Tag:Pittsburgh
Posted on: September 25, 2011 1:43 am
 

What I learned from the Big East (Sept. 24)

Posted by Chip Patterson

1. Resetting the conference order - Saturday was the last week of non-conference match ups for the Big East, with the conference schedule kicking off on Thursday night with South Florida's visit to Pittsburgh. Every team has played three or four games, and there are things we've learned about these teams that have changed my view of the conference landscape.

In August, my projected order of finish looked like this:

1. West Virginia
2. Pittsburgh
3. South Florida
4. Cincinnati
4. Syracuse
6. Connecticut
7. Louisville
8. Rutgers

After four weeks of non-conference competition, my new re-shuffle looks a little like this:

1. West Virginia
2. South Florida
3. Cincinnati
4. Pittsburgh
5. Rutgers
6. Syracuse
7. Louisville
8. Connecticut

2. West Virginia's team got pushed, and they showed fight. The Mountaineers played LSU much closer than the 47-21 score indicates. Turnovers and impossible field position made it difficult for West Virginia to translate their 533 yards of total offense into the points needed to keep up the Bayou Bengals for four quarters. But West Virginia did not back down from the challenge, showing an impressive amount of resilience after trailing LSU by 20 at halftime. The two unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter took a gritty tenacity from both the offense and defense. Unfortunately that third unit, special teams, was caught off guard with Morris Claiborne's 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. With that special teams play, LSU swung the momentum and the game back in their direction.

But the Mountaineers kept fighting, which is a good sign with conference play staring Oct. 8. The key for Dana Holgorsen's squad will be maintaining this high level of play for the rest of the season. The way the Big East title race has sorted out in recent years, the only way to control your destiny is to avoid two conference losses. At their best, West Virginia should beat four opponents. The final stretch of the Mountaineers' schedule includes Cincinnati, the Backyard Brawl against Pittsburgh, and a Thursday night showdown with South Florida on Dec. 1. It is very possible that matchup with the Bulls could be an unofficial Big East title game. But they must maintain their high level of play in order to get there.

3. Pittsburgh has not lived up to their expectations on either side of the ball. Todd Graham's arrival in Pittsburgh was supposedly going to issue in a new ear of offense that would be defined by high tempo, high scores, and lots of excitement for Panther fans. There was absolutely none of those things present at Heinz Field on Saturday in Notre Dame's 15-12 defeat of Pittsburgh. For the second week in a row, Pittsburgh failed to close out an opponent despite being handed several opportunities in the form of turnovers and poorly executed possessions by their opponents. It seemed like Notre Dame was begging Pittsburgh to put them back into their misery, and the Panthers did not display the offensive firepower or defensive intensity to create the points or stops necessary for a single field goal or touchdown in the fourth quarter. The frustrating finish comes just a week after blowing a 17-point fourth quarter lead to Iowa. Maybe I'm in the wrong gear, but nothing about Pittsburgh's team seems high-octane right now.

4. Butch Jones appears to have things turned around. During fall camp, the Cincinnati players made several comments about there being a different feeling around the program in Butch Jones' second year at the helm. Normally, phrases like "buying in" throw up huge red-flags for coach-speak and I try to take them with a grain of salt. Cincinnati's defense was criticized as the weak link holding the team back in 2010, and this year the entire unit is back and leading the nation in forced turnovers. The offense hasn't skipped a beat, ranking first in the Big East in points scored with 49.5 points per game. The Bearcats defense still got shredded by Tyler Bray and Tennessee, but it is clear there is a different feeling and focus around the program. In August the players claimed they were buying in to second-year coach Butch Jones. By the end of September I'm buying their story.

5. Syracuse got some help from the stripes on Saturday. Toledo just can't catch any breaks. Two weeks after falling 27-22 against Ohio State, the Rockets took Syracuse to overtime in the Carrier Dome only to lose 33-30.

But the game should have never gone to overtime.

Video evidence shows that Orange kicker Ross Krautman actually MISSED the extra point that tied the game at 30 and caused overtime. The kick was ruled good on the field, and there was not substantial video evidence in the official's review to overturn the call. Some enhanced views of the kick reveal the hooking kick passing in front of left upright, therefore leaving no possibility of it sailing through. The mistake was noticeable enough for the league office to issue a statement on the ruling, and Syracuse should feel damn lucky for getting a much-needed win before conference play begins.

