Tag:Chas Dodd
Posted on: October 16, 2011 2:33 am
Edited on: October 16, 2011 3:05 am
 

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 7


Posted by Chip Patterson


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Greg Schiano

Rutgers' head coach was struggling with his running back rotation, and not getting enough production out of Chas Dodd as the Scarlet Knights started the season. Contrary to the desires of many Rutgers' fans, Schiano dedicated many of the rushing attempts to sophomore Jawan Jamison instead of highly-touted freshman Savon Huggins. Jamison's early season experience paid off in the 21-20 comeback victory over Navy, as he delivered his first 100+ yard performance of his short career. Schiano also made the right call making a quarterback change, giving freshman Gary Nova his first career start against the Midshipmen. Nova also stepped up to the challenge, completing 23 of 31 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns. There is room for improvement with Nova (like the two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown) but it is clear he is the quarterback of the future for the Scarlet Knights.

LOSER: South Florida's Big East title hopes

After starting conference play with two straight losses, South Florida has made the task of claiming their first Big East title much more difficult. It is not impossible, Connecticut accomplished such a feat just a year ago, but it is particularly challenging with USF's schedule. In order to put themselves in a position to finish atop the league standings, they will need to run the table in conference play and get some significant help. After starting the season 4-0, the Bulls were ranked in the top 20 and getting buzz as Big East frontrunners. Now they stare down Cincinnati, Rutgers, Syracuse (on a short week), Louisville, and West Virginia needing five wins and some help in order to reclaim that buzz surrounding the program in September.

WINNER: Mistake-prone Bearcats

Cincinnati started flat against Louisville on Saturday, and some Bearcats fans will even tell you they arguably deserved to lose the game. The only turnover was a Zach Collaros interception returned for a touchdown, but Cincinnati fumbled the ball four times. Thankfully the ball was recovered by a Bearcat in each of the four instances, but Butch Jones' squad had that kind of luck against the Cardinals. After all, it was Louisville penalties and failure to execute that opened the door for the 18-0 second half run to deliver Cincinnati a victory in their Big East opener. At 5-1 the Bearcats have already surpassed the win total from Jones' first season, and find themselves as one of the new favorites in the hunt for the conference title.

LOSER: Pittsburgh's "no-octane" offense

Head coach Todd Graham has tried everything with Pittsburgh's offense, but with the exception of their explosion against South Florida the Panthers have been painfully ineffective with the ball. Starting quarterback Tino Sunseri still looks uneasy trying to push the ball down the field, and even a change of pace quarterback like Trey Anderson hasn't been able to get anything started for Pittsburgh. The 26-14 loss to a visiting Utah squad was embarrassing, but the offense's inability to score a single point against the Utes was downright shameful. Pittsburgh instead had to get their points with defense and special teams, while their no-octane offense definitely sorts them into the "loser" column for Week 7.

WINNER: West Virginia

Even though the Mountaineers had Week 7 off, they emerge as a winner in the Big East. More conference infighting has revealed vulnerability in West Virginia's opponents in the quest for a conference title. South Florida started the season as one of the early candidates to challenge for the crown, but after Skip Holtz's squad dropped their second conference game and Pittsburgh failed to score an offensive touchdown things are looking good in Morgantown. Their stiffest competition will likely either come from Rutgers and/or Cincinnati. Both games will be road tests for the Mountaineers, and now become the unsuspecting "games to circle" in the Big East conference schedule.

LOSER: Louisville and their self-hating ways

Louisville entered the game as the Big East's most penalized team, averaging 8.6 flags per game. On Saturday they lived up to their reputation, committing four penalties on one drive as the Cardinals held a 16-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter. While Charlie Strong's squad kept the total number of penalties down, that frustrating possession was enough to swing the momentum away from the inexperienced Cardinals. When Cincinnati got the ball back, it only took two plays for Isaiah Pead to break loose for 50 of his 151 yards rushing and a touchdown to take the lead away from Louisville. For the third week in a row, the Cardinals suffer a close loss. A game that could have easily ended differently if not for some crucial mental errors.


Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview
Posted on: October 9, 2011 3:04 am
Edited on: October 9, 2011 12:02 pm
 

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 6



Posted by Chip Patterson


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: West Virginia's rushing game

Freshman running back Dustin Garrison broke out a week ago as the Mountaineers best option running the ball, piling up 291 yards against Bowling Green. Because of the option, it was hard to say that West Virginia had done much more than get a start on fixing their one-dimensional offensive problem. However Garrison had a commendable showing once against against Connecticut, picking up 80 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. The numbers weren't flashy, but when Geno Smith is carving up the defense for 450 yards it serves as a nice compliment. Connecticut also entered the game as the Big East's second leading rushing defense, so the Mountaineers have to feel good about having a more balanced attack as they proceed in conference play.

LOSER: Louisville

North Carolina did not show up to play offensively, and Louisville had several chances to take advantage of mental lapses by the Tar Heels on defense. But the Cardinals were unable to make the most of the opportunity to steal a win on the road and dropped to 2-3 after the 14-7 loss. The defense sacked North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner four times, and held the usually productive offense scoreless in the first half. The Tar Heels were lucky to escape with a win, and Louisville missed out an opportunity to grab potential confidence booster for the young team.

WINNER: Gary Nova

After taking over for starting quarterback Chas Dodd and leading the Scarlet Knights to a double overtime victory against Syracuse, head coach Greg Schiano made the this week's starter a game time decision. When Nova got the nod, he made the most of the opportunity and led the team to a 34-10 win over Pittsburgh. A huge portion of Rutgers' victory on Saturday is due to the play of the Scarlet Knights defense picking off Pitt quarterbacks four times, but the freshman signal caller did just enough to turn those turnovers into the points needed to push Rutgers to the top of the Big East standings.

LOSER: Tino Sunseri

For the second time this season, Pittsburgh's starting quarterback was replaced by backup Trey Anderson after committing one to many turnovers. No need to bring up the "quarterback controversy" topic, head coach Todd Graham has already said Tino is still the starting quarterback for now. But Sunseri's three interception performance was particularly frustrating for the Panther fans who were singing his praises following the beatdown of USF on national television last Thursday. Sunseri has thrown five touchdowns compared to seven interceptions on the season, and has yet to prove he can throw deep in this new high-octane offense. Ray Graham is still the heart and soul of this offensive unit, but he can't do much to prevent or reverse the Panthers' turnover problem.

WINNER: West Virginia's pass rush

In addition to Geno Smith's high-powered passing attack and a growing ground game, the Mountaineers defense was a nightmare for Connecticut on Saturday. Huskies quarterback Johnny McEntee was sacked five times, including once for a safety, and was on the run all night from West Virginia's pass rush. Once West Virginia began building a lead, defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel turned up the pressure and muted any chance for momentum from the Connecticut offense. The Mountaineers held the Huskies to 97 yards of total offense in the second half, keeping drives short while the offense extended the lead. If West Virginia can continue that kind of formula against their other conference opponents, it should result in several more league victories like the one in Morgantown on Saturday.

LOSER: Paul Pasqualoni

When the former Syracuse head coach took the Connecticut job, I am not sure the Huskies' 2-4 start was what he had in mind following a Big East title. The defending league champs got off to a rough start in 2010 before turning the season around in league play, but there has been little to cheer about for the Huskies at this point in the season. Pasqualoni finally solved the quarterback situation, but has no answer for a defense dealing with injuries and inexperience along with a significantly downgraded rushing game. The only UConn victories have been against Fordham and Buffalo, and at this point bowl eligibility is already looking doubtful. Pasqualoni is too far into his career to think of this as a rebuilding opportunity, but his loyalty to his home state makes me think it will take a lot more than one bad season to derail his passion for coaching the Huskies.

WINNER: Syracuse

The Orange are off to a 4-2 start in the 2011 season, thanks to yet another close victory in the final minutes. Syracuse has gone to overtime in three games (2-1) and had every victory decided by seven points or fewer. After the non-victory overtime victory against Toledo, I wrote that the double overtime loss to Rutgers was some weird kind of karma. After Syracuse's 37-34 victory over Tulane on the road, I'm convinced their is voodoo at work.

