What to watch in the Big East, Week 1
September, 3, 2009
By Brian Bennett | ESPN.com
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
Here are 10 things to watch for in the Big East during opening weekend:
1. The Rutgers quarterback situation: Greg Schiano has created some intrigue by not naming a starter. Will it be Dom Natale or Tom Savage? How will Jabu Lovelace be used? If Natale, as many suspect, starts then how long before we see Savage? These are all things Cincinnati must be wondering as well.
2. The new-look Cincinnati defense: Though not as inexperienced as most people think, there's no doubt that the Bearcats will look much different on defense than what we saw in the Orange Bowl. How will the 3-4 alignment fare against Rutgers, which may opt to run the ball a lot because of its untested receivers and quarterbacks? Can anyone rush the passer as effectively as Connor Barwin did last season?
3. Cincinnati's offense vs. Rutgers defense: The Scarlet Knights always like to bring plenty of pressure, but they'll do so at their own risk against a potentially explosive passing game led by Tony Pike and Mardy Gilyard. On the flip side, Rutgers knocked several quarterbacks out of games last year, and Pike wasn't the most durable guy in 2008.
4. Greg Paulus tips off: Forgive the basketball verbiage, but everyone is curious to see how the former Duke point guard performs as the starting quarterback for Syracuse against Minnesota. After five years away from the game and with no college experience, Paulus would impress just by looking merely respectable.
5. The new-look Connecticut offense: The hurry-up Huskies debut their no-huddle attack at Ohio. Head coach Randy Edsall says he won't hold anything back from the playbook since the team will be on the road. Offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead should know Ohio's defense well since he used to be Akron's playcaller. Let's see if Zach Frazer and the rest of the UConn offense can put up some points and yardage totals.
6. The Jarrett Brown Era begins: No more Pat White, but no worries so far for West Virginia. That's how much confidence coaches and teammates have in the fifth-year senior, who's been excellent throughout the preseason. He'll take the field as the starter in an opening game for the first time, and he should be able to post big numbers against FCS opponent Liberty.
7. The Bill Stull/Tino Sunseri duet: Stull is the starting quarterback at Pitt, but fans are clamoring to see redshirt freshman Sunseri under center. They'll get their wish at some point during the Youngstown State game. If Stull has a pedestrian -- or worse -- day and Sunseri shines, that might cause a quarterback controversy going forward. Or maybe Stull plays great and quiets his critics for the time being.
8. Pitt's new McCoys: OK, so it's unfair to compare the new Panthers tailbacks to LeSean McCoy. But three freshmen -- Dion Lewis, Ray Graham and Chris Burns -- will get their cracks at replacing the superstar back. Lewis will start and get the bulk of the carries if he plays well. The other two should have their opportunity to show their stuff as well.
9. South Florida's defense vs. the "Wingbone:" The Bulls might have the most difficult team to prepare for this week, as Wofford runs a unique triple-option offense that has given FBS teams fits in the past. South Florida has enough athletes on defense to stay out of trouble, but they'll have to remain disciplined in order to avoid giving Wofford any thoughts about an upset.
10. Justin Burke's debut: This list is quarterback heavy, but that's the state of the Big East right now. Burke, the former NC State transfer, will make his first collegiate start under center for Louisville. He should ample opportunities to make big plays against a truly overmatched Indiana State defense. The one thing Burke needs to do is make good decisions and not turn the ball over, and he'll have an enjoyable Saturday.