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Posted on: September 22, 2011 12:06 pm
Edited on: September 22, 2011 12:07 pm
 

Report: Schools want Syracuse & Pitt gone soon

Posted by Chip Patterson

In the most recent episode of the Emmy Award-winning drama Conference Realignment, the Big East leadership emerged from a three-hour meeting in New York City with plans to "aggressively" pursue replacements for Syracuse and Pittsburgh.

The message from the conference has been a plan to hold the two departing schools to the 27-month withdrawal period required in the conference by-laws. However, according to a Sporting News report some of the Big East's current members would like to see the two programs leave "as soon as possible."

Part of Marinatto's "aggressive" plans for replacement reportedly includes extending football-only invitations to Navy and Air Force. The conference's membership still includes their seven non-football schools, and adding the service academies to the gridiron slate would be an easy transition. Other suggested moves for expansion include looking towards Conference USA, where schools like UCF, Houston, and ECU have expressed interest in joining the Big East.

A big piece of Tuesday's meeting was also getting TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte on board with the future of the conference. TCU is scheduled to move to the Big East in 2012, but the threat of violent realignment in the college football landscape had the school's leadership nervous about the future of the conference. For the Big East to remain attractive to the BCS, a perennial contender like TCU will be a necessary component.

But regardless of when Syracuse and Pittsburgh leave, it does seem as though the realignment shift has begun to slow - at least for the moment. The Pac-12 expressed no interest in expanding at this time, and it does not appear that the Big Ten has any desire to either. With Texas and Oklahoma recommitting themselves to the Big 12 under new leadership, it is likely that Missouri will not be making any moves to the East anytime soon.

Click here for all the latest updates on Conference Realignment.

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Posted on: September 22, 2011 10:50 am
Edited on: September 22, 2011 1:27 pm
 

CBSSports.com Future Football Power Rankings

Posted by Chip Patterson

In our CBSSports.com realignment crystal ball, Brett McMurphy and the rest of the Eye on College Football team broke down each conference landscape and the division of power after the current wave of realignment settles and the college football ship sails forward. But what about the entire college football landscape? How do the six major conferences stack up against each other when it comes time for the BCS contracts to renew in 2014?

By our best guess, no conferences will implode we will still have six major conferences. There has been some expanding, replacing, and in the case of the Big East even further separation between football and basketball. As a reminder, here are our projections for further conference realignment once this current wave of transition is complete.

Big Ten - remains at 12 teams
Pac-12 - remains at 12 teams
SEC - Adds Texas A&M and Virginia Tech
Big 12 - Adds BYU to replace Texas A&M
ACC - Adds Connecticut, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh. Loses Virginia Tech to the SEC
Big East - loses Connecticut, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh. Adds TCU, Houston, UCF, Villanova, Navy, and Air Force as football schools.

Based on these projected movements, here are the CBSSports.com Realigned Football Conference Power Rankings

1. SEC - Based on our projections, the rich get richer. The almighty SEC, holder of the last five national championships, adds the passion and history of Texas A&M along with a Hokies program that has won four ACC titles in the last seven years. Since joining the ACC Virginia Tech has been the most dominant team in the conference, and adding Frank Beamer's squad along with the Aggies is nothing but an upgrade to an already dominant conference.

2. Big Ten - The reason Jim Delany is comfortable with his current membership roster is because he doesn't need any more members to survive. The most important pieces in the makeup of the Big Ten are some of the most storied programs in history, and he only increased that status with the addition of Nebraska. The Big Ten Network pioneered conference-wide television rights, and this conference is till among the best in the nation even after sitting out this last round of realignment.

3. Pac-12 - Larry Scott opts to stay at 12 in this wave of realignment because there is no reason to expand. The possible additions of Texas, Oklahoma, and their in-state counterparts was beginning to look like more of a headache than the conference wanted to deal with at this point. The Pac-12 has annually fielded at least one national title contender, including a top three AP finish in three of the last four seasons. But while the Big 12 can also claim title contenders, the Pac-12 offers depth where the Big 12 does not. Briskly brushing over Washington State, schools like UCLA, Cal, and Arizona State all have the potential to field a competitive team on a yearly basis. The same cannot be said for the likes of Iowa State and Kansas.

