Tag:Skip Holtz
Posted on: November 27, 2011 2:00 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 2:29 am
 

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 13



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: Charlie Strong

In his first year, Charlie Strong was showered with praise for his ability to pull a veteran group together and give the seniors their first bowl win at Louisville. Expectations were tempered heading into 2011, with the Cardinals having to replace departed veterans up and down the depth chart. With the 34-24 win against South Florida on Friday, Louisville wrapped up their best conference record since Bobby Petrino's final season in 2006. But this success carries with it an extra feeling of accomplishment, bouncing back from early season losses to FIU and Marshall. Strong seemed frustrated at times this season, using phrases like "we just need to teach the game of football" to explain the status of his young team. But the Cardinals improved as the season progressed, and delivered their best performance when it counts in league play. With Strong's momentum and this young roster, it would not be surprising to see Louisville in the mix for the Big East title for the foreseeable future.

LOSER: BCS dreams for Rutgers and Pittsburgh

Rutgers and Pittsburgh fell from contention for a share of the Big East title - and thus a shot at a BCS bowl game - with devastating losses in Week 13. Pittsburgh gave up a 20-7 second half lead on West Virginia and Rutgers turned the ball over six times to help Connecticut run away with a 40-22 win. With the Scarlet Knights and Panthers out of the mix, the Big East title race has narrowed to three contenders: Louisville, Cincinnati, and West Virginia.

Louisville has finished their season with a 5-2 conference record, while the Mountaineers and Bearcats each have one game remaining. Here are the possible scenarios and outcomes in the hunt for a BCS bowl bid.

SCENARIO I
Cincinnati defeats Connecticut, South Florida defeats West Virginia. RESULT: Cincinnati earns BCS bid
SCENARIO II
Connecticut defeats Cincinnati, West Virginia defeats South Florida. RESULT: Louisville earns BCS bid
SCENARIO III
Connecticut defeats Cincinnati, South Florida defeats West Virginia. RESULT: Louisville earns BCS bid
SCENARIO IV
Cincinnati defeats Connecticut, West Virginia defeats South Florida. RESULT: Three-way tie for Big East title. BCS bid determined by highest ranking in BCS standings.

WINNER: The Rebuilt Cincinnati Offense

Most figured that Zach Collaros' absence from the Cincinnati offense would lead to some struggles, but the Bearcats' Big East title hopes looked dim after the first full game without him resulted in just three points. Backup Munchie Legaux looked out-of-rhythm all afternoon in the 20-3 loss to Rutgers, completing just 12 of 31 passes and picking up only 31 rushing yards on 12 attempts. Earlier this week head coach Butch Jones suggested the possibility of using two quarterbacks against Syracuse, giving more snaps to dual-threat sophomore Jordan Luallen. Luallen ended up being the perfect change of pace for the Bearcats' offense, and finished as the team's second-leading rusher with 77 yards.

The pair made the two-QB rotation work at Cincinnati, finally hitting a rhythm and putting together a five scoring drives in the final 35 minutes of play. But the star of the Bearcats' big conference win was not a new face, but an all-too familiar one for Big East opponents. Senior running back Isaiah Pead picked up 80 yards rushing and 112 yards receiving out of the backfield on the way to 246 all-purpose yard performance to lead the Bearcats. Pead has been a force for Cincinnati, and is just 38 rushing yards away from his second-straight 1,000 yard season. The win has put Cincinnati one win away from claiming a share of the Big East title, and the decisive win should help in the BCS rankings for a potential three-team tiebreaker.

LOSER: Pittsburgh RB Zach Brown

The fact that Pittsburgh has been able to stay in contention for a Big East BCS bid even after losing Ray Graham to a season-ending knee injury is astounding. Graham was the nations second-leading rusher at the time of his injury, averaging over 130 yards per game and contributing over 40% of Pittsburgh's total offense. Quarterback Tino Sunseri and backup running back Zach Brown were able to carry the offensive load in a crucial road win at Louisville last week, and appeared to have the Panthers set up for another in Morgantown. Pitt led 17-7 when Brown was injured on a long run in the final moments of the first half. For the remainder of the game, third-stringer Isaac Bennett carried the running back responsibilities almost exclusively. Bennett did finish with 69 yards and a touchdown on the ground, but there was a noticeable drop off in pass protection as Sunseri was sacked 10 times - including four times on the final drive. The entire offense struggled throughout the second half, only producing a Kevin Harper field goal in the early third quarter, and Brown's injury was the most noticeable change. Regardless of the fault, the Panthers are out of the Big East title hunt and now need a win over Syracuse to be bowl eligible.

