Posted on: November 14, 2010 2:30 am
Edited on: November 14, 2010 2:32 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
1. West Virginia is tired of being talked down to - There was a time, in this very feature, when it was declared that West Virginia looked like they could cruise to the Big East title. But coming into Saturday, the Mountaineers were tied at the bottom of the conference standings and no longer considered a threat by many. Tired of being disrespected, West Virginia made a statement in the 37-10 victory over Cincinnati. Recently, it has been difficult to find the same West Virginia team that used to hold position in the polls and gave LSU a run for their money. The Mountaineers scored fast and often, jumping out to a 30-3 halftime lead on the Bearcats. Cincinnati never had a chance, with the defense chipping in as well to force four turnovers. With how wide open the Big East race is, the Mountaineers are now bowl eligible, and not completely out of the conference championship race.
2. Skip Holtz ushering in new chapter at USF - When the Jim Leavitt scandal erupted a season ago, a dark cloud hovered over the young program. If South Florida was going to continue the kind of early success that has catapulted the Bulls up the football ranks, they needed to figure out a way to start a new chapter. Enter Skip Holtz, a young, football-smart coach from a rich football bloodline and also recent success at East Carolina. Holtz' first two conference games were a harsh welcome to the conference, losing to Syracuse and West Virginia. But since the rough start, the Bulls have been rolling and now find themselves eligible for the postseason. The overtime victory at Louisville extended the winning streak to three, as South Florida looks ahead to hosting the first-place Pittsburgh Panthers. The Bulls are one of the hottest teams in the conference, and pose a great threat to Pittsburgh's conference lead with Saturday's date in Tampa just a week away.
3. Get used to these Big East teams, they'll be playing into December - Big East could have a heavy representation in the bowl picture- Widely regarded as one of the worst conferences with an automatic qualifying bid to the BCS, the Big East already has three bowl eligible teams. Also, it is possible that Connecticut, Louisville, and conference leader Pittsburgh will all become eligible as well, giving the conference six possible teams in postseason play. With all of the criticism leveled on the conference, there has to be some bit of optimism from the fact that 3/4 of the conference will be playing into December. Others would argue that the records are just a snapshot of the conferences mediocrity. Whichever way you slice it, it looks like the Big East will have several chances to prove their worth in bowl play.
Posted on: November 12, 2010 2:59 pm
Edited on: November 12, 2010 2:59 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
With Connecticut's upset of the first-place Pittsburgh Panthers on Thursday night, a seemingly closed Big East title race has been officially re-opened. The Panthers could have put significant space between them and the rest of the conference, with a 1.5 game lead over second-place Syracuse AND owning the tie-breaker against the Orange. The Orange could have pulled away from the rest of the pack last week, but instead fell short 28-20 to Louisville.
So now the entire Big East is within two games of first place with each team having at least two conference games left on the schedule, with some having as many as four. Such a tight race in a conference like the Big East would not seem like a big deal on the national scale, but when there is a BCS bowl berth at stake everything chances. Let's take a look at the weeks ahead in the Big East.
(click here to enlarge image)
Now a few thoughts...
1. Pittsburgh still the team to beat - Despite the upset to Connecticut, Pittsburgh will be the only team in the conference with one loss at the conclusion of Week 11. The number of two-loss teams will be cut down to four by Sunday, thus pushing three teams basically out of the race entirely. Also, the teams with the easiest remaining schedule (according to the combined conference record of opponents) are all teams that Pittsburgh has defeated. The most crucial of which is second-place Syracuse. Win out, and the BCS Bowl berth will belong to the Panthers. But nothing is certain, particularly with trips to Tampa and Cincinnati left on the schedule. Don't forget about those Mountaineers...
2. Three (1-2) teams the most dangerous - With four conference games left on the schedule, even the teams at the bottom of standings have a chance to create the most havoc. Pittsburgh has yet to play West Virginia and at Cincinnati, two teams that have not lived up to the standards of recent years but are still very dangerous. Rutgers also hosts Syracuse on Saturday, and could continue to muddle the standings with an upset of the Orange. They may have the toughest battle to win the conference, but they have the best chance to spoil the fun for the favorites. Pittsburgh needs at least a game of separation heading into the finale at Cincinnati, because that game is anyone's to win - no matter what the records say.