4. Big 12 - After being days away from possible implosion, this conference likely survived because Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said "no." With Oklahoma getting the reform they wanted from the conference, and Texas getting to keep the Longhorn Network, all the conference needed to do was replace Texas A&M. BYU doesn't bring enough to the table football-wise to boost their stock over the Pac-12, but tossing the Cougars into the mix isn't too much of a downgrade either. Bronco Mendenhall has delivered six bowl appearances and five Top 25 finishes since taking over as head coach in 2005, and the upgrade from independence will only boost exposure and recruiting.

5. ACC - From a football perspective, this wave of realignment will only add to the national criticism of mediocrity in the ACC. Pittsburgh, Connecticut, and Syracuse have only three COMBINED Top 25 finishes in the last decade - all three are Pittsburgh, and none of them is higher than 15. Additionally, losing Virginia Tech to the SEC strips some of their recruiting presence in the Hampton Roads/Virginia Beach area and erases their greatest recent benefactor in the BCS formula. These additions secured the conference's future, but did not boost their overall status among the other BCS conferences.



6. Big East - The addition several non-AQ schools will boost the excitement and intrigue for Big East football. Do not confuse this excitement and intrigue for an upgrade in performance, where you can likely expect a similar situation to the state of the conference since the last ACC raid. TCU and West Virginia will carry the banner for the conference nationally, while come combination of USF, UCF, Louisville and Navy will beat each other up to the result of the occasional national ranking and numerous 8-win seasons. The Big East's current membership boasts their "competitiveness," but after this realignment it will be TCU, West Virginia, and everyone else clawing to 7 wins for bowl eligibility.
Posted on: September 19, 2011 5:38 pm
 

Big East poll reactions, Week 3

Posted by Chip Patterson

The new polls were released on Sunday, and the Big East saw their two nationally ranked representatives make a step up after convincing wins. West Virginia had a convincing win by defeating a competitive opponent away from home. South Florida impressed voters with a casual 745 yards of total offense in a 70-17 win.

West Virginia (AP: 16/Coaches: 16) - The Mountaineers have continued to be incredibly efficient on offense, but it was the defense's ability to come up with stops and turnovers early that impressed on Saturday. Maryland was able to climb back into the game with a bruising rushing attack, but all things considered it was an impressive non-conference victory for head coach Dana Holgorsen. The Mountaineers face their toughest challenge of the season on Saturday, welcoming the No. 2 LSU Tigers to Morgantown in primetime. If the Mountaineers can produce some offense on the rigid Tigers' D, they could give themselves a chance for the upset.

South Florida (AP: 18/Coaches: 17) - After three weeks of observation, the Bulls are finally starting to prove that their opening week upset of Notre Dame was no fluke. USF once again mightily handled their MEAC opponents, as quarterback BJ Daniels broke his own career-high numbers that were set just a week before. South Florida currently has no ranked opponents on their schedule before the season finale against No. 16 West Virginia on Dec. 1., so it will be difficult to make big jumps in the polls. Under the direction of head coach Skip Holtz, I don't expect the Bulls to get distracted by rankings anytime soon.

Other Receiving Votes - None. Pittsburgh blew a fourth quarter lead to Iowa, Syracuse lost by three touchdowns to USC, and Cincinnati blasted an inferior Akron squad. For right now, the Mountaineers and Bulls are representing the entire conference by themselves in the eyes of the national fan. Could be worse, there have been times it is ONLY West Virginia's banner to carry.

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Posted on: September 18, 2011 2:13 pm
Edited on: September 18, 2011 2:27 pm
 

Big East and ACC schools react to expansion

Posted by Chip Patterson

Pittsburgh and Syracuse have been accepted to the ACC.  It's been signed, sealed, and the process of Big East withdrawl will be the next challenge for the 13th and 14th schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference.  The move caught the Big East offguard, and provided a more certain future for the ACC's current schools.