WINNER: Connecticut's bowl hopes

Needing to win out against Rutgers and Cincinnati seemed like a daunting task for an inconsistent Connecticut team to become bowl eligible, but that campaign received new life in a 40-22 beatdown of the Scarlet Knights on Saturday. The Huskies got it done with big plays from their defense, special teams, and a bruising rushing attack led by freshman Lyle McCombs. Quarterbacks Johnny McEntee and Scott McCummings were given fantastic field position all day, benefiting from six Rutgers turnovers and a couple of big returns by Nick Williams. Once they got the ball close to the goal line, it was up to McCombs and McCummings to McGet the job done. The duo combined for all four of the Huskies' offensive touchdowns, giving the Huskies a 30-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. It's been a rough first season for head coach Paul Pasqualoni, but a .500 record and a bowl berth would be a great finish considering the 2-4 start in East Hartford.

LOSER: Backyard Brawl as a Big East tradition

With Pittsburgh and West Virginia both on the move out of the Big East, Friday's edition of the Backyard Brawl was possibly the last meeting of rivals as conference foes. As of Saturday Pittsburgh is still planning on an arrival in the ACC in 2014, while Oliver Luck and West Virginia have taken the legal route to try and join the Big 12 by next season. The Big East chapter of the West Virginia-Pittsburgh rivalry has been memorable, with the game serving as annual late-season highlight of the conference schedule since the Mountaineers joined in 1995. Four of the last five meetings between the two teams have been decided by one score or less, with the 21-20 West Virginia win being the closest contest since a 31-31 tie in 1989. The rivalry outdates the Big East, so I would guess the two schools will figure a way to keep it going. But Big East football fans have a less certain future when it comes to enjoying this showdown of bitter rivals as part of the conference schedule.

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Posted on: November 25, 2011 12:39 pm
Edited on: November 25, 2011 12:42 pm
 

PODCAST: Coach of the Year, Week 13 upset alerts

Posted by Chip Patterson

As the season winds down, some of the most popular topics of discussion in college football revolve around head coaches. In this edition of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcast, I sit down with Adam Aizer to preview the holiday weekend ahead and talk about the best of the best when it comes to head coaches in 2011. Is Bill Snyder the frontrunner for his revival in Manhattan? Or do coaches like Les Miles and Lane Kiffin deserve extra consideration for all they have overcome this season.

We also discuss the status of the North Carolina job, currently being held by interim head coach Everett Withers. The school recently made the official posting of the job position, and Adam and I run down some of the popular names associated with the opening. We also take some listener questions, tackling Utah's first season in the Pac-12 and why people hate on the SEC.

Fans, you can voice your opinoin for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year by voting HERE

Remember, all of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcasts can be downloaded for FREE from the iTunes Store.

You can listen to the podcast in the player below, pop out a player to keep browsing, or download the MP3 right to your computer. 



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Posted on: November 20, 2011 4:00 am
Edited on: November 20, 2011 1:13 pm
 

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 12



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: Jawan Jamison

It may have been Senior Day at High Point Solutions Stadium, but the star of Rutgers' 20-3 win over Cincinnati was freshman running back Jawan Jamison. Jamison ran 34 times for 200 yards (both career highs) and scored both of the Scarlet Knights' touchdowns as Rutgers moved into a tie for first place in the Big East. A 5-2 conference record will earn at least a share of the Big East title this season, and now the Scarlet Knights are one win away from their best conference finish since joining the Big East in 1991. Head coach Greg Schiano made it a point to stress a physical approach to both sides of the ball following last year's 4-8 finish, and the Scarlet Knights dominated Cincinnati thanks to Jamison's relentless running and a gritty performance on defense. Cincinnati dual-threat quarterback Munchie Legaux was held to 31 yards on 12 carries and star running back Isaiah Pead accumulated only 28 yards in 14 attempts. If Rutgers can beat Connecticut on the road, they'll have physical rushing and a physical rush defense to thank for their first share of a Big East conference title.

