- Brian Bennett, College Football
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Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
Time to stock up on some Big East status reports. OK, my stock is now down for that stupid pun. Anyway, here's this week's stock report, with this week's bonus category of most improved player (hat tip to Adam from Pittsburgh for the suggestion):
1. Scott Long: Plenty of people thought I was crazy for including Long in my preseason Big East Top 30 list and, yeah, I probably ranked him too high. But Long has shown he's one of the league's top playmakers, especially after his 92-yard touchdown pass against Southern Miss.
2. Jarrett Brown: Some people got down on Brown after his turnover spree at Auburn. But since the second half of the Colorado game, he's been nearly flawless, including an efficient 22-of-30, 244-yard, no turnover performance at Syracuse.
3. Pitt's offensive line: They buckled down and paved the way for the comeback against UConn, helping the Panthers run for more than 200 yards against one of the Big East's best run defenses. And they keep protecting Bill Stull well, giving up only four sacks all year.
4. Marcus Easley: The former UConn walk-on earned a scholarship this spring and caught a 79-yard touchdown pass in the Pitt game.
5. Rutgers' defense: The Scarlet Knights have eight interceptions and four defensive scores this season. Now let's see if they can do it against Big East competition.
1. Greg Paulus: Hard to knock the guy too much considering all he's done under difficult circumstances, but Paulus does have six interceptions in his past six quarters. If he doesn't improve, he might lose his starting job like he did at Duke last season.
2. UConn's fourth quarters: The Huskies have been outscored 40-21 in the fourth quarter against FBS foes this year, including blown leads against Pitt and North Carolina. It's fair to at least ask at this point whether the no-huddle offense is contributing to fatigue for a team that's not especially deep.
3. Justin Burke: Through no real apparent fault of his own, Burke has lost the starting quarterback job at Louisville to Adam Froman, who was handpicked out of junior college by head coach Steve Kragthorpe.
4. Pitt's home field advantage: Despite having a 4-1 team, a crucial Big East game and a lovely fall afternoon, the Panthers drew only an announced crowd of 44,893 to Heinz Field. Many of those fans booed the home team during the game and fled in droves once it fell behind 21-6. They missed the big comeback -- and proved that Pitt doesn't have much of a home-field advantage.
5. Jeff Mullen critics: West Virginia fans loved to criticize their offensive coordinator last year and parts of this season. Well, the Mountaineers have scored at least 30 points in each of their first five games for the first time ever. Not even Rich Rodriguez ever accomplished that. Time to give Mullen some credit.
Player of the year race: Offense
1. Tony Pike, QB, Cincinnati: Has completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 1,493 yards and 13 touchdowns with three interceptions.
2. Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia: Has rushed 95 times for 631 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 6.6 yards per carry.
3. Mardy Gilyard, WR, Cincinnati: Has 38 catches for 517 yards and seven touchdowns.
4. Dion Lewis, RB, Pitt: Has rushed 131 times for 738 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 5.6 yards per carry.
5. Mike Williams, WR, Syracuse: Has 45 catches for 712 yards and six touchdowns.
Player of the year race: Defense
1. George Selvie, DE, South Florida: Does he deserve the top spot? We'll find out Thursday night.
2. Greg Romeus, DE, Pitt: Has seven sacks on the season, including one that forced a fumble against UConn.
3. Nate Allen, S, South Florida: Leads the Bulls with 29 tackles and has two interceptions.
4. JK Schaffer, LB, Cincinnati: Has three interceptions and 31 tackles on the year.
5. Lindsey Witten, DE, UConn: Still leads the league with eight sacks but has been quiet of late, including loss at Pitt.
Most improved player of the year
1. Bill Stull, QB, Pitt: After struggling mightily at the end of last season, Stull has picked his game up. He leads the league in pass efficiency and is tied for the Big East lead with 13 touchdown passes.
2. Armon Binns, WR, Cincinnati: The junior had two career catches in 16 games coming into this season, when he has 22 catches for 279 yards and a touchdown.
3. Dorin Dickerson, TE, Pitt: This senior had 14 career receptions before this year, when he has 21 catches for 232 yards and seven touchdowns.
4. Carlton Mitchell, WR, South Florida: He's nearly matched last year's totals already with 22 catches for 377 yards and has tripled his touchdown production to three. He's become the Bulls' long bomb specialist.
5. Derrell Smith, LB, Syracuse: Smith had 73 tackles, seven for loss last year. At middle linebacker this season, he already has collected 55 tackles (6.5 for loss) and 4.5 sacks.