The uncertain future of the Big East can be identified in the responses from other Big East member schools. Take, for example, this statement released by University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst.
"UConn is pour charter member of the BIG EAST and we have taken a lead role in the league's success over the years. However, it is my responsibility as President that we stay in constant communication and be actively involved in discussions with our counterparts from around the country to ensure the successful long-term future of our university's athletic program. The truth is that our teams will play competitive athletics at the highest level of excellence, wherever things land, and our central goals will be academic success and compliance, as always."
Those phrases about "constant communication" and "wherever things land" make it seem as though Connecticut is ready to flirt, if they have not already started to do so. USA Today cited an ACC official in reporting that the conference would be open to adding two more East Coast teams - and said Connecticut and Rutgers would be the candidates.

What about the reaction from the the current ACC members? Obviously the addition of the Panthers and Orange are a huge boost to an already prominent basketball reputation, but the greatest impact for each of the current member schools will not be associated with one particular sport. The ACC's current media deal with ESPN allows renegotiation in the event the ACC added members to the 12-team roster. The advantages of Pittsburgh and Syracuse have already been hinted at by many, particularly Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson.

"From a regional standpoint, adding these two high-quality schools will enhance the marketing footbpring of the league," Anderson said in a prepared statement. "Both Pittsburgh and New York City will offer the conference new opportunities to attract fans in all our sports. We look forward to discussions about the future of the league and would encourage future expansion."

Anderson hit the nail on the head for the ACC's current members: marketing. The conference will now get to expand their brand into two major markets that where there was previously no ACC presence. Increasing the marketing opportunities will raise the value of the product - and thus raise the pay day each school could expect from a renegotiated media deal. Anderson not only gave his approval for the addition of the two new markets, but has even given his thumbs up on the move to 16.

In a teleconference with the media on Sunday, ACC commissioner said they would not be "philosophically opposed" to further expansion, but stressed his content with the current 14-team lineup. Judging by the reports, it seems the conference will sit back and see who moves next. Conference realignment has become a board game, with players strategizing and analyzing each possible move. The ACC has used their turn, and now will likely see how the Big East and Big 12 schools react in the next few weeks.

Texas and Oklahoma will likely step up next, and the college football landscape will wait - and react - to whatever move they choose to make.

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Posted on: September 18, 2011 5:32 am
Edited on: September 18, 2011 5:56 am
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Sep. 17)



Posted by Adam Jacobi

1. It's Wisconsin, then everybody else. In a week where Ohio State and Michigan State both flunked their first major tests and Nebraska looked increasingly like a three-loss team in the making, Wisconsin blew out yet another opponent, this time working NIU 49-7. And yes, Northern Illinois is a MAC team, but a good one at that, and one that was expected by Vegas to keep the game within three scores. That went out the window by halftime, and the Huskies never looked capable of challenging Wisconsin. Russell Wilson (pictured above, striking a perhaps prophetic figure) looked fantastic once again, and now it's down to him and Denard Robinson in early consideration for first team All-Big Ten at QB.

As for things that aren't perfect about Wisconsin, it's a pretty short list. Russell Wilson did finally threw an interception, so he's clearly mortal, but even that's bad news for the Big Ten -- if he's mortal, then the rest of the Big Ten can't play its games against Wisconsin under protest (because immortal QBs have to be illegal, right?). We'll know way more once Nebraska comes to Madison on October 1, but until then, this is a one-team race.

2. It's Ohio State's turn to have no quarterbacks: Last week, Penn State's duo of Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin combined for a horrific 12-39, 144-yard passing tally in a 27-11 loss to Alabama. McGloin in particular submitted a near-impossible 1-10, 0-yard performance. But hey, at least it was against Alabama; facing Temple on Saturday, PSU went a much more reasonable 22-37 through the air for 216 yards (and confoundingly, McGloin looked far better than Bolden). Not great, but not awful.

No, awful had somewhere else to be, and this week, that was "under center for Ohio State." Ohio State lost to Miami under the lights at Sun Life Stadium, 24-6, and it looked capital-B Bad in the process. Facing Miami's secondary, which certainly isn't as good as Alabama's, QBs Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller combined for the following line, which contains no typos: 4-18, 35 yards, 1 INT. Passer rating: 27.4. HELPFUL POINT OF COMPARISON: Penn State's passer rating vs. Alabama was 56.7. Yes, for as awful as Penn State look against the Crimson Tide defense, Ohio State was way, way worse on Saturday.