LOSER: Munchie Legaux

It was a rough day for the talented backup quarterback, getting his first start of the season in place of injured starter Zach Collaros. Legaux has the physical talents to be a real threat for the Bearcats in the future, but this season's offense just doesn't run the same way without Collaros at the helm. As the last undefeated team in conference play, Cincinnati entered November with a target on their back. Legaux looked flustered and frustrated for a majority of the 20-3 loss to Rutgers, as the Scarlet Knights shut down the Bearcats' ground attack and forced the sophomore to become a drop back passer. Legaux completed just 12 of his 31 passing attempts, and was held to just 31 yards rushing as Cincinnati failed to reach the end zone for the first time all season. Seeing the offense struggle without their senior quarterback has to sting Bearcats' fans, but Legaux needs a quick revival if Cincinnati is going to stay in contention for the Big East title. Syracuse and Connecticut are both winnable games, but they'll need to win both and get some help to earn a BCS bowl game bid.

WINNER: Charlie Strong

Not only has the Strong led the Cardinals from a disappointing 2-4 start to bowl eligibility for the second straight year, but he's accomplished the feat with two very different teams. Last season's squad was made up mostly of upperclassmen, and anchored by a a bruising rushing attack in the hands of senior Bilal Powell. After some shuffling in the first half of the season, the Cardinals are now led by an efficient Teddy Bridgewater-led attack. The defense has tightened up to Strong's taste, and now Louisville has an inside track towards a share of the Big East title. A win at USF next friday guarantees at least a tie for the conference championship, and key wins over Rutgers and West Virginia give them great odds to win a tie-breaker scenario. After troubling losses to FIU and Marshall early in the season, Strong has done a great job to rally a young team that has gotten better as the season progressed.

LOSER: BJ Daniels

Neither team was able to generate much of an offensive performance in Miami's 6-3 win over USF on Saturday, but the Bulls offense became nonexistent when starting quarterback BJ Daniels left the game with a shoulder injury in the third quarter. Head coach Skip Holtz has spoken extensively this season about Daniels' improvement as a quarterback, and he has been the most consistent performer in an otherwise inconsistent season for the Bulls. USF had no information on the extent of Daniels' injury, but the drop off when backup quarterback Bobby Eveld took over was significant. With Eveld under center, the offense generated just 75 yards on 17 plays and converted none of their five third down attempts down the stretch. Despite the disappointing performance in conference play, USF is still one win away from bowl eligibility. Daniels' health is an immediate concern with a short turnaround before hosting Louisville on Friday in Raymond James Stadium. With Louisville and West Virginia both competing for a BCS bowl bid, the Bulls can expect their best shot in the final two games of the season. In order for South Florida to answer with their best, they'll need Daniels out on the field.

WINNER: West Virginia

Even in an off week, the Mountaineers were winners in Week 12 thanks to the latest shake-ups in the conference title race. With Cincinnati's loss to Rutgers, five teams are in title contention with just 2 conference losses. The Mountaineers and Bearcats will fight with Rutgers, Louisville, and Pittsburgh over the final two weeks of the season for the conference's most sought-after prize: a BCS bowl bid. Earning a share of top spot won't be enough to satisfy a team hungry for college football's grand stage, and now the focus turns to the Big East tiebreaker rules. In 3- or 4-team ties, the tiebreaker is decided the record against the other teams involved in the tie. Currently, only one of West Virginia's two conference losses is to a team still in title contention: Louisville. The other two-loss teams have fallen to each other, giving the Mountaineers a slight advantage heading into the season's final weeks.

LOSER: Phillip Thomas

Syracuse was off in Week 12, but the Orange suffered a huge loss with the suspension of star safety Phillip Thomas. Doug Marrone's defense has struggled as of late, and currently ranks last in the Big East giving up nearly 400 yards per game. Thomas has been one of the few bright spots in the lineup, leading the team in tackles and interceptions. But Phillip Thomas' suspension will not just last the rest of the 2011 season, as the school announced a one-year length on the safety's punishment for violation of an Athletic Department policy. No official explanation has been offered by the school or Thomas, though it would not be surprising to see the junior declare for the NFL draft after receiving this mysterious one-year punishment.