3. Looking for a dark horse? Try Louisville - The Cardinals are fresh off an impressive upset of Syracuse, and they have one of the easiest remaining schedules in the conference. Also with wins over Connecticut and the Orange, they have positioned themselves well in the event of the likely possible tie-breaker. Last week the Cardinals showed that the success of the rushing game is not dependent on Bilal Powell, and being able to dictate tempo with the ground game will help significantly down the stretch. First-year coach Charlie Strong has seen his fair share of obstacles this season, but if he can muster up any kind of home-field advantage at Papa John's Stadium in the next two weeks the Cardinals could find themselves in the Big East title hunt come December.
Posted on: November 7, 2010 12:23 am
Edited on: November 7, 2010 12:26 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
1. Good things can come to those who wait - South Florida running back sixth year running back Moise Plancher has dealt with a torn ACL, dislocated elbow, and shoulder surgery since enrolling in Tampa, but finally saw his hard work pay off on Wednesday night against Rutgers. Plancher rushed 21 times for a career-high 135 yards, leading the Bulls in their 28-27 squeaker of a victory in Tampa. It was ironic that the youngest team in the FBS (South Florida) collected the 100th program victory against the oldest team in college football, but for first-year coach Skip Holtz it was perfect timing. The Bulls are now 5-3. and with four games left in conference play have plenty of time to make their case for a favorable bowl bid.
2. Louisville's rushing attack is interchangeable - Heading into Saturday's matchup with Syracuse, Cardinal fans were nervous about facing the Orange defense without leading rusher Bilal Powell. Powell leads the Big East and ranks among the top five nationally, but backup running back Jeremy Wright had no trouble filling in and picking up Powell's usual production. Wright rushed 19 times for 98 yards and a pair of touchdowns to anchor Louisville's offensive attack against the Orange in the Carrier Dome. With the win, first-year coach Charlie Strong came one game closer to bowl eligibility, a feat for a team that looked destined for disappointment earlier in the season.
3. Pittsburgh may have been off, but their hold on the conference was threatened - The Panthers were off this week, securing their undefeated conference record for another week. But what we learned in the Big East this week was a little bit more about some teams the Panthers have in their future. Pittsburgh still has to face West Virginia, Cincinnati, South Florida, and Connecticut to before claiming any conference accolades, and after seeing the Bulls in action against Rutgers that might be more difficult than expected. Louisville proved that there is no "elite" status in the conference, and the Panthers are no exception just because they have yet to lose a game in league play. Any of Pittsburgh's remaining opponents have the talent on board to knock off the Panthers, so there are no guarantees in the final weeks of Big East play.
Posted on: November 3, 2010 4:45 pm
Edited on: November 3, 2010 4:55 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
The Big East has been busy making headlines this week with the announcement of planned expansion to ten football-playing schools. The announcement solidifies many reports and has started speculation on everything from school selection, to timeframe, and even the potential changes to the college football landscape. Seems fitting that the Big East would choose this week to make their most significant off-field announcement, because there is very little action on the field in Week 10.
Last week, Pittsburgh and Syracuse separated themselves from the rest of the conference by picking up their third conference victory. Behind them is 1-1 Rutgers, and the rest of the conference is tied at 1-2. The Panthers are not only a half-game ahead of the Orange, but also own the tiebreaker against Syracuse and Rutgers thanks to victories earlier in the season. With only a month left in conference play the conference race is not over, but PIttsburgh does carry their own fate from here on out. It would require two conference losses for the Panthers to be in jeopardy of losing the automatic BCS berth, and even then another team would have to win out.
