Posted on: January 18, 2011 4:56 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
1. Don't let the conference's 4-2 record fool you - While some might have boasted that the Big East's bowl record made up for a season of mediocrity, a closer look at the games on the slate do not impress quite as much. Pittsburgh and South Florida's wins were over teams that finished 6-7, and Syracuse's controversial win over Kansas State in the Pinstripe Bowl is far less dramatic when you realize the Wildcats only won three conference games all season. Having said that, the bowls try to make each matchup as even as possible. It would not be completely misguided to give the Big East teams credit for representing their conference well, just don't let it fool you into misjudging the caliber of performance from the league as a whole in 2010.
2. Pittsburgh impressed with focus despite distractions - Of all the teams that dealt with transition amidst the postseason, Pittsburgh entered their bowl game with the least stable situation. Interim coach Phil Bennett took over as the Panthers were forced to dismiss new coach Mike Haywood almost immediately after the former Miami (Ohio) coach was arrested for a domestic dispute off the field. Bennett did a good job of keeping the Panthers focused on Kentucky rather than the off-field speculation surrounding the vacant coaching position. Many of the Panthers players felt that Dave Wannstedt was forced out prematurely, and Pittsburgh dedicated 27-10 victory to their former coach. Instead it was Kentucky, dealing with off-field arrests themselves, who appeared distracted and uninterested in the awkwardly timed BBVA Compass Bowl on the Saturday before the BCS Championship Game.
3. Connecticut's storybook season had a sour ending - This was supposed to be a memorable season for Connecticut. After less than a decade of being in the FBS, and only having been in the conference since 2004, the Huskies found themselves sharing a piece of the Big East Championship and earning a BCS Bowl bowl bid to face Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. Hardly anyone actually expected Connecticut to pull off the upset, but the fashion in which the Huskies lost and the events that followed may have tarnished a legendary season for the program. Oklahoma's defense did not shut down Connecticut completely, as they were able to rack up 335 total yards of total offense. But the Huskies inability to get an offensive touchdown, along with a pair of Zach Frazer interceptions and a non-existent defense made the Fiesta Bowl loss more frustrating than uplifting.
To make matters worse, head coach Randy Edsall took a different chartered plane back from Arizona than the rest of the team. The reason was so Edsall could finalize the details on his new gig as head coach of the Maryland Terrapins, a job he accepted the next day after the Oklahoma loss. Edsall mentioned nothing of the move to the players after the game, and only addressed them through a conference call after the announcement. Now the Huskies will try to build on last season's success with veteran coach Paul Pasqualoni, hoping to make sure that last season was not a fluke.
4. Changing of the guard amongst the Big East coaching ranks - Of the four teams that picked up wins in the 2010 bowl season, three of them were led by first or second-year coaches. Big East football fans can be hopeful for the future if it continues to see success under the leadership of coaches like Syracuse's Doug Marrone, South Florida's Skip Holtz, and Louisville's Charlie Strong. All three coaches inherited teams going through disappointing and/or controversial seasons, and all three coaches guided their 2010 squads to postseason victories. The turnover has continued throughout the conference, with Todd Graham hopping on board at Pittsburgh, Pasqualoni at Connecticut, and Dana Holgorsen waiting in the wings at West Virginia. When TCU arrives in the July 2012, the transition into the next era of Big East football will be complete. The struggle will be to continuing to battle a damaged reputation that hasn't been the same since Miami and Virginia Tech left the conference in 2004.
Tags: Big East, Big East Football, Charlie Strong, Connecticut, Dana Holgorsen, Dave Wannstedt, Doug Marrone, Fiesta Bowl, Kansas State, Louisville, Oklahoma, Paul Pasqualoni, Phil Bennett, Pittsburgh, Randy Edsall, Skip Holtz, South Florida, Syracuse, Todd Graham, What I Learned, What I Learned Bowl Edition
Posted on: January 18, 2011 3:34 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
"Headset Reset" is the College Football Blog's series reviewing the 22 new head coaches in the FBS and what they'll need to accomplish in their new jobs to succeed. In this edition: the four new head coaches in the Big East and Mountain West
TODD GRAHAM, Pitt
Why him? Because Mike Haywood got arrested two weeks after he was hired. Also because Graham put together some successful offenses at Tulsa. For 2011, Graham needs to: build a strong offense without the services of Pitt's two best offensive players Jonathan Baldwin and Dion Lewis. Luckily for Graham, Dave Wannstedt recruited good players to Pitt, but Graham will have to mold them to his offense. By 2014, Graham will need to have: won a Big East title and taken the Panthers to a BCS bowl. Dave Wannstedt won more games than he lost at Pitt, but it was the lack of a conference championship in a weak conference that ultimately led to his dismissal. Chances Graham gets what he needs? I'd say they're pretty good. Weak conference or not, Pitt is still in a BCS conference and has the resources to win in college football. Of course, by the time Graham has his stamp on the program, TCU will be a Big East member, so it won't be easy.