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Posted on: November 13, 2011 1:53 am
Edited on: November 13, 2011 2:35 am
 

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 11



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: Dana Holgorsen's "Winners"

The West Virginia head coach was so fed up with his team's effort in recent weeks, he threatened to cut the travel roster - only taking "who wants to win." The Mountaineers did travel a few short of their usual amount, which is about 70. But the ones that did walk into Paul Brown Stadium did so prepared to win, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. The defensive line got pressure on the quarterback consistently for the first time in weeks, led by the efforts of Julian Miller and Bruce Irvin. Offensively Geno Smith found ways to put the ball in the hands of Tavon Austin (9 catches, 126 yards) and Stedman Bailey (6 catches, 104 yards) while avoiding interceptions. The Mountaineers did benefit from Zach Collaros' injury, but a win is a win in the now wide open Big East title race.

LOSER: Zach Collaros, Cincinnati

Cincinnati picking up their first conference loss against West Virginia on Saturday was not just significant because it re-opens the conference title race. The Bearcats offense took a huge hit when senior quarterback Zach Collaros left the game with an apparent ankle injury. The veteran signal caller was hit by West Virginia defensive end Bruce Irvin, coughing up the ball in the end zone for a Mountaineer recover touchdown. But as Collaros was being brought to the ground his leg appeared to bend underneath his body, resulting in the Cincinnati medical staff taking him into the locker room.

Cincinnati's offense eventually got running under athletic backup Munchie Legaux, but there was a slow start and considerable drop off from when Collaros is under center. While Legaux can present that same rushing threat that Collaros presents to a defense, the young sophomore quarterback is not as productive moving the ball through the air. Cincinnati still holds a one-game on the rest of the pack in the Big East standings, but they must win out in order to avoid a tiebreaker scenario with another team. Things get serious next week for the Bearcats, who will face Rutgers next week on the road with at least a share of the Big East title on the line. The official word on Collaros is an ankle injury, and he is expected to undergo further testing before any decisions are made regarding his availability for next week. When he reemerged from the locker room, Collaros was in street clothes on crutches. Needless to say, it was not a welcome sight for Cincinnati fans.

WINNER: Mohamed Sanu

Despite an ever-changing quarterback situation, Rutgers wide receiver Mohamed Sanu has been able to put together a historic 2011 season. He was once again the most dominant offensive threat for the Scarlet Knights in the 27-12 win over Army, pulling in 13 of the team's 17 receptions. The performance brings Sanu's reception count on the season to 94, breaking the Big East single-season record for catches. The record (92) was previously held by former Pittsburgh and current Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. The consistency of having Sanu has been a crutch for an otherwise inconsistent offense, and a big part of the reason the Scarlet Knights are 7-3 heading into the final weeks of the season.

LOSER: Louisville's rush defense

Coming into the game, Louisville relied on one of the Big East's toughest rushing defenses to keep the Cardinals' in games and give freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater a chance. But after the 38-35 win over West Virginia put Charlie Strong's team in a position to make a run at a BCS bowl bid, the Cardinals put up one of their worst defensive efforts since Strong arrived in Louisville. The Cardinals gave up 200 yards on the ground to Pittsburgh, who has been without leading rusher Ray Graham (season-ending knee injury) since Oct. 26. The inability to stop the Panthers on the ground kept Bridgewater and the offense from opportunities to climb back into the game.

WINNER: BJ Daniels 

After a white-hot start and an early season national ranking as high as No. 15, South Florida quickly found themselves in jeopardy of making a bowl game at the end of 2011. The Bulls entered Friday night's contest against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome needing a win to keep their hopes of a second-straight bowl appearance under Skip Holtz alive. Junior quarterback BJ Daniels has received praise from coaches and teammates alike for the strides he's made this season under center. Daniels stepped up when his team needed him most, picking up 254 yards through the air and leading the Bulls in rushing with 117 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The 371 yards of total offense nearly outgained Syracuse as a team (405), and looked effortless as Daniels was not sacked once and did not throw a single interception. It was the performance USF needed from their offensive leader, and now the Bulls have three consecutive home games to try and get that sixth win and return to the postseason.

LOSER: Big East kickers

The most notable kicking struggles in Week 11 occurred in West Virginia's 24-21 victory over Cincinnati in Paul Brown Stadium, but the league as a whole did not boot it well this weekend. Tyler Bitancurt hit just one of three field goals against the Bearcats, but that one ended up deciding the game with Cincinnati's Tony Miliano missing both of his attempts. The blocked 31-yard field goal as time expired will be the one that haunts the freshman kicker, but the kicking woes were a trend across the Big East. The place-kickers in the conference combined to make just 5 of 11 field goals on the weekend, numbers that were padded with the performances of South Florida's Maikon Bonani (3/3) and Syracuse's Ross Krautman (1/1).

