|Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater is our Big East Midseason Offensive Player of the Year. The sophomore has led the Cardinals to a 6-0 record and a No. 14 national ranking. (AP)|
Despite the upcoming departures of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, the Big East has earned a measure of respect for its play on the field. Three teams -- Louisville, Rutgers and Cincinnati -- are undefeated and ranked in the top 25. The conference has more teams in the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches' polls than the ACC or Big Ten.
Here's our midseason awards and all-conference teams.
Offensive Player of the Year: Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville. The Cardinals' sophomore quarterback gets the nod narrowly over Rutgers RB Jawan Jamison. Bridgewater is adept at making pre-snap adjustments, goes through his progressions expertly and is deadly accurate. If two of the Cardinals' six games weren't in horrid conditions, Bridgewater may be considered a sleeper for the Heisman. As it is, he's completing more than 71 percent of his attempts and has a sterling TD/INT ratio of 11:3.
Defensive Player of the Year: Khaseem Greene, Rutgers. Greene earned the Walter Camp national defensive player of the week honors Sunday for his 14-tackle, 1.5-sack effort in Saturday's win over Syracuse. The senior LB also forced three fumbles and had an interception. Greene is the unquestioned leader of a unit ranked second in the nation against the run (60.83 yards per game) and third in scoring defense (11.50 ppg). He has terrorized quarterbacks on blitzes up the middle, has delivered punishing hits and has benn a nuisance when dropping into coverage.
Coach of the Year: Kyle Flood, Rutgers. In Flood's first season, the Scarlet Knights have transitioned seamlessly from the Greg Schiano-era. Flood has shown tenacity when needed, while maintaining a calm, measured approach. It has worn off on his team that is unbeaten and ranked No. 17 in the coaches' poll.
Most surprising player: Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut. Entering the season, DE Trevardo Williams and LB Sio Moore were expected to anchor the Huskies' stout defense. Although the two seniors have put forth stellar seasons, Smallwood has emerged out of relative anonymity to arguably become the top player on Don Brown's defense. The redshirt sophomore leads the conference in tackles with 75 and TFLs with 11.
Most disappointing player: Lyle McCombs, Connecticut. The Huskies' sophomore was considered the favorite to win the conference rushing title after gaining 1,151 yards in his freshman season. McCombs has lacked explosiveness in rushing for only 484 yards on 3.6 yards per carry.
Most surprising team: Temple. Many experts had the Owls pegged as cellar dwellers in their return to the Big East. Coach Steve Addazio's team has pulled out two dramatic wins in consecutive weeks to open conference play 2-0. As expected, the Owls have been able to run behind the potent duo of Montel Harris and Matt Brown. On the defensive side of the ball, Addazio has instilled a toughness not seen in Temple teams in its first stint in the conference.
Most disappointing team: South Florida. With a fertile recruiting ground in its backyard and talent at all the skilled positions, South Florida was expected to contend for the conference title. The Bulls can be electrifying on offense, as their last-second win over Nevada demonstrated and can push top teams such as Florida State. But in close games the Bulls have been beset by turnovers. This is a team that shouldn't lose to Ball State.
Best game: Rutgers' 35-26 win at Arkansas in Week 4. Scarlet Knights QB Gary Nova outperformed the more-heralded Tyler Wilson with a 397-yard, 5-TD performance. Wilson may be a top-10 pick in April. The win has provided the Scarlet Knight with respectability on the national level.
Most overrated team: Cincinnati. Coach Butch Jones has done a fantastic job with a young team that needed to replace Big East offensive player of the year Isaiah Pead, co-defensive player of the year Derek Wolfe and former QB Zach Collaros. But the Bearcats haven't played a single team in the top 25. A thrilling win over Virginia Tech could lose luster if the Hokies fail to distinguish themselves in the ACC. Still, Cincinnati has a great chance to win the conference.
Most underrated team: Syracuse. How can a 2-4 team be underrated? The Orange have been in all four of their losses and could easily be 5-1. A loss to Rutgers on Saturday serves as a microcosm for the season. Syracuse moved the ball effectively against Rutgers' stifling defense, but committed four turnovers and allowed a touchdown on a blocked field goal. Don't be surprised if the Orange upsets Louisville or Cincinnati. Also don't be surprised if they lose to South Florida or Temple.
Midseason All-Conference Team
QB: Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
RB: Jawan Jamison, Rutgers
RB: Senorise Perry, Louisville
WR: Devin Street, Pittsburgh
WR: Marcus Sales, Syracuse
WR: Brandon Coleman, Rutgers
TE: Travis Kelce, Cincinnati
OT: Kaleb Johnson, Rutgers
OT: Alex Kupper, Louisville
OG: Mark Popek, South Florida
OG: Austen Bujnoch, Cincinnati
C: Mario Benavides, Louisville
DE: Trevardo Williams, Connecticut
DE: Walter Stewart, Cincinnati
DT: Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
DT: Scott Vallone, Rutgers
LB: Khaseem Greene, Rutgers
LB: Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut
LB: DeDe Lattimore, South Florida
CB: Logan Ryan, Rutgers
CB: Camerron Cheatham, Cincinnati
S: Jason Hendricks, Pittsburgh
S: Calvin Pryor, Louisville
P: Brandon McManus, Temple
K: Tony Miliano, Cincinnati
KR: Ralph David Abernathy IV, Cincinnati
PR: Nick Williams, Connecticut
All-Purpose: Matt Brown, Temple
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis on the Big East, follow bloggers Evan Hilbert and Matt Rybaltowski @CBSBigEast.