DANA HOLGORSEN, West Virginia
Why him? Have you seen West Virginia's offenses under Bill Stewart the last few seasons? Nothing like a Mike Leach disciple who helped put together one of the best offenses in the country at Oklahoma State to infuse life into a dormant scoreboard. For 2011, Holgorsen needs to: bid his time, let Stewart finish his final season, and start getting his offense ready for his ascension in 2012. By 2014, Holgorsen will need to have: won a Big East title and improve the Mountaineers offense enough so that it once again resembles the teams Rich Rodriguez put together. He'll also need to find a quarterback better suited for his system than Geno Smith. Chances Holgorsen gets what he needs? They're very good. Even with the program's struggles under Stewart, they still competed for the Big East title.
PAUL PASQUALONI, UConn
Why him? Well, it came as a bit of a surprise. Pasqualoni hasn't been a head coach or coached on the college level since 2004, spending the time in between in the NFL. Still, the last time he was a head coach he was a rather successful one at Syracuse in the Big East. So he knows what it takes to win in this conference. For 2011, Pasqualoni needs to: silence the doubters. We know that Pasqualoni can coach, but will the lay off and his age (he'll be 62 when UConn kicks off its season) prove to be too much for him? By 2014, Pasqualoni will need to have: maintained what Randy Edsall started at UConn. I'm not sure he'll have to win a Big East title to keep his job, but at the least he'll have to continue to build the program for his eventual successor. Chances Pasqualoni gets what he needs? Not great, but not terrible. UConn has always been a basketball school first and foremost, but who knows how a trip to the Fiesta Bowl will affect the schools interest in building a winning football team?
ROCKY LONG, San Diego State
Why him? Because Brady Hoke left, and had built something at SDSU that Long was a part of. The school didn't want to risk losing any momentum by starting a coaching search. Plus, Long has head coaching experience from his time at New Mexico. For 2011, Long needs to: continue the rise that Hoke started. Since Marshall Faulk left for the NFL, the Aztecs weren't exactly a football powerhouse before Hoke came along. The good news is that Long inherits some talent in Ronnie Hillman and Ryan Lindley. By 2014, Long will need to have: kept San Diego State competing in the Mountain West. With Utah, BYU and TCU leaving, the conference becomes a lot easier to win. Chances Long gets what he needs? Not great. San Diego State just doesn't have the established history to make me think they'll do whatever it takes to help Long build this team into a powerhouse. What Long will have working for him, however, is the fertile recruiting base of southern California.
Tags: Big East, Bill Stewart, Brady Hoke, BYU, Dana Holgorsen, Dave Wannstedt, Dion Lewis, Geno Smith, Headset Reset, Jonathan Baldwin, Marshall Faulk, Mike Haywood, Mike Leach, Mountain West, New Mexico, Oklahoma State, Paul Pasqualoni, Pitt, Randy Edsall, Rich Rodriguez, Rocky Long, Ronnie Hillman, Ryan Lindley, San Diego State, Syracuse, TCU, Todd Graham, Tulsa, UConn, Utah, West Virginia
Posted on: January 13, 2011 6:33 pm
Edited on: January 13, 2011 10:51 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Earlier, we reported that there were strong indications that Connecticut was looking to hire ex-Miami offensive coordinator Mark Whipple as its new head coach. And while Whipple did end up being one of the finalists for the job vacated by Randy Edsall two weeks ago, the Boston Globe reported today that UConn has hired former Syracuse head coach Paul Pasqualoni instead.
Pasqualoni, 61, compiled a 107-59-1 record at Syracuse from 1991 to his firing in 2004, and while those numbers are fine -- winning 100 games at the I-A level is no trivial feat -- TNIAAM rightly notes that the program diminished in quality under him; two of Pasqualoni's 10-win seasons came in his first two seasons with the team, and his only three non-winning seasons were his last three. Since his firing, Pasqualoni has been an assistant in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys , then the Miami Dolphins , then the Cowboys again (briefly) this season.
What this means for Whipple is unclear, other than that he won't be on the sidelines at Connecticut this season; he was not retained by new Miami coach Al Golden after Randy Shannon was fired, so it's not as if Whipple's still got a job to come home to. Whipple was a successful head coach at Massachusetts and other smaller programs, and he has assistant experience both at Miami and in the NFL. His skill set is still impressive, and at 53, he's got plenty of miles left on him. It's just up to him to convince a new team that his Hurricanes' offensive struggles were aberrations and not indications of larger strategic shortcomings in Whipple's game-planning.