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 24, 2010 11:40 am
Edited on: October 24, 2010 11:43 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
1. Eight teams still have a shot at BCS berth - As crazy as it sounds, the perfect storm of circumstance has brought about a wide open Big East conference race. The first major factor has been the scheduling. For the most part, each team backlogged their conference schedule. So while we are at the midpoint of the regular season, six of the eight teams in the conference are only two games into league play. Even the seemingly hapless Connecticut Huskies are a Pittsburgh upset from climbing back into the race. Knock the Big East as much as you want, but at the wide-open race will at least make each game interesting coming down the stretch.
2. Syracuse isn't flashy, but they are getting it done - After getting throttled by Pittsburgh at home, Syracuse bounced back to stun West Virginia in Morgantown. The Orange got right back to the same kind of tough football that helped them rattle off three straight wins, with aggressive defense and a solid running game. When Delone Carter left the game with a hip injury, backup running back Antwon Bailey stepped and delivered a season high 94 yards on the ground. The defense kept West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith guessing all day, disguising their coverages and blitzes to force a season high three interceptions. Syracuse hasn't put together impressive victories (particularly not scoring a point after halftime) but if they can continue to stack the W's, the Orange could find themselves bowling in 2010.
3. Tino Sunseri has arrived - After a somewhat shaky start, Sunseri has come into his own as the leader of the Panthers offense. The rushing attack has not been what it was a year ago in Dion Lewis' breakout season, but the sophomore signal caller has stepped it up through the air in conference play. After five touchdowns in the first five games, Sunseri has connected with his receivers for seven scores in the last two weeks. If he can continue to find playmaking wide receiver Jon Baldwin, like he did for 139 yards against Rutgers, Pittsburgh could be a difficult team to beat down the stretch.
4. There is some hope in Tampa for South Florida - To reiterate the earlier point, South Florida's 38-30 victory over Cincinnati on Friday kept the Bulls from falling all but out of the Big East hunt. Not only did first year head coach Skip Holtz avoid starting 0-3 in the conference, but he got the best performance of the season from quarterback B.J. Daniels. If Daniels' performance was more than just a flash in the pan, South Florida can do a lot to make up for the rough start.
Posted on: October 23, 2010 4:20 pm
Edited on: October 23, 2010 5:12 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
And just like that, the Big East has been blown wide open.
We figured that it could happen, just weren't all that positive that it would. But with Syracuse's 19-14 victory, West Virginia has been knocked off their post as the Big East front runner and the conference is now up for grabs. Syracuse forced West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith into three first half interceptions that the Orange turned into points, and the Mountaineers weren't able to climb back from the halftime deficit. In fact, after a very exciting back and forth first half of play, neither team scored scored a point after the break.
Syracuse dominated West Virginia on the ground, racking up 183 rushing yards on one of the best statistical defenses in the nation. Running back Delone Carter left the game in the second quarter with a hip injury after racking up 75 yards, but backup Antwon Bailey was just as effective for the Orange. Bailey carried 19 times for 94 yards, career high's in both categories, and Syracuse shed a new light on the Mountaineer squad that many had already penciled in for the conference title.
Pittsburgh has now jumped into the conference lead with their 41-21 dismantling of Rutgers. After the 2-0 Panthers stand Syracuse, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Rutgers, Connecticut and Louisville as teams with one loss. That list will be shortened after the completion of the Huskies-Cardinals game, but the argument will still be valid for 3/4 of the conference to be considered legitimate contenders.
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Posted on: October 23, 2010 1:55 pm
Edited on: October 23, 2010 1:58 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
After throwing only two interceptions in his first 196+ attempts, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith has thrown three picks in the first half of Saturday's conference match up with Syracuse. The Orange have been able to capitalize on the mistakes, and lead 19-14 in Morgantown at the break. Syracuse has been unintimidated by the West Virginia defense, running right at the top ranked unit for 132 yards on the ground. The Mountaineers entered the game ranked third in scoring defense, but have not had an answer for Syracuse's rushing tandem of Delone Carter and Antwon Bailey.
Smith's interceptions have given Syracuse short fields for three scoring drives, but the Mountaineers have been able to hold them to field goals each time. If Smith can keep the ball out of the hands of the Orange, they should be able to pull back in this game. Until then though, we have an UPSET ALERT!