WINNER: Fans of tiebreaker scenarios 

Heading into the weekend, Cincinnati was the conference's only unbeaten team, and Louisville held one game over a slew of 2-loss (conference record) contenders in the standings. With Cincinnati losing at home to West Virginia and Louisville doing the same against Pittsburgh, the race has been blown wide open. The Bearcats maintain their slight lead on the pack with only one conference loss, but five other teams all are in position to possibly win a share of the Big East title in the next three weeks.

The Big East title has been shared four of the last eight seasons, but there is only one gold medal: the automatic bid to a BCS bowl. So as the final weeks wind down, every matchup will have potential tie-breaker implications in the final sorting of the league standings. From here on out, every 2-loss team facing Cincinnati has a shot to win at least a share of the title. This starts with Rutgers welcoming the visiting Bearcats next week at High Point Solutions Stadium. With the victory over West Virginia, the Mountaineers have also put themselves in a favorable position as long as they win out and Cincinnati picks up another loss along the way. Louisville, considered a dark horse just a week ago, will need to hit the road to face Connecticut and South Florida on their quest for a return to the BCS bowls.

No team has ever won even a share of the Big East title with more than two conference losses. With Cincinnati losing to West Virginia and five other teams with two losses, the final three weeks of the regular season will be a battle for survival for all six teams in contention. We'll brush up on the Big East tiebreaker rules next week, but anyone who loves this kind of title race chaos will enjoy the conference play down the stretch.

LOSER: USF and Syrcause 

While 75% of the conference buckles down for an intense final stretch of league games, South Florida and Syracuse are the only teams not invited to the party. With matching 1-4 conference records, the Bulls and Orange are eliminated from contention for the Big East title. The good news for these two struggling squads is that bowl eligibility is still in the cards. Syracuse needs to win one of their final two contests to make the postseason for the second straight year, though they might find that difficult with Cincinnati and Pittsburgh on the schedule. South Florida has the benefit of three home games to close the regular season, needing just one more win to become bowl eligible. The Bulls host Miami and Louisville before closing the schedule against West Virginia on a nationally televised Thursday night showdown.

BONUS WINNER: Rutgers' Eric LeGrand and Army running back Malcolm Brown



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Posted on: November 6, 2011 3:06 am
 

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 10



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: Charlie Strong

After dropping their third straight game in a 25-16 losing effort against Cincinnati, few pundits had Louisville on their short list of Big East contenders. But second-year head coach Charlie Strong didn't quite have the pieces in place offensively for the Cardinals to reach their maximum potential. But after naming Shawn Watson the offensive play-caller, Teddy Bridgewater the starting quarterback, and allowing Dominique Brown to settle in as a true tailback; Louisville has found the winning combination.

The timing of Louisville's current three-game win streak also lines up nicely with Strong's lucrative contract extension, which will pay him to coach the Cardinals through 2018. Since the announcement of the new deal, Louisville is 3-0 and now sits alone in second place of the current Big East standings. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the young Cardinals, but as expected the young talent has improved throughout the season and now they are one win away from bowl eligibility for the second year in a row. Louisville hasn't been to bowl games in back-to-back years since Bobby Petrino's tenure, and the offensive growth shown in the 38-35 upset of West Virginia makes that scenario appear likely.

LOSER: West Virginia

Geno Smith's 410 passing yards weren't enough to lead West Virginia to victory on Saturday, and the Mountaineers find themselves on the losing end of a Big East conference matchup for the second time in three weeks. The 5-1 start that had the Mountaineers poised as a conference title contender has evaporated, and now Dana Holgorsen's team will likely need to win out in order to give themselves a chance at a BCS bowl bid. After being one of the nation's most stingy units in 2010, Jeff Casteel's 3-3-5 defense has been picked apart by quarterbacks in recent weeks.

The talent on the field is arguably the best in the conference, but West Virginia's inability to execute has plagued them since league play began. On Saturday it was a blocked/missed field goals and poor red zone defense that allowed Louisville to hang in the game and steal a victory late against the Mountaineers. Now the challenge for Holgorsen will be bouncing back in time for next week's showdown with conference-leading Cincinnati. One more conference loss all but seals West Virginia's destiny for a bowl berth in December. However, knocking off the Bearcats will open the title race up and give the Mountaineers the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage. Because of Saturday's loss, the next seven days could determine West Virginia's season.