LOSER: 3,000+ no-shows in Morgantown

The official attendance at Saturday's game was 56,179. After head coach Dana Holgorsen's tirade this past week, all 3,000+ no-shows deserve a stern look from the head coach. NOW DEAL WITH YOUR STERN LOOK.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview
Posted on: September 7, 2011 5:02 pm
Edited on: September 7, 2011 5:05 pm
 

Four games to watch for undefeated Big East

Posted by Chip Patterson

For the first time since the conference's formation in 1991, every Big East team won on the opening weekend of the college football season. A lot of teams in FBS AQ conferences choose the opening to schedule an FCS or inferior team to ease into the schedule, but rarely can a conference kick off the season undefeated.

A majority of the Big East slate was similar to that formula, but the conference's undefeated record occurred as a result of thrilling victories over an ACC opponent (Wake Forest)and a ranked Notre Dame squad. The conference has been defending themselves against national criticism all offseason after finishing 2010 with no teams ranked in the Top 25. Now heading into Week 2 the Big East's 8-0 conference record will be tested against a much more difficult slate. If Week 1 was a celebration of the Big East's promising future, Week 2 might be more of a reality check.

There are four games on the Big East schedule which will threaten/end the league's undefeated streak:

1) Cincinnati at Tennessee, 3:30 p.m. Saturday - After an embarrassing 4-8 campaign in Butch Jones' first season, the Bearcats put on a show jumping out to a 41-0 halftime lead against Austin Peay. By the time the damage was done Cincinnati had more points than any FBS team, defeating their Ohio Valley Conference opponent 72-10. Traveling to Neyland Stadium to face the Vols will present a very different challenge, and possibly a different outcome for the Bearcats. Cincinnati's secondary was one of the worst in the nation a year ago, and they will quickly get one of their most difficult challenges on the schedule with Tyler Bray and the receiving duo of Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers. Don't be surprised to see a shootout in Knoxville here, but unless the Bearcats defense steps up and creates some turnovers I'd guess the Vols emerge victorious.

2) Rutgers at North Carolina, 12:30 p.m. Saturday - Last season the Scarlet Knights had a 10-0 lead over the winless Tar Heels before the Tar Heels battled back and eventually escaped New Jersey with a 17-13 win. But without Tom Savage under center to throw a late game interception, Scarlet Knights fans are hoping that Chas Dodd can exact revenge against their annual non-conference opponent. North Carolina also has a new quarterback this year in sophomore Bryn Renner. Renner set an ACC record in the Tar Heels' opener by completing 22 of his 23 passes, with an interception as his only incompletion. The Tar Heels offensive line kept Renner's jersey clean, and getting into the backfield will be a key for the Rutgers front line. The Scarlet Knights are not favored in this matchup, and a victory would be huge for another team trying to make up for an uncharacteristic 2010 season.

3) Florida International at Louisville, 7:00 p.m. Friday - FIU has been slowly climbing up the ranks of the Sun Belt Conference, and last season joined the perennially dominant Troy at the top of the final standings. All-purpose threat T.Y. Hilton will be a challenge to contain, especially after seeing Louisville give up 143 yards on the ground against Murray State. The Panthers will be hungry for the upset on the national stage Friday night, and the onus will be on the Louisville defense to match that speed and intensity for four quarters. On offense the Cardinals will have an advantage over the Panthers defense, but they cannot afford to turn the ball over four times like they did in the opener. This should be a very competitive game, and I would not be shocked if the Panthers pulled the upset.

4) Connecticut at Vanderbilt, 7:30 p.m. Saturday - The Huskies still haven't decided on a starting quarterback, or even a two-quarterback rotation. Running back Lyle McCombs looked strong in the absence of projected starter DJ Shoemate, rushing for 141 yards and four touchdowns in the opener against Fordham. But Vanderbilt presents a very different caliber of opposition. That matchup will pit Commodores head coach James Franklin (former Maryland offensive coordinator) against his 2010 Maryland counterpart Don Brown, now the defensive coordinator at Connecticut. Franklin has stated that he's willing to take risks on offense, and Brown has been known for his aggressive blitzing schemes. While it certainly won't be a marquee matchup to steal headlines, this SEC-Big East showdown should at least be interesting for those involved. This game will probably come down until the fourth quarter, but I'm giving Vanderbilt the advantage due to Connecticut's uncertain personnel.
Posted on: May 5, 2011 4:46 pm
Edited on: May 5, 2011 5:01 pm
 

What I learned this spring: Big East

Posted by Chip Patterson

With all eight teams completed with their spring games, we wrap up spring practice in the
Big East.