Posted on: October 23, 2010 12:24 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2010 6:13 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Here's the weather outlook for all of today's important matchups. You like storms? We got storms. There's a front moving through the nation's heartland, and there's copious amounts of rain all the way from Chicago to Texas. Will this affect Missouri-Oklahoma? All times are Eastern.
Purdue at No. 11 Ohio State, 12:00, Columbus, OH: Upper 50s, clear
Syracuse at No. 20 West Virginia, 12:00, Morgantown, WV: Mid 60s, mostly cloudy
No. 8 Michigan State at Northwestern, 12:00, Evanston, IL: Upper 50s, rain
Ole Miss at No. 21 Arkansas, 12:21, Fayetteville, AR: Upper 60s, cloudy (storms later)
No. 10 Wisconsin at No. 12 Iowa, 3:30, Iowa City, IA: Upper 60s, chance of rain
No. 6 LSU at No. 5 Auburn, 3:30, Auburn, AL: Upper 70s, clear
No. 14 Nebraska at No. 17 Oklahoma State, 3:30, Stillwater, OK: Mid 70s, chance of storms
No. 7 Alabama at Tennessee, 7:00, Knoxville, TN: Mid 60s, partly cloudy
No. 3 Oklahoma at No. 18 Missouri, 8:00, Columbia, MO: Mid 60s, scattered storms
Air Force at No. 4 TCU, 8:00, Fort Worth, TX: Upper 60s, scattered storms
Late night kickoffs
Washington at No. 15 Arizona, 10:15, Tucson, AZ: Upper 60s, partly cloudy
Posted on: October 22, 2010 5:49 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.
BreakfastMain Course - Northwestern vs. #8 Michigan State - Noon - ESPN
Michigan State leads the way for breakfast for the second straight week, which is what happens when you're the only undefeated team left in the Big Ten. Be forewarned, though, just because this matchup doesn't seem all that appealing, it...ok, it isn't really. It's just that the morning slate is light again because that's just the way things work in this television dominated world.
Still, the Spartans shouldn't take Northwestern all that lightly. First of all, no road game is easy, even if it's being played in a stadium with 35 people in it. Yes, Northwestern inexplicably dropped a game to Purdue last week, but that's Northwestern's style. It has a tendency to play to its opponents. So there's a chance that the Wildcats could hand MSU it's first "Sparty, no!" of the season.
Side Orders: Ohio State hosts Purdue, and this game may be interesting for a few reasons. First of all, it's our first chance to see how the Buckeyes will respond following a loss, and they'll also be looking for revenge for last season's loss in West Lafayette. Speaking of revenge, I'm sure Notre Dame wouldn't mind beating Navy and starting a new trend there as well. Or you can just watch Texas, West Virginia and Virginia Tech romp over some conference foes.
LunchMain Course - #5 Auburn vs. #6 LSU - 3:30pm - CBS
Two undefeated Tigers roll into Jordan-Hare on Saturday, and only one will emerge. Who is it going to be? Well, there are going to be two different games being played in this one. There's the game between each team's strength -- Auburn's offense and LSU's defense -- and their weakness -- Auburn's defense and LSU's offense.
Odds are that whichever team's weakness best resembles a strength is going to emerge victorious, and have a much easier path to the SEC title and possibly a BCS game. If you're wondering which way I'm leaning, well, I'll just say that one team has Cam Newton at quarterback and the other has some indecipherable combination of Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee.
Also, I'll be doing a live-chat during this game over at our Facebook page, so stop on by and make fun of Les Miles for four hours with me, won't you?
Side Orders: The afternoon is packed with some big games this week. If for some reason two undefeated teams battling it out isn't good enough for you, you can always go with Iowa and Wisconsin or the also undefeated Oklahoma State taking on previously undefeated Nebraska.
Main Course - #18 Missouri vs. #3 Oklahoma - 8pm - ABC
Personally, I've been waiting to dig in to this one for a while. I've seen Missouri play a few times this season, and as I've said here before, I'm just not sure what to make of them. The Tigers are a good team, but are they really 11th in the BCS good? Is that what a couple of victories over some 3-3 BCS teams and nobody else gets you these days?
Whatever the case, we'll find out on Saturday night. If the Tigers can knock off the team that sits atop the current BCS standings, then I guess we have to take them seriously.
