- Brian Bennett, College Football
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On Monday's Big East teleconference, every coach was asked about the league's disappointing start and poor nonconference record. Most seemed wary of answering the same old question again. After all, that topic has become so familiar that it might as well be part of each coach's opening statement.
There's no doubt that the Big East has had a brutal opening month (record vs. BCS teams: 1-10), and there's really not much more to be said about it. Even though the league as a whole has underperformed, it's still unwise to paint with a broad brush.
West Virginia, Syracuse, South Florida and Louisville are all about where we thought they'd be right now, for example. Not everybody else is. Here's a look at the most disappointing players or issues of the Big East's insufferable September:
1. Dion Lewis and the Pitt running game: Lewis was the nation's leading returning rusher, coming off a 1,799-yard freshman season. Through three games, Lewis is not even among the Top 10 rushers in the Big East. He has run for just 143 total yards on 47 carries, or only three yards per carry. The Pittsburgh offensive line shares a large part of the blame. But teammate Ray Graham is averaging 9.3 yards per carry on 23 carries, so Lewis isn't doing something right.
2. Tom Savage: We figured the Rutgers offense would need some time to develop, but Savage's sophomore slump is as disheartening as Lewis' performance. Savage was the most experienced returning quarterback in the Big East, at least in terms of games started. But he has completed just 52 percent of his passes, is averaging just 123.3 passing yards per game and has three times as many interceptions as touchdowns. Now he's dealing with injured ribs and admits that his footwork has been terrible.
3. Cincinnati's offensive line: The Bearcats offense played better against Oklahoma, but the line still allowed three sacks. That made 18 for the season, which ranks Cincinnati dead last among 120 FBS teams. Cincinnati allowed only 15 sacks all of last season.
4. Injuries: Reigning co-defensive player of the year Greg Romeus played only game before undergoing back surgery. Cincinnati receiver Vidal Hzelton barely got a half before tearing his ACL. UConn star linebacker Scott Lutrus hasn't played since early in the opener, while defensive end Marcus Campbell missed the season. South Florida and Louisville have been beset by receiver injuries. Expected breakout receiver Tim Wright never played a down for Rutgers. Injuries are a part of the game, but they seem to really have affected the Big East this season.
5. Zach Frazer: UConn had high hopes and felt like senior quarterback Frazer was ready to lead them to a great season. Frazer had a strong spring and offseason by all accounts. But his problems with inaccuracy flared up again in a 1-2 start before he was pulled just before halftime of the Buffalo game. Cody Endres now will step in and try to help salvage the Huskies' season.
6. B.J. Daniels' turnovers: South Florida's quarterback is just a redshirt sophomore adjusting to a new coaching staff. But after playing most of last season, he should have shown better decision making. His four interceptions against Florida were inexcusable, and many came on throws that he should known to not make. He had another interception against Western Kentucky before Skip Holtz basically decided to shut down the passing game. Daniels hasn't had much help from a depleted receiving crew, but he's still forcing things too much.
It's not too late for Big East teams to turn things around. But to make that happen, they'll have to overcome these initial disappointments.