WINNER: Rutgers' bowl eligibility

After a tough 2010 campaign, Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano said that it was "time to get back to playing Rutgers football." Schiano, the most tenured coach in a very young Big East, must have "Rutgers football" defined as "finding ways to win." For the Scarlet Knights won their second overtime game on Saturday, marching back from a 17-3 fourth quarter deficit to win 20-17 against South Florida. It was the fifth game this season decided by one score or less, and once again Rutgers found a way to win despite being out-gained offensively 381-228. Racking 228 yards of total offense is normally an easy way to lose to the likes of BJ Daniels, but the defense came through in the second half and put starter-turned-backup quarterback Chas Dodd in a position to lead the Scarlet Knights to victory. Now at 6-3, Rutgers is bowl eligible for the sixth time in seven years. Greg Schiano may not come to mind as one of the most dominant coaches in the game, but his time at Rutgers has been defined by consistent winning seasons.

LOSER: USF fourth-quarter defense

The four game losing streak that has South Florida in a 0-4 hole for league play is due in large part to the Bulls' performance late in games. In the slide, USF has been outscored 44-14 in the fourth quarter. At times (like the loss to Pittsburgh) the struggles were game-long, but holding a two-score lead against Rutgers and losing is cause for serious concern in the South Florida camp. Before conference play started the Bulls were ranked in the Top 20 and thought (by this author, included) to be one of the new frontrunners for the Big East title. Now mathematically out of the running for the crown, head coach Skip Holtz must rally the team to make the most out of the 2011 season.

Luckily, bowl eligibility is not out of question for the 4-4 Bulls. They will travel to face Syracuse in the Carrier Dome on Friday before finishing their schedule (Miami, Louisville, West Virginia) with three games in Tampa. If USF can win two of those contests they could find themselves snagging a bid to the BBVA Compass Bowl (or some similar Big East tie) with a 6-6 record. It would not be anything to hold a parade about, but a turnaround will be necessary if the Bulls want to have anything to build on heading into 2012.

WINNER: Cincinnati's Big East title hopes 

Charlie Strong isn't the only second-year coach making headlines with 2011's unpredicted success. Butch Jones continues to build on his impressive sophomore effort with the Bearcats, improving to 7-1 (3-0 in Big East play) with a 26-23 road victory against Pittsburgh. Already with a victory against Louisville, the Bearcats now have a two-game buffer on the competition for the conference's BCS bowl bid. Unfortunately the road to a BCS invitation will not come easily, with away games against Rutgers and Syracuse following Saturday's meeting with West Virginia. A win over the Mountaineers puts the Bearcats in a great position to win the league title outright. A loss will create a jumble for the title, and then tie-breakers suddenly become the differentiator between the Champs Sports Bowl and a BCS bowl appearance.

LOSER: Pittsburgh's offensive line 

Pittsburgh's offensive line has dealt with injuries and depth issues all season. Head coach Todd Graham's offensive scheme has led to heavy rotation among the five positions, with the Panthers never really settling in on a lineup yet this season. The issues up front have been felt by Pittsburgh's quarterbacks. The Panthers entered the game leading the nation in sacks allowed with 36 in eight games of action.

The offensive line was exploited once again by Cincinnati in the 26-23 loss, but you won't find the proof in the stat sheet. Tino Sunseri was only brought down three times in the losing effort, but the Bearcats brought the heat through the whole second half. Pittsburgh's inability to adjust to the pressure and get something going offensively eventually became their downfall, as they watched a 10 point lead disappear over the last two quarters.


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Posted on: October 25, 2011 1:40 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2011 1:42 pm
 

USF leading receiver faces uncertain future

Posted by Chip Patterson

South Florida's slide after their 4-0 start has come at the worst time for a program that hoped to contend for the Big East title in 2011. No team has ever won the Big East title with three conference losses, and the Bulls' 0-3 start to league play has essentially dropped them from the race. Now the focus will be getting healthy and working towards bowl eligibility, and second-year head coach Skip Holtz got no help from the news that leading wide receiver Sterling Griffin could miss significant time with an ankle injury.

"[Griffin] definitely has an ankle sprain. One of their concerns is about maybe a break in the bone. He went to that X-ray this morning," Holtz explained during Monday's Big East teleconference. "I would say in a best-case scenario he would be out a couple weeks, and the worst-case scenario, that there would be a break and he would probably be out the rest of the year. But with his ankle right now, he's very doubtful for the upcoming game."

