Big East Power Rankings Week 5: Rutgers Falls, UConn Looks To Be Back on Track
It was a week of mostly cupcakes for the Big East. Most of them were given their expected defeat, but in another blow to the conference's pride, one of the so-called cupcakes bit back.
Fortunately, UConn managed to restore some of the league's lost luster with a win over Vanderbilt. Say what you want about the Commodores, but at this point, beating anyone that has the letters "SEC" embroidered across their jerseys is going to look good for this conference.
Syracuse, Cincinnati, and West Virginia all had bye weeks, so how will they fare in this week's ranking? Could this week's action have shifted the balance of power?
No. 8: Rutgers Scarlet Knights
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I’ve been resisting the temptation to drop the Knights into last place for two weeks now. Louisville’s recent loss to Oregon State was probably more impressive than either of Rutgers’ wins over Norfolk State or Florida International. I couldn’t bring myself to move a 1-2 team ahead of a 2-1 team based on a loss, though, so I’ve resisted.
Well, Rutgers justified the gut feeling I’ve had about them in their 17-13 home loss to Tulane Saturday, and so they check into the power ranking firmly in last place this week.
No. 7: Louisville Cardinals
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The Cards traveled to play Arkansas State this weekend, and they couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. The first half, in which they outscored the Red Wolves, 31-3, may have been a glimpse into the future in the Charlie Strong era.
However, the second half looked a lot more Kragthorpe-ish as they blew most of the lead and only managed one field goal. They hung on for the 34-24 win, but giving up a big rally to a team like Arkansas State is a concern.
No. 6: Cincinnati Bearcats
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Cincinnati took a little break this weekend, and it’s probably a much-needed one. Who would have thought the mighty Bearcats, who’ve won the Big East two years running, and had an undefeated regular season a year ago, would now be 1-3. Even bowl eligibility is a serious question mark.
They did manage one impressive loss last weekend when Oklahoma visited and barely escaped with a 31-29 win. At the end of the day, though, a loss is a loss, and right now the Bearcats have only managed to conquer Indiana State.
If Cincy turned the corner in that Oklahoma game, they should have no trouble in their final tune-up game against Miami of Ohio next week.
No. 5: USF Bulls
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It’s hard to know what to make of USF. On one hand, they’re 3-1 with wins over Stony Brook, Western Kentucky, and now Florida Atlantic. But, at the same time, they’ve shown that they have some issues to work out.
Two weeks ago the Bulls received a scare from WKU, but managed to win 24-12. The final score was uncomfortably close, but perhaps the most disturbing thing to come out of the game was that Skip Holtz doesn’t seem to trust B.J. Daniels throwing the football.
"I don't know if you watched the Florida game, but we were 5-of-20 with four interceptions," Holtz said when asked about Daniels throwing only 11 passes in the WKU game.
Daniels attempted 19 passes in a blowout win over FAU, but he was severely limited in the first half and got the bulk of his passing opportunities when the game already seemed to be in hand.
Next weekend the Bulls host Syracuse, who had the worst passing defense in the league last year, but were better than anyone else against the run. They brought back 10 starters from that defense, so USF could find themselves in trouble if Holtz doesn’t put some faith in B.J. Daniels' arm.
No. 4: Pittsburgh Panthers
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Ray Graham’s 277 rushing yards powered the Panthers to a 44-17 win over Florida International Saturday. However, the memories of the thrashing they received from Miami are still far too fresh to even begin discussing Pittsburgh as a legitimate threat to win the conference again.
Next week, the Panthers travel to South Bend for a shot at getting some revenge on Brian Kelly. Notre Dame has been almost as disappointing as Pitt, but if the Panthers want to head home with another win, they better put together a better effort than the one they displayed two weeks ago.
No. 3: Syracuse Orange
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The Orange were off this week, which of course means they didn’t lose. Their record stands at 3-1—a start that Syracuse hasn't accomplished since 2003. Of course, the wins came at Akron and then against Maine and Colgate in the Dome, but all three opponents were thoroughly trounced.
We don’t really know just how much the Orange have improved this season, but it seems evident that they are at least better than they’ve been. In recent years, even the cupcakes have occasionally given Syracuse more than they could chew, but so far this season they've all been devoured.
So, until proven otherwise, I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt in this weak Big East conference.
No. 2: UConn Huskies
They still have some issues to work out on defense, but the Husky offense seems to be moving full steam ahead now that Cody Endres has usurped the starting quarterback job.
UConn scorched Vanderbilt for 40 points Saturday, behind Jordan Todman’s 190-yard, two-touchdown performance. The Huskies are still a running team and that won’t change any time soon. Cody Endres merely has to manage the game and play smart and he fulfilled those duties admirably this week, completing 21-of-30 passes for 179 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.
With back-to-back 40-plus point performances since Endres took over at quarterback, the Huskies have one of the best-looking offenses in the conference. If they can get the defense (which gave up 21 to Vanderbilt) where it needs to be, then there’s no reason UConn can’t win the Big East this year.
No. 1: West Virginia Mountaineers
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For the third week in a row now, the Mountaineers are in the top spot of this power ranking, after enjoying their week off.
There seemed to be no real reason to drop them a spot last week after their road loss to LSU, and with the weakness of the league in mind, there is still very little reason to think that the Big East isn’t WVU’s for the taking as long as they show up every week.
They’ll get one more tune-up Saturday, when they host UNLV. Then it’s on to conference play when USF comes into Morgantown for their biannual visit.