Needless to say, the OSU tailbacks weren't thrilled at the result. "I felt like me and Jordan were doing a great job in the run game, so I felt we should have just come out and ran at them," OSU tailback Carlos Hyde said after the game. "We should have manned up and ran straight at them, see if they could stop us. I think it would have worked. I mean, to me, I don't think they were stopping us on the run, so I feel like it probably would have worked."

Just as with Penn State last week, there will be better days for both OSU QBs over the rest of the season. There just has to be. Otherwise, we'll have two stadiums on the east side of the Big Ten, filled with 100,000+ fans who'll have nothing to say. And for once, neither will be the Big House. I KID, I KID, Michigan. You're a peach.

3. The Big Ten is almost certainly not expanding east: If one continues to subscribe to the theory that the Big Ten will join the ranks of the 16-team superconferences, one would have thought recently that its expansion would be largely eastward, with both the Big East and ACC seemingly vulnerable. Slight problem for that plan, though: the ACC is getting proactive in a hurry, and now the main suspects for Big Ten expansion to the northeast are all off the table. Syracuse and Pitt are in the ACC, and if the USA Today report is correct, UConn and Rutgers are next for the ACC. That basically dooms Big East football, and of the five football-participating conference members left (TCU, South Florida, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Louisville), none look like strong candidates for Big Ten membership and all that entails, to say nothing of their limited geographical desirability.

Moreover, even the potential big-ticket schools out there have severe challenges for fitting in the Big Ten. Texas and Notre Dame have their own lucrative television deals already, and thus probably zero interest in equal revenue sharing in the Big Ten Network's plan. The remaining Big 12 North teams are more likely to join the rest of the Big East's football programs en masse than to split entirely off of their traditional base of rivals and go it alone in a new conference. And after all that, there just aren't a lot of schools that would bring more value to the Big Ten than they'd command in an equal revenue sharing program -- at which point it makes no sense to expand at all.

So when Jim Delany says the Big Ten's "as comfortable as we could be" staying at 12 teams... he probably means it.

4. Even Michigan State can disappear on offense: I mentioned in the Big Ten Bullet Points that MSU had to put up large amounts of points to hang with Notre Dame, because the Irish were going to get theirs pretty much no matter what. Notre Dame held up its end of the bargain, racking up 31 points in a variety of ways. MSU? Not so much. The Spartans managed 13 points of their own, and that's almost entirely due to Notre Dame's rushing defense coming up big. The vaunted Spartan rushing attack managed just 29 yards on 23 carries, and MSU effectively abandoned the run in the second half after Notre Dame established a double-digit lead.

That's a shocking result for a backfield that was universally regarded as the second-best in the Big Ten, and the only one even close to matching the potency of Wisconsin's ground game. MSU's got plenty more tough road dates coming its way once conference play starts, and plenty more stout front sevens to face. If this is the way Michigan State responds to tough defenses, it's going to be a long year in East Lansing. 

5. James Vandenberg and Iowa are not dead (yet): When Pittsburgh took a 24-3 lead at Iowa late in the third quarter, Hawkeye fans began panicking; this was the worst deficit the Hawkeyes had faced in four years, and a larger deficit than Iowa had ever overcome for a win. Ever. Quarterback James Vandenberg looked out of sorts for most of the first three quarters, and announcers were wondering for the second straight week if he just couldn't overcome a shaky set of nerves. All of this on top of a three-overtime loss to rival Iowa State the week prior made the outlook dim and grim for Iowa.

All of a sudden, Vandenberg and the Iowa offense sprang to life, racing to a 60-yard touchdown drive in 1:55 of play, and when Pittsburgh could only manage a field goal in response after achieving a first and goal at Iowa's 3-yard line, Iowa smelled blood. The Hawkeyes stayed in a hurry-up offense for the rest of the game, and Vandenberg engineered three fast but sustained touchdown drives in the fourth quarter to bring Iowa back for the 31-27 victory. Vandenberg went 14-17 for 153 yards and three TDs in the 4th quarter alone, and none of his last four touchdown drives lasted any longer than 2:11 -- or went for any fewer than 60 yards.

