I’ve caught some flak from more than a couple people about how hard I have been on the Big East so far this year, which I want to take a minute to address. First of all, it’s mostly deserved. The conference is really not any good at all. I don’t see more than one or two teams that would even have a chance of finishing in the top half of any other BCS conference. The dynamic offenses that once made the Big East exciting have disappeared in favor of a bunch of run first squads and it’s frankly hard to watch.
However, the one thing that the Big East does need to be commended for is the parity that exists in the conference. There aren’t many good teams, but at the same time, there really aren’t any terrible teams either. Maybe that’s a function of cupcake out of conference schedules and the lack of quality teams in the BE, but even perennial cellar dweller Syracuse is semi-respectable.
The Big East is currently the only conference in all of the FBS that does not have a single team below .500, which is a positive that is worth pointing out. That will change this weekend, with two different matchups of 3-3 BE teams, but the majority of teams in the conference are going to be bowl eligible this year.
Game of the Week – Rutgers (4-2) @ Pitt (3-3) – 12 PM Saturday, Big East Network, ESPN3.com
With Pitt getting back on track last weekend, this game is a matchup between two squads that figure to finish in the top half of the conference this season. Additionally, it will be a very emotional game with Rutgers coming off a game in which DT Eric LeGrand was paralyzed from the neck down. You can never quite know what to expect out of a team facing that type of adversity.
I would imagine they will come out playing very passionate football, but has the past week drained them to the point where they will be unable to sustain that kind of effort?
These are two very physical football teams. They like to run the ball quite a bit, but both have gotten recently improved play at QB. Chas Dodd recently won the Rutgers job, while Pitt’s Tino Sunseri played the best game of his young career last week against Syracuse. Rutgers will be looking to get the ball to all purpose WR Mohamed Sanu more than they were able to last week, while Pitt will rely on the two headed attack of Dion Lewis and Ray Graham on the ground.
Games to Keep an Eye on
South Florida (3-3) @ Cincinnati (3-3) – Friday 8 PM, ESPN2
The Bearcats take the field on Friday night for the second consecutive week and they will be looking to continue their recent string of strong play, particularly on offense, which started in a loss to Oklahoma and continued against Miami (OH) and UofL. They will do so against a team that will be looking to end their own string of poor play, especially on offense, in South Florida. The Bulls have managed just 15 points in their first two Big East matchups.
While USF figures to show offensive improvement against a UC team that is not exactly a defensive stalwart, I’m not so sure they have enough to topple the reigning BE champs on the road. USF has been pretty good defensively, allowing barely 300 yards per game, but their offense has put them in way too many short field situations with turnovers.
Syracuse (4-2) @ #20 West Virginia (5-1) – Saturday 12 PM, ESPN2
Syracuse’s bizarrely good start to the season came to an abrupt halt last week against Pitt: return to the status quo figures to continue this week against the conference front runners. The Mountaineers are fifth nationally in total defense, third in scoring defense, and fourth in run defense. On offense, Noel Devine leads a cast of experienced weapons. None of that bodes well for the upstart Orange.
‘Cuse has been good defensively most of the year, but last week it was the secondary that betrayed them as the normally pedestrian Tino Sunseri diced them for nearly 300 yards and four TD’s. WVU is known for running the ball, but their attack is a balanced one and Geno Brown will look to pressure the Orange in the passing game.
Connecticut (3-3) @ Louisville (3-3) – Saturday 3:30 PM, ESPNU
This is a big game between two teams with identical 3-3 starts, including losses to begin BE play. UConn had a bye week following a tough 27-24 loss against Rutgers, so they will be fresh and prepared for this afternoon tilt. UofL played an excellent first half last week against Cincinnati before eventually falling 35-27.
Thus far, UConn has been prone to giving up big plays on defense, while UofL has shown the ability to capitalize on those kinds of mistakes, tallying 35 plays of 20 yards or more already this season. Bilal Powell has been responsible for many of of those, which has helped him shoot up the rushing charts in the Big East, where he is ranked just behind UConn’s workhorse, Jordan Todman. Those two figure to be a big part of the story on Saturday.
With UofL fans having a team to be excited about for the first time since Brian Brohm was around, I expect Papa John’s to be tough on the Huskies. However, they won’t be able to get into it if Todman and the Huskies are moving the chains and bleeding the clock. I expect this to be a very good game.
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