CINCINNATI:
For Cincinnati, the goal this spring was to improve defensively. To be more accurate, improving defensively is not just the "goal" but really an "only option for improvement." Second-year head coach Butch Jones needs to prove that 2010's 4-8 campaign was a fluke, or else the Bearcats' fans will begin to wonder whether or not hiring the coach from Central Michigan was the best move. Cincinnati returns all 11 starters from last year's defense that ranked dead last in the Big East in scoring defense and next to last in total defense. But there have been reasons to believe that the same unit can turn around their performance in 2011.

For the first time since most of the active roster arrived on campus, there is no turnover on the defensive staff. For the last three years, the defense has had to spend their spring learning a new system. Instead the defense has been able to spend the spring focusing on fundamentals, while simply reviewing last year's scheme. In theory, this should lead to more development for a unit that struggled to prevent big plays and close out games in the fourth quarter. Offensively, quarterback Zach Collaros has continued to grow more comfortable and looks ready to try and sign his name in the Cincinnati record books. Collaros led the Big East in passing yards and touchdowns last season, and has spent spring focusing on his accuracy (also threw a league-high 14 interceptions). Highly-touted transfer wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins did not get to showcase his full arsenal due to a nagging hamstring this spring, but should make an impact lining up opposite returning starter D.J. Woods. Many of the Bearcats' spring workouts and spring game were based much more on situational drills, which tend to reveal very little about the team as a whole, but the pieces seem to be aligning for a bounce back season for Cincinnati.

CONNECTICUT: New head coach Paul Pasqualoni has quite a challenge ahead trying follow up the most successful season in program history. Unfortunately Pasqualoni, a veteran of the Big East and Connecticut native, has to try and repeat the success with two new coordinators and without the 2010 Big East Offensive MVP Jordan Todman. Wrapping up the spring, it is evident that expectations for repeating as Big East champs should be tempered. However, the Huskies do have the pieces in place to return to the postseason for the fifth straight year.

The Huskies' biggest question marks still exist in the offensive backfield, where a true starting quarterback has yet to be named and USC-transfer D.J. Shoemate is still settling in to a Todman-less rotation. Connecticut finished dead last in passing offense last season, and it will be difficult to improve that aspect of their game without a starter. Michael Box, Scott McCummings, Michael Nebrich, and Johnny McEntee(of YouTube trick-shot fame), are all competing for a premiere spot in the quarterback rotation. The hope is that behind a talented offensive line Shoemate will be able to get the running game going against a weak early season schedule, allowing whoever wins the job some time to get comfortable.

Defensively, Connecticut should be fine heading into the fall. They are under the direction of new defensive coordinator Don Brown, who's defensive unit at Maryland forced 29 turnovers last season -- good for third in the ACC. The Huskies return their entire defensive line and secondary, and that experience could anchor a unit that could end up being one of the better defenses in the conference.

LOUISVILLE: It was very difficult to learn anything about Louisville this spring due to a roster that was decimated by injury. By the end of spring practice, head coach Charlie Strong was left with only 38 healthy scholarship players on the roster. Fourteen of the injured players took no part in spring drills, the rest were injured during workouts. For a team that is looking to replace 13 departed starters on the offensive and defensive units, it was a frustrating spring of indecision.

Most of the starting jobs are wide open in the Louisville depth chart, but junior Will Stein was able to use the spring to create some separation in the quarterback competition. Stein has already gotten a vote of confidence from Strong, and the high school state champion has waited patiently behind Justin Burke and Adam Froman for his opportunity to start under center. Cardinals fans entered spring salivating over early enrollee Teddy Bridgewater, but practice showed that the top-rated dual threat quarterback in the nation still has some learning to do before getting the keys to the offense. Stein completed 10 of 17 passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns in the spring "game," but Strong was most pleased that there were zero interceptions. The starting quarterback's primary responsibility is to manage the game, as the Cardinals offense will once again rely on their running game in 2011.