Iowa can't rely on 153-yard, 3-TD quarters from its quarterbacks, ever, so this will almost certainly be a result in isolation from the rest of the season -- especially since there were a lot of recurring problems that Pitt exploited in both Iowa's pass rush and its secondary. But at the very least Iowa's not 1-2 right now, and it's not on the ledge of disaster and/or apathy before the conference season even begins. Whether the Hawkeyes can parlay this comeback into big things down the line remains to be seen, but it was a magical afternoon at Kinnick Stadium either way.

6. Northwestern is not kidding about bringing Dan Persa back slowly: Northwestern put Dan Persa in uniform for its Week 3 matchup against Army, and Persa warmed up with the offense, but when the Wildcats struggled for most of the contest, it was Trevor Siemian why came in to spell Kain Colter, not Persa. Siemian would throw a game-tying pass to Jeremy Ebert, but Army still ended up prevailing in a stunner, 21-14. With a bye week next for Northwestern, Persa should be ready to go for the next game on October 1. If so, that's a merciful end to the Kain Colter era for the time being, and Persa can probably right the Good Ship Northwestern just a tad.

One does have to wonder, though -- shouldn't someone in the football program have notified the athletic department that Persa probably wasn't going to play a snap until October before the department put up Persa For Heisman billboards? The billboards came down after just two weeks; did nobody know he'd still be out today? And here Northwestern was supposed to be the "smart" member of the Big Ten.

Posted on: September 18, 2011 2:45 am
 

What I learned from the Big East (Sept. 17)

Posted by Chip Patterson

1. The Big East lost big time on Saturday, and never saw it coming. Big East commissioner John Marinatto sat down in Byrd Stadium on Saturday to watch West Virginia take on Maryland. When he made the arrangements to attend the game, I bet he didn't know that he would be in an ACC stadium while being informed of reports Pittsburgh and Syracuse are leaving for that very conference. When reached for comment about the reports, Marinatto had none. Based on reports from the stadium, the commissioner never saw it coming.

If true, it is incredibly embarrassing for the league office and not a great sign for the league members. TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte already expressed his concerns regarding the shifts in conference alignment, and the departure of two teams has led to league officials reaching out to current Big 12 members. It's possible that if Oklahoma and Texas leave the Big 12, the remaining members (likely that Oklahoma State would follow OU, possible Texas Tech follows Texas) could fold in with the remaining members of the Big East.

From a conference perspective, league officials needed to decide whether they wanted to play offense or defense in realignment. Texas A&M started the process, but the power move was made on Saturday when the Big East lost two more schools to the ACC - bringing the tally to five schools in a decade. Syracuse was a founding member of the conference, and Pittsburgh had become a perennial contender in football and basketball. The Big East only added TCU as their offensive move, and were completely unprepared for Saturday's news defensively. The conference only has a $5 million exit fee, as opposed to the recently approved $20 million exit fee for the ACC (unanimously voted on last week by the school presidents). The Big East lost two schools, and a lot of leverage in conference realignment. Now John Marinatto must scramble, and make efforts to secure TCU's interest in the conference as well as develop a plan to replace the departed universities. Ironically, the conference went 4-2 on Saturday. Only Pittsburgh and Syracuse picked up losses.

2. Give West Virginia the ball and flip a coin, if it's heads they'll score. The Mountaineers finally got a ground game going in the 37-31 win at Maryland on Saturday, with Andrew Buie, Vernard Roberts, and Shawne Alston combining for 107 yards on 25 attempts. The numbers aren't fantastic, but it is an upgrade from where the rushing attack was heading into College Park. Head coach Dana Holgorsen mentioned that teams were daring West Virginia's offense to run the ball, and if they couldn't make it a threat it would be a weakness moving forward.

Instead of the run setting up the pass, the pass sets up the run in Morgantown. The mere presence of a rushing threat completes an already efficient West Virginia offense. On the season the Mountaineers have scored on 17 of 31 drives uninterrupted by the end of a half. Give West Virginia the ball, there's more than a 50% chance that Geno Smith will methodically march down the field and turn the possession into points on the scoreboard. With West Virginia's secondary causing all kinds of trouble for 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year Danny O'Brien, you have to feel good about the state of West Virginia's offense. Of course, we reach this conclusion one week before the Mountaineers face LSU's defense. I believe they present just a little bit of a different threat than the Terps.