But the conference still holds six bowl ties, and every team is still technically capable of making the postseason at this point. Most of the games left on the schedule are all conference games, and with seven teams 4-4 or better, each game will hold extra importance to anyone hoping to play football in December. So while it may be hard to chase down conference-leading Pittsburgh, there is still plenty to play for. The Panthers get Week 10 off, as does West Virginia, Connecticut, and Cincinnati.
Wednesday - Rutgers at South Florida - While they try to keep their focus on the field, it is impossible to ignore the health of defensive tackle Eric LaGrand, paralyzed while making a tackle against Army on October 16. Thankfully, LaGrand was transferred from the hospital to a rehabilitation center on Wednesday, which as about as good as news will come on that front. With a win, South Florida could come within a game of bowl eligibility. It has been an up and down season for first-year head coach Skip Holtz, and a postseason berth would put a happy ending on his trial run with the Bulls. I expect quarterback B.J. Daniels to build on his four TD performance against Cincinnati with another big outing. PICK - South Florida 28, Rutgers 21
Saturday - Louisville at Syracuse - Louisville could be without Bilal Powell, the conference's leading rusher, but will get backup Victor Anderson back for the first time in three games. The Cardinal rushing attack is ranked among the top 25 in the nation, but they will face their greatest challenge against the Syracuse defense. In the six Syracuse victories, the Orange have held their opponents to 14 points or less. They have complimented that defense with a patient and effective rushing attack of their own, headed by Delone Carter and Antwon Bailey. Syracuse has been clicking recently, and already looks like a different team than the one that got throttled 45-14 by Pittsburgh. The Orange have been successful on the road, and I do not see them changing their execution at home. PICK - Syracuse 19, Louisville 14
Posted on: November 3, 2010 3:40 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
When looking at the Big East, it is rare that you consider any aspect of the eight teams a "force," but the Louisville rushing attack is one of the few nationally recognized aspects of the conference. Senior running back Bilal Powell leads the Big East in rushing with 1,067 yards already on the season, good enough for fifth in the nation as well. Louisville is not exactly a player in the Big East title hunt at this point, but at 4-4 the Cardinal are still very much in the running for one of the conference's bowl berths. Which is why Powell's potential absence against Syracuse on Saturday presents a problem for Charlie Strong's squad.
Powell is the first Louisville running back to rush for 1,000 yards in a season since junior Victor Anderson did it his freshman year. Anderson has missed the last three games due to a shoulder injury, but has been cleared to play and back in practice this week. Anderson has been in "full pads, full contact, the whole deal," according to offensive coordinator Mike Sanford.
Anderson will likely find himself right in the mix against a stout Orange defense due to Powell left the Pittsburgh game with a knee injury, and has missed practice this week due to swelling in that knee. As of now, Strong has ruled Powell as a game-time decision. Louisville will need Anderson to step up against the Syracuse defense, which has held the opposition to 14 points or less in the six victories on the season.
Posted on: November 1, 2010 3:08 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The CBS College Football Blog wrote multiple times last week that Michigan 's visit to Penn State was a make-or-break game for Rich Rodriguez and his much-much-much -maligned defense, which couldn't ask for a better scenario than having a bye week to prepare for the Big Ten 's bottom-ranked offense playing without its starting quarterback. As you know by now, the Wolverines broke in spectacular fashion , giving up 435 yards and 41 points to a Nittany Lion attack that barely scored that many points total (46) in games against MAC cupcakes Kent State and Temple .
Naturally, this was the cue for yet another round of recriminations and rumormongering out of Ann Arbor Sunday, with most of the whispers centering on the continued employment of defensive coordinator Greg Robinson and the rest of Rodriguez's defensive staff. So loud had the rumors become by Monday that Rodriguez had to be asked about them directly , and responded as you'd expect:
That's not what Michigan fans hoping for Robinson's head -- or anything that might signal a change-in-approach from the current disaster -- would want to hear, but Rodriguez's next comment might be even more bone-chilling:
This would make sense if Rodriguez had more experience (does he have any?) in coaching college defense from something more hands-on than the head coaching position. Multiple Michigan bloggers have noted since the disaster in Happy Valley that the Wolverine defense's problem likely isn't that Rodriguez hasn't been involved enough; it's that he's been too involved, asking Robinson (as well as previous coordinator Scott Shafer , now enjoying a highly successful season under Doug Marrone at Syracuse) to run the unusual 3-3-5 defensive scheme operated by Jeff Casteel under Rodriguez during his West Virginia tenure. Neither Shafer nor Robinson had any prior experience with the 3-3-5 before being asked to run it by Rodriguez, however, and the results have been predictably muddled.
