Despite my Big East bias, I'll admit it. The Big East disappointed in every way to start the college football season.
Pittsburgh, the team that received the most first place votes in conference lost at unranked Utah in overtime. UConn, a dark horse in the Big East title race, got trounced by a Michigan team that went 5-7 last year. Louisville lost a hard-fought game to Kentucky. And Cincinnati, the defending Big East Champs, lost at Fresno St. by two scores.
Rutgers, West Virginia, and South Florida beat up on FCS teams. The signature win was by Syracuse, a team that has been a Big East bottom dweller for most of the past decade, and they only beat Akron.
Through all of the ugliness, we did learn some valuable lessons regarding the Big East:
1. Dion Lewis Is Stoppable
Dion Lewis was untouchable in 2009. He rushed for 1,800 yards and 17 scores. He came into this season as a Heisman hopeful.
With all of this hype, what does he do in game one? Rush for 75 yards on 25 carries for a rather pedestrian three yards per carry. Without Bill Stull under center, the Utes focused on Lewis, and it showed. If Tino Sunseri doesn't make the passing game a threat for the Panthers, there could be a huge sophomore slump in store for Dion Lewis.
2. Preseason Rankings Mean Nothing
The Big East Preseason Polls order of finish looked like this: Pitt, Cincy, West Virginia, UConn, Rutgers, USF, Syracuse, and Louisville. In week 1, these polls proved to be completely bogus.
Louisville lost a tough, one-score game against an SEC opponent, Syracuse manhandled Akron for the only conference win against a FBS school, and USF put up 59 points against Stony Brook. As you can see, the projected bottom three teams in the Big East performed the best in week 1.
As for the top five teams, Rutgers and West Virginia were leading FCS schools at the half by scores of 6-0 and 10-0, respectively. Pitt and Cincy lost to unranked squads. Then, of course, UConn
lost to a mediocre Michigan team by an astounding 30-10.
3. The Big East Can Go to Any School
The Big East has had a tendency to be wide open among the top five or six teams every year. This year, any team can take the conference title.
Syracuse actually has a formidable offense with dual-threat quarterback Ryan Nassib running the show with impressive rushing duo, Delonte Carter and Antwon Bailey, while Louisville will hang in games behind defensive-minded coach Charlie Strong.
Do I think either of the two teams will end up placing in the top half of the Big East? No, but they will be tough and can make some noise in the balanced conference.
Now, it's time to look at what's cooking in the Big East for week 2:
It should be a rather quiet week. There are four FCS opponents, so we can count on at least those four wins. Two of the FBS opponents are Florida International (playing Rutgers) and Marshall (playing West Virginia). That should account for two more wins.
Despite the laughers, there are some potentially huge games for the conference.
First, there's the Syracuse-Washington game. Syracuse has some confidence coming into this game knowing they were the lone Big East team with a FBS victory. They will be playing with their heads held high, but they must not take Washington lightly.
QB Jake Locker has NFL scouts salivating due to his running back speed in addition to his solid quarterback play. They must make it a priority to contain Locker and not let him get loose out of the pocket. If the Orange can somehow take down Washington on the road, they would be making a major statement.
The marquee matchup for the Big East is undoubtedly South Florida's trip to Gainesville. The Bulls enter the "Swamp" to face a Florida Gator squad that led lowly Miami of Ohio by a score of 21-12 in the fourth quarter. I know that a win is a win, but Miami of Ohio went 1-11 last year against a mostly soft schedule.
If this was any indication of the 2010-11 Gators, then I think the Bulls have a legitimate shot to take down the U of F (imagine that: "Big East Squad Knocks Off SEC Powerhouse"). BJ Daniels knows how to win big games (see: USF-Florida State 2009), and can be one of the most dangerous players in the country. If the USF defense holds John Brantley and Co. in check, this could be a monumental win for a conference that has little, if any, respect anymore.
Conclusion: The Big East went through a rough week 1, but I'll forgive them due to first game jitters and the newly broken-in quarterbacks for most teams in the conference. There is ample opportunity to regain some Big East pride with USF-Florida and Syracuse-Washington. If one of these games ends up in the Big East's favor, the week 1 debacle might be forgotten and proven to be a fluke.
Also, check out this article on Sportshaze.com
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