3. USF does not get caught "playing to their competition." - The Bulls' offense scored less than 20 points on five different occasions in 2010. I'm willing to bet it doesn't happen more than twice in 2011, if even that. South Florida refused to play down to their Sun Belt opponents on Saturday, lighting up the scoreboard in the 70-17 victory. The blowout comes on the heels of a 37-7 route of Ball State, where BJ Daniels really started to get the Bulls' offense clicking. Everything was moving in full gear against the Rattlers, with Daniels setting a career-high for the second week in a row tossing for 382 yards and four touchdowns. USF scored on eight of their first ten drives, and also featured the breakout of Colorado transfer Darrell Scott. Scott put up career numbers as well with 146 yards rushing, 84 yards receiving, and four total touchdowns. The Notre Dame win felt like it more of a Irish loss at the time, but the sloppy, rain-delayed victory might have been the spark to kick off a potentially memorable season for the young program.

4. Pittsburgh's defense has to improve second half performance. A huge red flag went up last weekend, when the Panthers allowed a blatantly inferior Maine squad climb back into the game in the fourth quarter. The Black Bears did score their final touchdown with three seconds remaining, resulting in a misleading six-point victory, but the it was concerning nonetheless. The trend of poor second half defense finally caught up with the Panthers against Iowa on Saturday, resulting in a 31-27 loss.

Kevin Harper's 24-yard field goal in the fourth quarter gave Pitt a seemingly safe 27-10 lead. Then this touted 3-4 defense sat back and allowed James Vandenberg to go to work on the secondary. Iowa's offense put up 201 of their 475 yards of total offense in the fourth quarter, sending the Panthers packing with no answers for their poor play. The Panthers will get one more non-conference game to fix these issues before kicking off the Big East schedule against South Florida at home. Unfortunately for the Panthers, next week's opponent is a much-improved Notre Dame squad fresh off a confidence-building victory against Michigan State.

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Posted on: September 18, 2011 1:19 am
Edited on: September 18, 2011 1:26 am
 

What I learned from the ACC (Sept. 17)



Posted by Chip Patterson


1. When it comes to expansion, ACC moves swiftly and silently. While Mike Slive and Larry Scott continue to make headlines with their cryptic quotes about realignment and expansion, ACC commissioner John Swofford once again made the moves necessary to protect the future of the conference. Before Legends, before Leaders, and before the Pac-12 matched their name with their membership; the ACC added Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College from the Big East in order to hold a conference championship game. I knew that September 17 would be a big day for the ACC, but I did not know it would be a day that defined the future of the conference.

Before Big East commissioner John Marinatto could say "clambake," Pittsburgh and Syracuse reportedly submitted formal applications to the ACC for membership. CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy broke the story Saturday morning, and Gary Parrish is reporting the ACC presidents could vote on the expansion as soon as Sunday. "It's done," a source said to Parrish.

The addition of the two schools paired with last week's decision to raise the conference's exit fee to $20 million protects the future of the ACC. If we are indeed headed towards superconferences, Swofford has prepared his league to be one of them. By the time the story broke, the deal was reportedly already done, and there was no need for cryptic quotes or loaded statements. While Texas A&M's move was the first domino to fall, Saturday's developments may have expedited more major moves. Buckle up folks, the shift is happening now.

UPDATE: At 11:37 p.m. (ET), the ACC announced a media teleconference for Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m.. CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy is reporting that the university presidents will meet prior to the teleconference. Stay tuned to CBSSports.com for more details of the conference's announcement, whatever it may be.

2. Florida State displays resilience in loss, but now what? The Seminoles fought with every ounce they could pull together from their beaten and battered roster in a losing effort to the top-ranked Sooners. The options were laid out plainly before the game: win and become a national title contender, lose and fall from the national title discussion entirely. Granted there are plenty of scenarios that could feature the Seminoles in the national title game as a 1-loss or even 2-loss team, but I wouldn't put any money on those outcomes.

