<
>

Who exceeded early expectations and who didn't?

9/29/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

The college football season is a month old. Though there are still a lot of games left to play, we have a much better idea of where teams stand than we did a month ago. So let's take a quick look at how the Big East teams have fared according to general expectations in the first third of the season:

Better than expected

Cincinnati: Brian Kelly said Monday that he understood why there was skepticism about his team, which basically remade its entire defense. Even the most optimistic fan would have had a hard time envisioning just how well the Bearcats have played, or that they'd enter October ranked in the Top 10.

South Florida: We didn't really know how good the Bulls were until Saturday, when they flogged Florida State in Tallahassee. Now it looks like this team could really be something, though of course we've said that before about USF this time of year.

Syracuse: The best-case scenario going into the season probably was that the Orange would win one of its first three against Big Ten opponents. They did that, plus took Minnesota to overtime and stayed competitive at Penn State. Now at .500 going into October for the first time in three years, Syracuse fans can actually dream about a bowl bid.

About as expected, with potential for more

Connecticut: The Huskies are a late fourth-quarter collapse from being 4-0 despite having played two difficult nonconference games against Baylor and North Carolina. Yeah, the passing game still needs work, but the defense and running game are still there. UConn fans probably would have taken a 3-1 September if offered that in the preseason.

West Virginia: Mountaineers fans probably would have been disappointed by the prospect of a 3-1 September this summer. On the flip side, the offense has shown the potential to be one of the most explosive in the nation except for turnovers and penalties. West Virginia is still a major Big East contender.

As expected with the how but not the why

Louisville: The Cardinals have hung tough in two difficult road games at Kentucky and at Utah, but they're still 1-2. Which is the record most everybody thought they'd have at this point.

Pittsburgh: It's not that surprising that Pitt is 3-1, especially given the Panthers' penchant for losing a game they shouldn't have. What's confounding is that the team's biggest preseason question marks -- quarterback play, the running game and kicking -- have not been problems at all.

Worse than expected

Rutgers: Don't be fooled by the 3-1 record, because this team has not looked impressive for much of the season. The Scarlet Knights turned it on in the second half at Maryland on Saturday, but the offense is a long way from being able to help this team contend in the Big East.

What teams have exceeded, met or fell below your expectations so far?