South Florida is off this week, but Griffin's injury sounds as though it could hold him out of the Bulls' next contest, a trip to Rutgers on Nov. 5. Holtz will be looking to redshirt freshman Deonte Welch and true freshman Andre Davis to step up in Griffin's absence. Welch already has shown his comfort with being a primary producer, pulling in five catches for 130 yards in the losing effort to Cincinnati.

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Posted on: October 23, 2011 12:19 am
Edited on: October 23, 2011 3:14 am
 

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 8



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: The Big East

Entering conference play, I was curious to see how long it would take the league to figure out a way to slow West Virginia. There are plenty of great coaches in the Big East, and the backloaded conference schedule usually allows plenty of preparation material. Syracuse showed the conference how to beat West Virginia, and also opened up the race for the Big East title with their 49-23 win in the Carrier Dome on Friday.

The Syracuse defense sent extra pressure at Geno Smith all night, getting in his face and bringing him to the ground on four different occasions. The extra pressure got to Smith and he began to force throws from the pocket, which led to two big interceptions for the Orange defense. Until the Mountaineers prove they can counter, look for more Big East opponents to bring extra pressure to try and rattle Smith in the coming weeks.

LOSER: The Big East

While Syracuse's victory did show the rest of the league a way to slow down and possibly defeat the Mountaineers, it also eliminated the Big East's best chance of having a team finish high in the final BCS standings. As conferences look towards 2013 and the renewal of the BCS automatic bids, one concern to meet the requirements involves teams ranked in the final BCS standings.

The Big East has struggled in the polls and BCS standings in recent years, and not meeting the requirements for an automatic bid is one reason why the reported "Global Conference" has become an option. Cincinnati would likely have to run the table to finish with a high ranking, and if this weekend showed us anything it is how hard running the table has become in the Big East.

WINNER: Butch Jones

It is fairly difficult to be on the hot seat after just one season, but Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones was pretty close to it after the Bearcats finished 4-8 in 2010. There was no dissension in the program, but many fans were quick to doubt if Jones was the right choice to replace Brian Kelly.

But here in Week 8 of the 2011 season, there is only one unbeaten team left in the Big East - and it is Jones' Bearcats. Pulling Cincinnati back into bowl eligibility this early in the season takes a lot of pressure off Jones' shoulders, as he can now turn his teams' focus towards claiming their third Big East title in four years.

LOSER: South Florida's defense

BJ Daniels threw for 409 yards, three touchdowns, led the Bulls in rushing, and most importantly threw no interceptions. But it wasn't enough to snap South Florida's losing streak. Daniels put together what appeared to be a game-winning drive with 1:27 left when he found Andre Davis for a touchdown to give the Bulls a 34-30 lead.

But the defense could not come up with a stop, allowing Zach Collaros to march 70 yards in seven plays over a 75 second span. A pass interference call in the end zone was the final mistake for South Florida's defense, allowing the Bearcats to set up 1st and Goal from the two yard line. There were plenty of mistakes throughout the game, but the defense's inability to stop Cincinnati in the fourth quarter led to the third straight loss for the Bulls.

WINNER: Syracuse tight ends Nick Provo and David Stevens

Part of Syracuse's gameplan for taking down West Virginia involved using the play action to match up the tight ends with the Mountaineers linebackers in coverage. What the Orange revealed to the rest of the conference was a dramatic weakness in this year's version of Jeff Casteel's 3-3-5 defense. Tight ends Nick Provo and David Stevens combined for 95 yards and four touchdowns on eight catches. After biting on the play-fake, Ryan Nassib would roll out and locate a tight end off his release in the perfect soft spot of West Virginia's defense. Provo and Stevens are among the better tight ends in the conference, but the gameplan on Friday set them up for a huge night that Syracuse fans will remember for the rest of the season.

LOSER: Rutgers

There is no way the Scarlet Knights could have known it at the time, but they missed out on a great opportunity to gain a leg up on the Big East title hunt on Friday night. With West Virginia falling to Syracuse, Rutgers could have stepped forward with Cincinnati as the only teams left unbeaten in conference play. Until the 16-14 loss at Louisville, Greg Schiano's squad was putting together an impressive body of work. The defense was rigid, and the offense had been able put together enough plays to lead the Scarlet Knights to victory.

