Mailbag: Make your team's case
There's not much to get excited about on this week's Big East slate. I won't be traveling to any of the three games and instead will head to ESPN headquarters for the weekend to do some radio and TV work. If you see me on your TV, don't try to adjust your settings. I'm just that goofy looking.
Speaking of goofy, the Big East race is completely up for grabs. Everyone thinks they can win it, and I'm hearing from a lot of fans saying, "Why not us?" So let's try an experiment. Send me an argument for why your team will win the league this year. Use my mailbag link underneath my picture there on the right hand side of this blog. Keep these things tight, like 100-200 words, because I don't have time to read your 2,000-word opus. If this works, I'll present the best case from each team's fans on the blog later in the week. Oh, and Rutgers and Syracuse fans are welcome to join, but you'd better have some expert debating skills.
On to this week's questions ...
Ken from Wilmington writes: How can you put Pittsburgh ahead of UConn (in your power rankings)? Yes, UConn got hammered on the road by a Top 25 team. But Pitt got beat at home by a middle of the road MAC team.
Brian Bennett: There's not much difference between the top six teams in this league. I have no idea at this point who's best. But I thought Pitt deserved the top spot for beating South Florida on the road and starting off 2-0 in the league. UConn has to drop a spot after losing by 26 points.
Brian from Boston writes: Hi Brian, All right so UConn got the loss that was bound to come out of the way. Better now then during Big East play. UConn looked out of sync and out of character. With that said, I think it's fair to say that UConn is only a middle-of-the-pack road team and at home they are a force to be reckoned with this year and over the past few years. Looking ahead I see the road games are against Syracuse and Rutgers (should be wins) and South Florida (OK, I'll concede this game). At home, they have Cincy, West Virginia and Pitt. Given how well UConn has played at home, is it not fair to say UConn has a good shot at going 5-1 down the stretch? Even 4-2 -- would that be enough to win the Big East and go to the BCS? Just food for thought.
Brian Bennett: I think 4-2 is more likely, which would mean a 5-2 record. That was good enough to win the Big East last year, and I think the league winner will have two losses again this season. Of course, it depends what other teams do to determine the tie-breaker. UConn could lose to Cincinnati and South Florida, for example, and beat West Virginia and still go to the BCS if West Virginia also finishes 5-2 in a reverse of last year's tie for the conference crown.
Joe from Sherman, Conn., writes: Saturday's UConn/North Carolina game left me with a queasy feeling in my stomach. The Huskies probably played their worst game in two years. I think, though, in many blowouts, the team that loses is not as bad as they look nor is the winning team as good as they appear to be. The penalties and special team breakdowns obviously killed any change the Huskies had to win and the interception near the end of the first half on a perfectly thrown ball to Kashif Moore killed any momentum UConn would have had going into the locker room. That being said, UConn needs to start winning big games on the road if they are going to earn respect as a program moving up. Your thoughts?
Brian Bennett: I agree that the Huskies weren't as bad as the final score looked. Take away the blocked punts and the turnovers, and they're right in that game. And they don't usually do those things. Yeah, they need to win on the road, but a lot of good teams struggle away from home. The win at Louisville, I thought, was a good first step. Beating South Florida in Tampa would be another big one. But as Brian from Boston mentioned earlier, the Huskies don't necessarily need to be great on the road this year to get to the BCS.
Matt from Piscataway writes: Do you feel there is any shot of Rutgers finding success in the league schedule this year? The WVU game was a couple of plays (dropped TD pass, fake punt) and a couple of questionable calls (fumble overturn, 12 men on field) from going the other way. And with the QB woes of the rest of the league, it being a very weak year all around in the BE, do you think RU might have a chance to turn it around?
Brian Bennett: Matt, I do see Rutgers improving a little bit, and I think the Scarlet Knights will win at least one game that they're not supposed to pull off. But that's about it. The schedule's too loaded with road games (at Cincinnati, at South Florida and at Pittsburgh still left), and they have too many issues to be a legitimate contender in the conference race.
Dan from Berlin writes: So the Big East is out of the national championship game with the two big losses this weekend. But when someone mashes your apples you make apple sauce. The Big East race might turn out to be one of the more exciting races in the country from this point forward. Pittsburgh finally looked like the Pitt we expected, South Florida still is a team not to take lightly, Connecticut still has a top 25 defense in my mind and West Virginia still has all of the talent Rich Rod brought in before his departure including Pat White. With all this said, I think this could be a fun rest of the season with only one team with a chance to go to a BCS Bowl. I'd still pick the Huskies based on the fact that West Virginia and Pitt has to come to the Rent and the South Florida game is the last one of the season for UConn and USF still plays WVU the week after. Do you agree and who all around after the first six weeks looks the best so far in your eyes to grab the title?
Brian Bennett: Wow, has the blog reached Germany? That would give us two European e-mailers, as we heard from UConn fan Eric from Greece a couple of weeks ago. I agree with your premise to a point, Dan. The race is totally wide open as a six-team race, at least in my mind. I've seen all of the top six (sorry, Rutgers and Syracuse fans) play in person, and I can honestly tell you I have no idea which is the best team. I think South Florida has the most talent, when healthy, but the Bulls can swing so wildly from one extreme to the other. Connecticut still has to get Zach Frazer ready to be an efficient starting quarterback, which is more difficult than Huskies' fans seem to want to admit. West Virginia is a little down but has never had any problems with UConn. Cincinnati has a really good defense, and if it can keep up good quarterback play it will be a factor. Pitt's already got two games in hand, and Louisville has a ton of home games. I'm not even going to try and predict this race right now, but it should be fun and unpredictable the rest of the way.
Nate from Cincinnati writes: With the first BCS standings quickly approaching how long do you think it is till UC finds its way back into the top 25? Looking at the AP and USA Today polls it is alarming that not just is UC not ranked, they're hardly receiving any votes. Here is a team who finished in the top 20 last year and returned a ton of starters and they weren't ranked at all in the pre-season polls. That defies logic and the two main judging factors (Returning Starters/Final Ranking) used to determine pre-season rankings. Do you think the Rutgers win will do it or will we have to w
ait till a UConn win? Our only loss was to the current No. 1 team OU, it was at OU and despite being a bad loss we managed to put up as many points as Chattanooga, Washington and No. 24 TCU combined did against them. We need a good bowl, if not a BCS we need a Gator/Sun bowl, the money isn't there in UC Athletics to oblige the practice facility Brian Kelly is owed in his contract. I'd hate to get another low paying bowl, furthering the difficulty in keeping Kelly in Cincinnati.
Brian Bennett: I don't think beating a 1-4 Rutgers team at home is going to impress many voters, Nate. Cincinnati's wins right now are: Eastern Kentucky, Miami (Ohio), Akron and Marshall. That's nice if you're in the MAC, I guess, but it's not a Top 25 resume. Unfortunately, a lot of voters probably decided to give Cincinnati a chance in the Oklahoma game and figured the Bearcats were done after the blowout. But like you said, the Sooners are going to do that to most people in Norman. Cincinnati should have a chance to crack the rankings if it beats Rutgers and UConn to go to 6-1. But the rankings really won't matter for the Bearcats this year. Nobody in the Big East is going to get an at-large BCS bid, so winning the league title is the only guaranteed way into a major bowl.