But with Bilal Powell gone, the responsibility will fall on Jeremy Wright and Victor Anderson to replicate the best rushing offense in the Big East last year. Wright demonstrated his explosive potential in his freshman season, and Anderson was a 1,000 yard rusher in 2008 before shoulder injuries kept him limited in 2009 and 2010. Wright missed spring workouts with a knee injury, but Anderson enjoyed one of his best springs of his career. If the duo can be healthy at the same time, they could form one of the most dangerous rushing tandems in the conference.

PITTSBURGH: Another team entering the 2011 season with a new coach, the Panthers are not afraid to promote their new brand of "high-octane" football under head coach Todd Graham. Just a quick click over to the newly redesigned GoPittFootball.com should give just a taste of the kind of what Pittsburgh fans are hoping for out of the program's newest era. Graham comes to the Panthers fresh off a productive year at Tulsa, where his offense ranked 5th nationally in total offense with 505.6 yards per game. Dave Wannstedt had an awkward exit with his firing/forced resignation, particularly when he obviously still had the support of the team. But the squad seems to have embraced the new staff, and Graham believes that Pitt can be back in Big East title contention in 2011.

Learning the new offense has been the most important task for returning quarterback Tino Suneri. The junior signal-caller was inconsistent throughout 2010, finishing the season with 16 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. The son of Sal Sunseri, currently a linebackers coach at Alabama, Sunseri quickly acclimated himself with the new scheme and has finished the spring as the undisputed starting quarterback. In Pittsburgh's Blue-Gold game, Sunseri lit the rainy skies on fire tossing the ball 55 times (37 completions) for 416 yards and a pair of touchdowns. While the Sunseri will likely put up big numbers this fall in the new spread scheme, the offense has no plans of abandoning the run. Ray Graham returns from a strong sophomore campaign, picking up 922 yards and 8 touchdowns while sharing snaps with Dion Lewis. This year he'll be joined by Desmond Brown in the backfield, who was the leading rusher in the spring game with 64 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. Defensively, Pittsburgh has also been adapting to changes with defensive coordinator Keith Patterson. Patterson has been a longtime Graham assistant, and knows that the offense will dominate the headlines. But with spring practice in the bag, Patterson seems pleased with what he has seen out of the unit - particularly the defensive line.

"That front group has a chance to do some special things," Patterson said. "I feel really good about all those guys and what they are capable of. I think in our shceme they are going to be able to make a lot of plays against both the run and the pass."

Pittsburgh's defense will feature three down lineman, with a fourth "Panther linebacker" on the line of scrimmage upright on most downs. The Panthers have several athletic defenders who could fill this position, one early guess is Brandon Lindsey - who led the team with 17.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in 2010. If the defense can force some turnovers to give the offense good field position, one of the Panthers' strengths could be putting teams away early. In the Big East, which is short on big-name, gun-slinging quarterbacks, that could be a huge advantage.

RUTGERS: Of all the teams looking to bounce back in 2011, Rutgers probably has the farthest climb to return to the prominence that led to five straight postseason appearances from 2005-2009. The Scarlet Knights return 17 starters from last year's 4-8 squad, and they are still one of the youngest teams in the league. Head coach Greg Schiano has some of the exact same concerns heading into the new season, though he has stressed that he feels like this squad has grown this spring.

"Fundamentally we made significant improvement, and I think we grew a little with our confidence," Schiano explained following the Scarlet-White spring game. "This summer is going to be critical as it is every summer, but probably more so than any summer we've had here.

"The youngsters have to get tougher, they have to get more disciplined, they have to get more consistent. And again, this summer will be huge."

One of the biggest concerns is on the offensive line. Last season the Scarlet Knights were dead last in Division I in sacks allowed, letting the quarterback drop a whopping 61 times. Sophomore quarterback Chas Dodd has grown more comfortable in the pro-style scheme of new coordinator Frank Cignetti. But Dodd's supposed comfort and improvement in spring could all change when the non-contact jersey comes off in September. If the offensive line shows an about-face in 2011, the Scarlet Knights have talented (but young) skill position players who could help take Rutgers back to the postseason.