But Gary Nova, who had led the comeback against Navy just a week before, showed his youth against the Cardinals' multiple defensive looks. The three interceptions came at the worst times for Rutgers, who couldn't put together the final push in the fourth quarter to stay undefeated in league play. Rutgers has never won a Big East title, and now that dream is going to be a little tougher with West Virginia and Cincinnati left on the schedule.


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Posted on: October 18, 2011 12:00 pm
Edited on: October 18, 2011 3:19 pm
 

Eye On College Football Midseason Report Big East



Posted by Chip Patterson


Offensive Player of the Year: Geno Smith, West Virginia. In Dana Holgorsen's high-powered offense, the quarterback's communication with the head coach and on-field decision making is pertinent to the system's success. Smith has been a victim of a few slow starts, but has finished every game with an impressive offensive output. Smith is averaging 359.8 yards per game through the air, and completing 64.0 percent of his passes. His ability to find receivers in space has been crucial for the Mountaineers, who only recently found their running game. With 16 touchdowns and 3 interceptions there have been few mistakes for the talented junior, who's next challenge will be leading this team to a conference title. Also considered: Mohammed Sanu, Rutgers; Ray Graham, Pittsburgh; Tavon Austin, West Virginia.

Defensive Player of the Year: Steve Beauharnais, Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have jumped out to a fast start despite only recently finding certain answers at the quarterback and running back position. A huge part of that has been stout play on the defensive side of the ball, led by linebacker Steve Beauhamais. Rutgers' leads the Big East in scoring and total defense, with Beauhamais contributing 32 tackles and ranking 4th in the conference in tackles for loss. Beauhamais also has added 3.5 sacks and a pair of interceptions to cap off a well-rounded defensive stat line for the leader of one the league's best defensive units. Also considered: JK Schaffer, Cincinnati; Sio Moore, Connecticut; Terence Garvin, West Virginia.

Coach of the Year: Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia.
After Bill Stewart's unplanned early exit, Dana Holgorsen deserves credit for stepping in and quickly taking ownership of the program. Much of the staff is still in place, including defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel, but there has been no apparent dissension within the program since Holgorsen's promotion. The most conflict Morgantown has seen was the head coach's shot at the fan base after a home game played before a well-below-capacity crowd. Also considered: Greg Schiano, Rutgers; Butch Jones, Cincinnati.

Surprise: Rutgers. With a 5-1 start and two conference victories under their belt, head coach Greg Schiano has all but erased the horrid memories of the 2010 season. While they've shuffled the quarterback and running back positions, arriving on Gary Nova and Jawan Jamison as the apparent starters, the defense ranks 12th nationally only allowing 16.0 points per game. It hasn't always been pretty, but the Scarlet Knights are finding ways to win. Also considered: Cincinnati

Disappointment: Pittsburgh. After promises of "high-octane football," head coach Todd Graham has very little to show from his no-octane Pittsburgh Panthers. There is very little consistency on either side of the ball, with the offense riding running back Ray Graham to stellar performances at times (South Florida) and failing to find the end zone in other contests (Utah). With the talent returning from last season's squad, the Panthers were projected to challenge their backyard rivals for the Big East title. After losing four of their last five, a return to the postseason is even in doubt. Also considered: Louisville.

Game of the Year So Far: Wake Forest at Syracuse. The Orange overcame a 20-7 halftime deficit to knock off Wake Forest 36-29 in overtime on the first night of the college football season. Quarterback Ryan Nassib picked apart a Wake Forest back seven for 15 fourth-quarter points to kick off a "win by any means"-type season for the Orange. Also considered: Maryland at West Virgina.

Game of the Year (To Come): West Virginia at Cincinnati. Three teams poised to race for the Big East title down the stretch seem to be these two teams along with Rutgers. The only way to ensure a championship is to go undefeated in conference play and this is the best chance for someone to knock off the Mountaineers. The Bearcats have an offense that can keep up with West Virginia in a shootout, and their defense is one of the best in the nation at forcing turnovers. Look for Paul Brown Stadium to be lubed up and rocking when West Virginia comes to town on Nov. 12.

CHAMPION: West Virgina. It will take at least one upset or a furious charge from Cincinnati or Rutgers to keep the Mountaineers from claiming the Big East title and returning to a BCS bowl.

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