in six weeks.

Other receiving votes - Pittsburgh and Syracuse are the only teams in the conference still undefeated, but close wins over Maine and Rhode Island on Saturday did not attract any extra positive attention that would result in votes. As far as the polls go, I'm not expecting to see anyone from the conference other than the Bulls or Mountaineers anytime soon.
Posted on: September 11, 2011 1:27 am
Edited on: September 11, 2011 1:28 am
 

What I learned from the Big East (Sept. 10)

Posted by Chip Patterson

1. The conference got a reality check after 8-0 start. I wrote earlier this week about the Big East not getting to comfy with their undefeated record, and my suspicions became true this weekend. The conference went 4-4 with South Florida's victory over Ball State being the only win against an FBS opponent. Syracuse and Pittsburgh had to hold off late rallies from Rhode Island and Maine, while Rutgers and Connecticut were unable to capitalize on multiple opportunities to defeat North Carolina and Vanderbilt. But the weekend of frustration for the conference started with Louisville's 24-17 loss at home to Florida International.

2. Louisville's offensive line has to be fixed. Florida International exposed a glaring weakness in the Louisville offense on Friday night in their 24-17 victory over the Cardinals. The Panthers defense sacked Will Stein seven times and held running backs Jeremy Wright and Victor Anderson to a combined 83 yards on 28 carries (2.9 ypc). Youth has been a concern for Louisville coming into the season, particularly with four new starters on the offensive line. But the performance against FIU was embarrassing for Charlie Strong's squad, and now the entire nation knows where and how to beat the Cardinals. Luckily, their next game is their annual matchup with Kentucky - who looks even worse. My thoughts are that Strong uses Kentucky and the next bye week to fix the issues. But that's probably a lot more hope than thought.

3.Pittsburgh is still adjusting to new systems on both sides of the ball. Todd Graham was supposed to bring the "high octane" offense to Pittsburgh, but the only player up to speed appears to be running back Ray Graham. Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson installed a 3-3-5 attacking defense, and spent time refining it with Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. But neither system appeared to be clicking in the Panthers' 35-29 win over Maine on Saturday. Quarterback Tino Sunseri could not get synced with his receivers, only finding success on short and intermediate routes due to heavy pressure from Maine's defensive front. He was sacked seven times and tossed two interceptions before getting replaced by true freshman Trey Anderson.

The defense was picked apart by Maine quarterback Warren Smith in the second half, with the senior signal caller totaling 334 yards and three touchdowns in a failing effort to bring the Black Bears back from a 20-7 halftime deficit. The defense was hardly "attacking" down the stretch, and if Maine can make Pitt pay the Panthers have some serious concerns heading into next week's non-conference showdown with Iowa.

4. West Virginia's offense needs a consistent rushing attack. The statement sounds critical, but that is only because of how productive the offense is when the Mountaineers can move the ball on the ground. When Norfolk State was holding a 12-10 lead over West Virginia at halftime, they were daring head coach Dana Holgorsen to run the ball with only four men in the box. The Mountaineers were not able to get anything going on the ground with either Andrew Buie or Vernard Roberts, and Geno Smith was struggling to find receivers open in space. When the Mountaineers starting creating holes for their backs in the second half, it opened up the entire field and sparked the 45-0 second half run.
Posted on: September 7, 2011 5:02 pm
Edited on: September 7, 2011 5:05 pm
 

Four games to watch for undefeated Big East

Posted by Chip Patterson

For the first time since the conference's formation in 1991, every Big East team won on the opening weekend of the college football season. A lot of teams in FBS AQ conferences choose the opening to schedule an FCS or inferior team to ease into the schedule, but rarely can a conference kick off the season undefeated.

A majority of the Big East slate was similar to that formula, but the conference's undefeated record occurred as a result of thrilling victories over an ACC opponent (Wake Forest)and a ranked Notre Dame squad. The conference has been defending themselves against national criticism all offseason after finishing 2010 with no teams ranked in the Top 25. Now heading into Week 2 the Big East's 8-0 conference record will be tested against a much more difficult slate. If Week 1 was a celebration of the Big East's promising future, Week 2 might be more of a reality check.

There are four games on the Big East schedule which will threaten/end the league's undefeated streak:

1) Cincinnati at Tennessee, 3:30 p.m. Saturday - After an embarrassing 4-8 campaign in Butch Jones' first season, the Bearcats put on a show jumping out to a 41-0 halftime lead against Austin Peay. By the time the damage was done Cincinnati had more points than any FBS team, defeating their Ohio Valley Conference opponent 72-10. Traveling to Neyland Stadium to face the Vols will present a very different challenge, and possibly a different outcome for the Bearcats. Cincinnati's secondary was one of the worst in the nation a year ago, and they will quickly get one of their most difficult challenges on the schedule with Tyler Bray and the receiving duo of Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers. Don't be surprised to see a shootout in Knoxville here, but unless the Bearcats defense steps up and creates some turnovers I'd guess the Vols emerge victorious.

2) Rutgers at North Carolina, 12:30 p.m. Saturday - Last season the Scarlet Knights had a 10-0 lead over the winless Tar Heels before the Tar Heels battled back and eventually escaped New Jersey with a 17-13 win. But without Tom Savage under center to throw a late game interception, Scarlet Knights fans are hoping that Chas Dodd can exact revenge against their annual non-conference opponent. North Carolina also has a new quarterback this year in sophomore Bryn Renner. Renner set an ACC record in the Tar Heels' opener by completing 22 of his 23 passes, with an interception as his only incompletion. The Tar Heels offensive line kept Renner's jersey clean, and getting into the backfield will be a key for the Rutgers front line. The Scarlet Knights are not favored in this matchup, and a victory would be huge for another team trying to make up for an uncharacteristic 2010 season.

3) Florida International at Louisville, 7:00 p.m. Friday - FIU has been slowly climbing up the ranks of the Sun Belt Conference, and last season joined the perennially dominant Troy at the top of the final standings. All-purpose threat T.Y. Hilton will be a challenge to contain, especially after seeing Louisville give up 143 yards on the ground against Murray State. The Panthers will be hungry for the upset on the national stage Friday night, and the onus will be on the Louisville defense to match that speed and intensity for four quarters. On offense the Cardinals will have an advantage over the Panthers defense, but they cannot afford to turn the ball over four times like they did in the opener. This should be a very competitive game, and I would not be shocked if the Panthers pulled the upset.

4) Connecticut at Vanderbilt, 7:30 p.m. Saturday - The Huskies still haven't decided on a starting quarterback, or even a two-quarterback rotation. Running back Lyle McCombs looked strong in the absence of projected starter DJ Shoemate, rushing for 141 yards and four touchdowns in the opener against Fordham. But Vanderbilt presents a very different caliber of opposition. That matchup will pit Commodores head coach James Franklin (former Maryland offensive coordinator) against his 2010 Maryland counterpart Don Brown, now the defensive coordinator at Connecticut. Franklin has stated that he's willing to take risks on offense, and Brown has been known for his aggressive blitzing schemes. While it certainly won't be a marquee matchup to steal headlines, this SEC-Big East showdown should at least be interesting for those involved. This game will probably come down until the fourth quarter, but I'm giving Vanderbilt the advantage due to Connecticut's uncertain personnel.
 
 
 
 
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