If this is indeed the root of the defense's problem, Rodriguez may be better served by going in the opposite direction, by fully ceding control of the defense to his coordinator and allowing Robinson to run whatever scheme and make whatever playcalls with which he feels most comfortable. No one can blame Rodriguez for making moves out of desperation at this stage, but Michigan fans have to be worried that in this case, Rodriguez's cure could prove to make even worse an already program-wrecking disease.
Posted on: October 30, 2010 9:32 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
1. West Virginia has been giving away their season, one turnover at a time - Just three weeks ago, West Virginia was "leading" the Big East. They toted a 5-1 record and a national ranking, as well as a top ranked defensive unit that was holding opponents to less than two touchdowns per game. But while the season was at a midpoint, the conference schedule was just getting started. But in the last two games, turnovers have almost cost the Mountaineers their shot at a BCS bowl berth. The eye test said that the Mountaineers were cruising on easy street down to Miami, until they decided they were tired of taking care of the ball. Against Syracuse West Virginia turned the ball over three times, all of which were turned into points for the Orange. Saturday's matchup with Connecticut was more of the same from the Mountaineer offense. West Virginia racked up 414 yards of total offense, but four lost fumbles prevented them from scoring more than 13 points on the Huskies defense. If the Mountaineers avoid coughing the ball up, they could be 3-0 in conference play and looking down the road to a potential BCS bowl game. But instead of the Mountaineers, it is the Pittsburgh Panthers. Speaking of...
2. Lewis has reclaimed the favor of the Pittsburgh coaching staff - Earlier in the season, Pittsburgh running back Dion Lewis was struggling to get his season going. His yards per carry were down from his 2009 Rookie of the Year campaign, and he was sharing many of his carries with backup Ray Graham. Now that conference play has begun, Lewis has emerged as the clear-cut but first stringer in the Panther backfield. After a phenomenal performance last week against Rutgers that included 17 rushes for 130 yards and a touchdown, Lewis appeared to have regained the starting job despite Graham continuing to lead the team in rushing by a convincing margin. In the win over Louisville, Lewis carried the ball 18 times compared to Graham's nine attempts. Earlier in the season, that was much more of a 50-50 divide between the two backs. Now Lewis must make the most of his increased opportunities in order to hold that spot.
3. Syracuse's tenacious second half defense is a key to their success - In five of the Orange's six victories, the defense has shut out the opponent in the second half. Syracuse's offense has relied on a dominant running game led by Delone Carter and Antwon Bailey. The smash mouth brand of football under second year head coach Doug Marrone has turned last season's 1-6 conference record around to 3-1 at the midpoint of the conference schedule. Syracuse has only been to a bowl game twice since since 2000 and not at all since 2004, but the 2010 Orange are already bowl eligible at 6-2. A conference championship may be out of reach after the loss to Pittsburgh, but anything is an upgrade from the way things have been at Syracuse.
Posted on: October 29, 2010 3:22 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
The Saturday Meal Plan is a helpful guide put together for you to maximize the results of your college football diet. Just enough to leave you feeling full, but not so much you spend your entire Sunday in the bathroom.
Doctors have long said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but these doctors obviously didn't have the Saturday Meal Plan in mind when they came up with that load of poop. I mean, the morning slate has been pretty light all season, but this week? Wow, it's barren. I wouldn't normally ever say this, but if there was ever a Saturday morning to get all those chores around the house done that you've been putting off, this would be it. Besides, you're going to need some room in your stomach to eat all the candy you decide to keep from the trick or treaters on Sunday.