Though, I feel I should point this out as well, just so Missouri fans can hate me a little less, I think Oklahoma is a bit overrated as well. Still, I think the Sooners will prove to be better on Saturday night.
Side Orders: Bit of an light night on the menu this week. There really aren't any other marquee matchups being played on Saturday night. Kentucky and Georgia could be interesting seeing as how both teams are still alive in the SEC East, but other than that the only game that even catches my eye is TCU and Air Force. Though, if you hate yourself, you could always tune in to Texas A&M and Kansas.
Late Night SnackThe Washington Huskies have found a home as a late-night snack here. I've featured them here twice in the last few weeks, and they're undefeated in those games. Can they run the streak to three on the road against an Arizona team that is without Nick Foles?
Tags: Air Force, Arizona, Auburn, Cam Newton, Georgia, Iowa, Jarrett Lee, Jordan Jefferson, Kansas, Kentucky, LSU, Michigan State, Missouri, Navy, Nebraska, Nick Foles, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Purdue, Saturday Meal Plan, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin
Posted on: October 18, 2010 8:10 pm
Edited on: October 18, 2010 9:12 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
The Midseason Report separates the contenders from the pretenders in each conference race. The Big East has been openly criticized for their weakness in the 2010 season, but they still hold on to a BCS Bowl berth. Someone has to win it, ranked or not. West Virginia has carried the banner for the conference thus far, but with a backlogged conference schedule, there is a lot of football left.
West Virginia (1-0)(5-1) - The race for the Big East is pretty much the Mountaineers' to lose at this point. They appear to be a far superior team to their conference counterparts on both sides of the ball. While there is some concern for running back Noel Devine's health and recent decline in production, quarterback Geno Smith has emerged as the center of the West Virginia offense. Smith has thrown for 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions, and has done a good job spreading the receptions around the field, keeping the defense from stacking the box against Devine. Head coach Bill Stewart said that Devine is "close to 100 percent" finally after injuring his foot against LSU. Devine has not missed much time, but has been noticeably limited on the field. The defense has also been a pleasant surprise for West Virginia fans in 2010. Allowing only 12.3 points per game, the Mountaineers are rank 3rd in the nation in scoring defense. Their greatest challenge left on the schedule is a late season matchup at Pittsburgh November 26. But even that game looks very winnable at this point.
Rutgers (1-0)(4-2) - The most significant event of the Scarlet Knights' season unfortunately is also one of the saddest. Defensive tackle Eric LeGrand still is in the hospital, paralyzed after making a special teams tackle in the 23-20 overtime win against Army. But if you are looking for good things to take from the game, the most impressive was the performance of quarterback Chas Dodd. Dodd appears to have the starting job locked up for now, after throwing for 251 yards and two touchdowns to help Rutgers rally back from a 17-3 third quarter deficit. Unfortunately, the Scarlet Knights have one of the most difficult remaining schedules in the conference. Road trips to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and West Virginia make a daunting order for Greg Schiano's squad.
Cincinnati (1-0)(3-3) - The Bearcats have shown flashes of greatness in 2010, they have just failed to carry it for an entire game. However with a schedule full of conference foes, the slate might as well be clean for Cincinnati. Quarterback Zach Collaros continues to sling the ball all over the field, with four straight games of at least 200 yards and three touchdowns. His most recent five touchdown outing helped the Bearcats lock up that first road conference victory. They still will have to face the other three teams on this list of contenders, but only have to leave home to travel to Morgantown. Their failure to put a complete game does not give me confidence they will take the conference, but it does not make the feat impossible.
Pittsburgh (1-0)(3-3) - Pittsburgh's season has been painfully inconsistent. Not only have they failed to string together back-to-back wins, but their "Jekyll and Hyde" routine has kept them from climbing back into the national scene. Ever since the season opening loss at Utah it has been a season of head scratching for Panther fans. The good news is there are six conference games left on the schedule, and regardless of overall record they are currently tied for first. Additionally, they also picked up their victory on the road, leaving only one significant test away from home: a season finale showdown with Cincinnati. Both teams will be fighting for postseason postion (or maybe eligibility) and should the Panthers string some wins together and upset the Mountaineers, could have conference title implications. Having said that, I'm not holding my breath on the Panthers running the table.
Posted on: October 16, 2010 10:04 pm
Edited on: October 16, 2010 10:08 pm
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.