All spring the reports from Piscataway have been praising the work of redshirt freshman Brandon Coleman. The 6-6 wide receiver entered Rutgers with high expectations, but any doubters have been silenced since he took the field this spring. Coleman put on a show for the 21,120 in attendance for the spring game with a 78 yard, two touchdown performance. Maybe he was setting the standard for another touted underclassmen who was watching from the sidelines, incoming freshman running back Savon Huggins. The No. 1 recruit in the state of New Jersey, Huggins was a signing day steal that invigorated the Rutgers fan base. He has not even received his high school diploma, but he already carries expectations from a fan base that pines for the next Ray Rice. But again, Huggins will have virtually no chance to showcase his talents without some help from the offensive line. If the Scarlet Knights are going to get back to the postseason, they still have some growing to do before September.

SOUTH FLORIDA: South Florida was the first team in the Big East to wrap up spring practice, holding their final scrimmage almost a month ago. It was an awkward spring schedule, getting started early and having to dance around conflicts for Raymond-James Stadium, but at the conclusion the Bulls appear to be about in the same position as they were a year ago. The Bulls averaged a 7-point margin of defeat and 4-point margin of victory in league play last season, making their season this close to magical and that close to disastrous. Still, head coach Skip Holtz was able to get USF back to the postseason and pull down a bowl victory - the Bulls' third in a row.

South Florida's time in the Big East could be categorized as "good-but-not-great." They have made a bowl every year (4-2 record), but never finished higher than tied for third in the league standings. At the end of spring practice the Bulls look good, but still have some work to do to reach greatness. Starting quarterback B.J. Daniels returns for junior season behind an inexperienced offensive line with a set of receivers that have been less than impressive. But similar to 2010, the playmaking ability of the offensive backfield will make South Florida a threat against most defenses in the league. Demetris Murray returns at running back after picking up 533 yards and four touchdowns as a backup to Moise Plancher a year ago. He will be joined by a pair of transfers, Darrell Scott (Colorado) and Dontae Aycock (Auburn). Both backs are larger than the 5-10, 206 pound Murray, and should compliment his style well. Scott finished the spring listed as the No. 2 running back, despite being setback by a nagging hamstring injury. Defensively the Bulls return six starters from a unit that, in typical Bulls fashion, stacks up right in the middle of the conference. They lose some run-stoppers on the defensive line, but the coaching staff has been pleased with the unit as a whole - particularly the linebackers. If the Bulls are going to go from good to great in 2011, they will need to focus on developing their wide receivers more this summer. Otherwise it might be another vanilla bowl game season for South Florida.

SYRACUSE: Coming into the spring, my one question for Syracuse was how head coach Doug Marrone planned to repeat the success of 2010 with so many playmakers missing from that Pinstripe Bowl-winning squad. But with spring practice in the books, it seems like the Orange are prepared to prove that last season was not a fluke - but the beginning of a new chapter in Syracuse football. The Orange jumped out to strong start last season with solid defense and running the ball. With all-Big East linebackers Doug Hogue and Derrell Smith gone, the responsibility has fallen on sophomore Marquis Spruill to anchor that corps as he makes the move to middle linebacker. Marrone believes that the strengths in the defense this season will be with the defensive ends and safeties. Seniors Chandler Jones and Mikhail Marinovich will begin as starters, but expect to see a good amount of junior Brandon Sharpe as well after a strong spring. In the defensive backfield Phillip Thomas and Shamarko Thomas return as starting safeties while corners Keon Lyn and Ri'Shard Anderson both earned high praise for their efforts during the spring.

Offensively the number one question is how to replace Delone Carter. The 1,233 yard rusher from 2010 carried the Orange on his back when Ryan Nassib and the passing game sputtered, carrying the ball at least 18 times in eight different games. Antwon Bailey was exceptional as Carter's backup, but some people wonder whether the 5-7 running back can be an "every-down back." Bailey will be backed up by another speedster, the 5-9 Prince-Tyson Gulley. Orange fans are hoping that an improved passing game will help alleviate that pressure, and that responsibility falls on Nassib. Luckily, the offensive line returns 4 of 5 starters from last year and redshirt senior tight end Nick Provo showed his ability as a big, reliable target for when Nassib gets in trouble. The players claim that last year's success has changed the attitude this spring, and now they have a new belief in themselves. Talk is great in March and April, but we'll check back in on these guys in August.