Still, if you insist on it, here are your options.
Main Course - Cincinnati vs. Syracuse - Noon - ESPNUSee? I told you. I wouldn't normally recommend the Big East to anybody, but this really is the most important game on Saturday morning. Syracuse has been one of the bigger surprises of the season, and if you ever want to check them out without sacrificing better games, than this week is your best chance to do so.
Both the 'Cuse and Cincinnati are still very much alive in the Big East race, and the conference does still get that automatic BCS berth, so I guess that makes this game worth your time.
Side Orders: I suppose that when Jacory Harris is playing quarterback for Miami there's always a chance that the Hurricanes could be upset, so I guess that's reason enough to tune into Miami and Virginia on Saturday morning. Or you could go with Illinois and Purdue! Oh how exciting that will be! Though, truth be told, Illinois is one of those teams that may be a lot better than is record indicates. I would have made Kansas State and Oklahoma State the main course, but since it's not being televised nationally, I just couldn't. Still, if it's on in your area, I suggest finding it.
Main Course - #14 Nebraska vs. #7 Missouri - 3:30pm - ABCUnfortunately, the two biggest games of the day will be played at the same time on Saturday afternoon. It was tough to choose between the two for the main course, but since the winner of this one is basically a lock to win the Big 12 North, I chose this.
Missouri jumped out last weekend and showed the country that they are, in fact, a legit undefeated team by knocking off Oklahoma, but this game may be even tougher. It's one thing to defend your home turf, it's another to go into a hostile environment and take down a strong Nebraska team.
Well, unless your Texas, but the Longhorns are stuck in some kind of bizarro dimension this season.
If the Tigers can win in Lincoln, then barring something crazy, they'll continue climbing the BCS rankings and reach the Big 12 title game undefeated with the conference and possibly a shot at the national title on the line.
Side Orders: Of course, if the Big Ten is more your thing, then you can't go wrong with Michigan State and Iowa. This game is the last true roadblock between the Spartans and an undefeated season, as they don't have to face Ohio State this season. Also, while the Hawkeyes lost last week, they're still in the hunt for the Big Ten title as well, but a loss in this game would wipe away all hopes. Or maybe you'd prefer Georgia and Florida. The game doesn't have the normal hype considering neither team is ranked right now, but whoever wins this game has a good shot to win the SEC East. The loser is just about done.
Main Course - #24 USC vs. #1 OregonThis is your best option on a Saturday night that is a little light compared to the last few weeks, but anytime you get a chance to watch Oregon play, you should take advantage of it. This team is just fun, and considering the amount of smack that has gone back and forth between the Ducks and Trojans this week, it's that much better.
If the Ducks annihilate USC on Saturday night, they also have a chance to impress those computers and jump Auburn in the BCS rankings. Also, since USC isn't allowed to go bowling this season, or win the Pac-10, they don't have much left to play for aside from possibly knocking the Ducks out of the title game.
Side Orders: ABC's other prime-time game this weekend is Ohio State and Minnesota. Seriously, the only thing I have to say about that game is pray you get Oregon and USC in your area. If you don't, flip on over to Ole Miss and Auburn because watching Cam Newton run over dudes is always a good time. There's also Washington and Stanford, or you can check out Penn State and Michigan. In other words, there's nothing fantastic, but there is plenty of quality on Saturday night.
Late Night Snack
Odds are that it won't be televised in your area, but if it is, take some time out to watch TCU and UNLV. Believe me when I say that TCU is just as good as Boise State or any of the other undefeated teams in college football these days, they just don't get as much national television exposure. So, if you can, do yourself a favor and find this one. It might just change your mind about who should be playing for a national title, and who shouldn't be.
Tags: Auburn, BCS, Boise State, Cam Newton, Cincinnati, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Jacory Harris, Kansas State, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Oregon, Penn State, Purdue, Saturday Meal Plan, Stanford, Syracuse, TCU, Texas, UNLV, USC, Virginia, Washington