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Big East Friday mailbag

It's Friday, which in the Big East means there has already been one game this week and there's another tonight. This conference loves three-day weekends.

Anyway, I'm making my way toward Syracuse for a Saturday game. Time to answer some mail en route.

Nathan S. from Talcott, W. Va., writes: It seems that West Virginia plays conservatively once they gain a decent lead. I know that West Virginia just has to win the Big East to go to a BCS bowl but why don't they go full throttle and become the Beast of the East? It seems that we would get better recruits if we tried to work our way up in the polls instead of just trying to win the Big East. With LSU now being ranked in the top 10, our loss doesn't look as bad. I just wish that we would try to beat everyone as badly as we can. Stewart is a great guy, but football isn't about making friends or holding back against your enemies.

Brian Bennett: Hate to go all Herm Edwards on you here, but you play to win the game. South Florida's defense was really tough, and West Virginia on Thursday night was happy to get out of there with a 14-point win. At the end of the season, I don't think fans will care much about margin of victory, only the number of victories.

As an aside, can we let the Bill Stewart bashing rest for a bit? The guy is 5-1 and has the best team in the Big East. How about at least a moratorium until he loses another game.


Brian from Tampa writes: I am tired of all the negative comments toward B.J. Daniels from the Tampa Bay area. We have seen what he can do. He's talented and one of the best dual threat QB's in the country. I just wish Skip Holtz would let him loose and not with a leash like he's had him on. My question is if you were coaching a team with BJ Daniels would you let him play his own game or would you want to train him in being a pocket passer? How would you want him playing for your team, Coach Bennett?

Brian Bennett: Well, let's be clear that any team not on PlayStation would certainly go 0-12 with me as coach. Daniels is being asked to make a major adjustment to his game, but I believe that long term, this is the best thing for him. He had success last year, but a lot of times he was running around wildly and hoping to make something happen. That worked spectacularly at times but also flamed out at others (the Pitt and Rutgers losses, for instance). He needs to be able to learn how to read defenses and go through his progressions and work the ball downfield. Once that comes, he can combine it with his running ability.

Right now, though, things are pretty ugly. One thing to remember, too, is that he doesn't have a lot of downfield threats. Losing Carlton Mitchell and A.J. Love really hurt this offense.


Joe from Gillette, N.J., writes: Be interesting to see how the consistent 15-20 mph winds forecasted for the New Meadowlands Stadium on Saturday factor into Rutger's offensive game plan. Army should be loving the projected weather as it may be just the equalizer their pass defense needs -- especially since Rutgers hasn't shown the ability to run the ball with any consistency this year. If Rutgers wins this game, I think it's because they completely shut down the Army running game and win the field position 'battle'. I say RU wins, but in a low scoring affair. Rutgers 13 Army 10.

Brian Bennett: I think this is a sneakily fascinating game. I'm not sure people realize just how improved Army is. Just take a look at the Black Knights' score vs. Tulane on the road. Add in the unique schemes they run on offense and defense, and this is a bigger challenge for Rutgers than you might think.


Doug from Pittsburgh writes: I was talking with some friends who are alums from Syracuse, and we were talking that if Pitt and SU swapped schedules Pitt would most likely be 4-1 and SU would be 2-3. It got me to thinking, from what you have seen from all of the teams, do you think any of the Big East teams would have a better record than 2-3 if they traveled to Utah, and ND, and hosted Miami?

Brian Bennett: Outside of West Virginia, I don't think so. A couple of Big East teams might have been able to beat Notre Dame on the road, but the Utah and Miami games were very difficult. On the flip side, I do think Pitt would be 4-1 with Syracuse's schedule. We now know that South Florida has major issues on offense, and I think Pittsburgh would have beaten them in Tampa as well. But, hey, give credit to the Orange for scheduling smartly. This is a program that's scheduled a little too aggressively in recent years.


Mitch C. from Rochester, N.Y., writes: Fun fact for you: If Doug Marrone lost his next 20 games as Syracuse head coach, he would have a better win percentage than Greg Robinson.

Brian Bennett: Not to pile on Robinson, but Syracuse also benefited from its "trade" with Michigan on defensive coordinators. Scott Shafer has done a great job with the Orange defense, while Robinson is under fire for the way the Wolverines are continually getting shredded.


Andy from Syracuse writes: Regarding your comment "It's homecoming weekend, the basketball team has midnight madness the night before and this is the biggest game the Orange have played since 2004." Just an FYI... not midnight madness for basketball team...NBA exhibition contest (Minn vs Det). Midnight bball stuff is next Friday.

Brian Bennett: My bad. I guess I should just stick to football. Or else I'm overly excited for college basketball.


Ben from Atlanta writes: I find it offensive that you are piling on the bandwagon regarding low attendance at the USF game and mentioning other Tampa teams like the Rays. I feel like you don't understand the dynamics involved, and therefore you shouldn't report things you don't understand. Am I off base? You seem to take every opportunity to push USF's head a little further down into the muck. I dare you to respond in your next mailbag, and I'll consider a non-response as running from the question.

Brian Bennett: I don't mean to offend, Ben, but what dynamics are you talking about? Rays fans were called out by their own players for not showing up to important September games (and Tampa ranked 22nd in MLB attendance despite having the best record in the AL). The Bulls could only draw a little more than 30,000 for their first conference game. Sorry, but real fans show up. I know that's easy for me to say since I don't pay for tickets or parking or concessions. But if you want people to give Big East teams the same respect as those from the SEC, Big Ten and elsewhere, the first step is putting butts in seats.


Jason D. from Elkview, W. Va., writes: Well, Brian, it is going to be a girl. So Bennett probably won't work as a girl's first name. Maybe next time. Anyway, can you explain how some "Pretty Boy" media personnel with AP votes can cast votes for Virginia Tech, despite losing to an FCS school. Yet WVU, which lost by only 6 on the road to a top 10 team didn't receive any votes from that/those same individuals? Both VT's losses have come at the hands of non-BCS schools. And the argument that one was against Boise doesn't fly because people are upset that Boise might get to play for the national title as a non-BCS school. What are they seeing that I am not?

Brian Bennett: Man, there goes my shot at immortality. D'oh! As for the polls, there's no accounting for taste. I happened to be one who voted for Virginia Tech in the Top 25 of ESPN.com's Power Rankings. Yes, the Hokies lost to James Madison, but that came in a short week after a tough loss to Boise State, so I'm not putting a ton of stock into it. I still think Virginia Tech is a really good team, as evidenced by its win at NC State. Of course, I also voted for West Virginia and don't see how anyone can leave the Mountaineers out of their poll at this point.

If voting for Virginia Tech makes me a "pretty boy," so be it. Pretty enough for a girl's name? It's not too late, Jason.