Posted by Chip Patterson
1. The Big East lost big time on Saturday, and never saw it coming. Big East commissioner John Marinatto sat down in Byrd Stadium on Saturday to watch West Virginia take on Maryland. When he made the arrangements to attend the game, I bet he didn't know that he would be in an ACC stadium while being informed of reports Pittsburgh and Syracuse are leaving for that very conference. When reached for comment about the reports, Marinatto had none. Based on reports from the stadium, the commissioner never saw it coming.
If true, it is incredibly embarrassing for the league office and not a great sign for the league members. TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte already expressed his concerns regarding the shifts in conference alignment, and the departure of two teams has led to league officials reaching out to current Big 12 members. It's possible that if Oklahoma and Texas leave the Big 12, the remaining members (likely that Oklahoma State would follow OU, possible Texas Tech follows Texas) could fold in with the remaining members of the Big East.
From a conference perspective, league officials needed to decide whether they wanted to play offense or defense in realignment. Texas A&M started the process, but the power move was made on Saturday when the Big East lost two more schools to the ACC - bringing the tally to five schools in a decade. Syracuse was a founding member of the conference, and Pittsburgh had become a perennial contender in football and basketball. The Big East only added TCU as their offensive move, and were completely unprepared for Saturday's news defensively. The conference only has a $5 million exit fee, as opposed to the recently approved $20 million exit fee for the ACC (unanimously voted on last week by the school presidents). The Big East lost two schools, and a lot of leverage in conference realignment. Now John Marinatto must scramble, and make efforts to secure TCU's interest in the conference as well as develop a plan to replace the departed universities. Ironically, the conference went 4-2 on Saturday. Only Pittsburgh and Syracuse picked up losses.
2. Give West Virginia the ball and flip a coin, if it's heads they'll score. The Mountaineers finally got a ground game going in the 37-31 win at Maryland on Saturday, with Andrew Buie, Vernard Roberts, and Shawne Alston combining for 107 yards on 25 attempts. The numbers aren't fantastic, but it is an upgrade from where the rushing attack was heading into College Park. Head coach Dana Holgorsen mentioned that teams were daring West Virginia's offense to run the ball, and if they couldn't make it a threat it would be a weakness moving forward.
Instead of the run setting up the pass, the pass sets up the run in Morgantown. The mere presence of a rushing threat completes an already efficient West Virginia offense. On the season the Mountaineers have scored on 17 of 31 drives uninterrupted by the end of a half. Give West Virginia the ball, there's more than a 50% chance that Geno Smith will methodically march down the field and turn the possession into points on the scoreboard. With West Virginia's secondary causing all kinds of trouble for 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year Danny O'Brien, you have to feel good about the state of West Virginia's offense. Of course, we reach this conclusion one week before the Mountaineers face LSU's defense. I believe they present just a little bit of a different threat than the Terps.
3. USF does not get caught "playing to their competition." - The Bulls' offense scored less than 20 points on five different occasions in 2010. I'm willing to bet it doesn't happen more than twice in 2011, if even that. South Florida refused to play down to their Sun Belt opponents on Saturday, lighting up the scoreboard in the 70-17 victory. The blowout comes on the heels of a 37-7 route of Ball State, where BJ Daniels really started to get the Bulls' offense clicking. Everything was moving in full gear against the Rattlers, with Daniels setting a career-high for the second week in a row tossing for 382 yards and four touchdowns. USF scored on eight of their first ten drives, and also featured the breakout of Colorado transfer Darrell Scott. Scott put up career numbers as well with 146 yards rushing, 84 yards receiving, and four total touchdowns. The Notre Dame win felt like it more of a Irish loss at the time, but the sloppy, rain-delayed victory might have been the spark to kick off a potentially memorable season for the young program.
4. Pittsburgh's defense has to improve second half performance. A huge red flag went up last weekend, when the Panthers allowed a blatantly inferior Maine squad climb back into the game in the fourth quarter. The Black Bears did score their final touchdown with three seconds remaining, resulting in a misleading six-point victory, but the it was concerning nonetheless. The trend of poor second half defense finally caught up with the Panthers against Iowa on Saturday, resulting in a 31-27 loss.
Kevin Harper's 24-yard field goal in the fourth quarter gave Pitt a seemingly safe 27-10 lead. Then this touted 3-4 defense sat back and allowed James Vandenberg to go to work on the secondary. Iowa's offense put up 201 of their 475 yards of total offense in the fourth quarter, sending the Panthers packing with no answers for their poor play. The Panthers will get one more non-conference game to fix these issues before kicking off the Big East schedule against South Florida at home. Unfortunately for the Panthers, next week's opponent is a much-improved Notre Dame squad fresh off a confidence-building victory against Michigan State.
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