The challenge for Jimbo Fisher's team is avoid a hangover from this frustrating loss. Florida State can still set their sights on the ACC Championship and a BCS bowl victory. The Seminoles haven't won an ACC title since 2005 and haven't won a BCS bowl game since defeating Michael Vick and Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl to win the National Championship for the 1999 season. There is plenty of room for growth, and the loss does not mean that the Seminoles "aren't back." The atmosphere in Doak Campbell Stadium was electric on Saturday night, and hopefully a sign of things to come in Tallahassee rather than a one-time occasion.

3. Miami got Jacory Harris back, but the difference was on defense. Jacory Harris may have matured, and changed in many ways off the field. But against Ohio State, Jacory Harris still looked very much like the Jacory we know and love. Great footwork, incredible athleticism, and wildly inconsistent in his reads and decision making. Harris finished the game with 123 yards passing, two touchdowns, and a pair of interceptions to match. The Hurricanes got their boost from their defense, which swarmed all over the field with high energy and held the Buckeyes to just 209 yards of total offense. Senior linebacker Sean Spence led the way in his first game back from suspension as the team's leading tackler while Adwele Ojomo and Marcus Forston provided depth on the defensive line that was lacking in Miami's season opening loss to Maryland.

4. Georgia Tech's offense is for real. Record-setting real. Georgia Tech's frustrating 2010 season included a 28-25 loss to Kansas. If the Yellow Jackets were out for revenge on Saturday, they certainly showed it in their 42-point second half output against the Jayhawks. When the final buzzer sounded 12 different Georgia Tech players had combined for 604 yards rushing in the 66-24 win. The total set a new school record, and the 12.1 yards per carry as a team set a new NCAA record. (NOTE: the official game notes list it as a record, but CBSSports.com's Adam Jacobi points out that Northern Illinois recorded 15.5 last November. Regardless, impressive performance by the Jackets).  Georgia Tech's offense has been steamrolling their opponents, using a stable of home-run threats to deflate their opposition with big plays. Against Kansas, the Yellow Jackets had scoring plays of 95, 63, 67, and 52 yards. Quarterback Tevin Washington has become a wizard in Paul Johnson's option offense, freezing defenders with fakes and reads while his teammates set up the perimeter blocking for the playmakers. High point totals against inferior opposition is normal for early season games, but hanging 66 on Kansas and giving the Jayhawks their first loss of the season made a statement. This offense is a force to be reckoned with.

5. Don't give Clemson WR Sammy Watkins any space. None. At least not if you plan on keeping him from burning your defense. The true freshman wide receiver has drawn the praises of coaches, fans, and teammates since arriving on campus this fall. On Saturday he made his presence known to the nation in the Tigers' 38-24 win over Auburn in Death Valley. Watkins led all receivers with 10 catches for 155 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Both scores came on short/mid-range passes that Watkins reeled in and took to the house. Against a defense that carries the reputation of "SEC speed," Watkins looked supersonic as he left the Auburn secondary in his dust headed towards the end zone. Watkins is an early favorite for Rookie of the Year already, and likely will be giving defensive coordinators headaches for the foreseeable future.

6. Things have gone from bad to worse at Boston College. Heading into the season, all the buzz around Boston College was about an upgraded offense that would feature Preseason Player of the Year Montel Harris rather than rely on the star running back. The defense, ranked among the best in the nation, returned arguably the game's best linebacker in Luke Kuechly and touted sophomore Kevin Pierre-Louis. Kuechly still leads the nation in tackles, but that's about all that has been going write for the Eagles. Offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers has taken a medical leave of absence, Montel Harris is struggling to get back to the field after undergoing his second arthroscopic knee surgery in a year, and leading receiver Ifeanyi Momah might be lost for the season with his own knee injury. But frustrations have spilled over to kicking game as well, with Nate Freese missing an extra point in the second quarter and a 23-yard field goal with 43 seconds remaining in a 20-19 loss to Duke in the ACC opener for both squads. What started as a season of hope for BC (and even some chatter about ACC Atlantic dark horse) has turned into an 0-3 start with Clemson, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Florida State, and Miami left on the schedule.

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