WEST VIRGINIA:
The Mountaineers fell one game short of returning to a BCS bowl game in 2010, after an inability to score led to two early season conference losses. The Mountaineers offense eventually got going, finishing the regular season with at least 35 points in 3 of 4 straight victories. So in the interest of preparing for the future, and ensuring offensive stability, athletic director Oliver Luck arranged for the arrival of Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen. His impact has been obvious and immediate on the West Virginia offense, with quarterback Geno Smith falling comfortably into Holgorsen's spread system from day one. Smith finished the spring by throwing for 388 yards and four touchdowns in the spring game. Even against a talented Mountaineer defense, Smith was able to connect with his wide receivers for 44, 67, and a 38 yard touchdown pass. Holgorsen plans on supplying Smith with a deep rotation of running backs and receivers, pushing the ball horizontally and vertically. If Smith continues to improve on his already hot start in the new system, the Mountaineers should have no problem scoring the ball against the Big East defenses.

Defensively it is hard to make judgements based on performance against their own offense, but West Virginia does still have some work to do in the secondary. Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel has admitted he is already anxious to get back to camp, particularly after seeing how the unit performed in the spring game. The unit only returns four starters from last year, with defensive line likely being the Mountaineers strength. In Casteel's 3-3-5 scheme, the pressure is on the secondary to be everywhere on the field at once. Despite a wealth of athleticism at that position, there is still plenty of gelling left for the unit. But if the offense is putting up 30+ points per game (which they may), it should give the defense some time to come together before conference play begins.

Posted on: October 16, 2010 10:04 pm
Edited on: October 16, 2010 10:08 pm
 

What I learned from the Big East (Oct. 16)

Posted by Chip Patterson

1.) West Virginia's defense is playing a big part in West Virginia's success - West Virginia has largely been thought of as an offensive threat, especially with Noel Devine and Geno Smith in the backfield, but West Virginia fans should be thanking their defense for the 5-1 start.  West Virginia's defensive unit shut down B.J. Daniels and the South Florida Bulls, keeping them out of the end zone for the entirety of their 20-6 win.  The Mountaineers are only giving up an average of 12.3 points per game, best in the conference and making them one of the best defenses nationally.  When Smith or Devine have been inconsistent, the defense has been able to carry the Mountaineers.

2.) Syracuse is not ready to be considered a contender - Last week, I mistakenly suggested that Syracuse might be ready to climb out of the incredibly deep hole and make things interesting in the Big East.  After a three game winning streak, including knocking off South Florida in Tampa, the Orange looked like they were ready to make a statement against Pittsburgh.  The only statement made in Pittsburgh was that Syracuse's success mostly had to do with the caliber of their opponents, and they might not be ready to be considered a contender in the Big East.  Syracuse's defense looked porous against a Pittsburgh squad that has been far from impressive.  
 
3.) Chas Dodd is the man (for now) at Rutgers - When Tom Savage went down in the second quarter against Tulane, Chas Dodd saw an opportunity to repeat history at Rutgers.  When Savage was a freshman, he earned the starting job early in the season and won over fans orchestrating memorable wins like the last-minute touchdown to defeat Connecticut.  Two weeks later Dodd is 2-0 as a starter, after leading the Scarlet Knights to a close win over Connecticut and a 23-20 victory of Army in overtime.  Dodd threw for 251 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead Rutgers, who had to overcome a 17-3 second quarter deficit before finally locking up the win in overtime.  The starting job appears to be Dodd's, at least for now.
  
4.) Anyone could win the Big East (still)- West Virginia appears to be the best team in the conference, but with most teams backlogging their schedule with conference games, there is a lot of Big East football left to play.  West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Rutgers all could be considered legitimate contenders, and with a few upsets Syracuse and Louisville could be added to that conversation as well.  No one team looks supremely dominant, but all teams have shown flashes of greatness at some point.  West Virginia is the favorite, but they will have to finish their season playing Pittsburgh and Rutgers back-to-back, so nothing is certain.

For more breaking news and analysis follow us on Twitter @CBSSportsNCAAF or subscribe to our RSS Feed.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com