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Big East mailbag: Cincinnati quarterbacks and more

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Nick from Charleston, S.C., writes: First off, I wish to thank you for your unbiased coverage of the Big East, and I enjoy every one of your blogs. Being a Cincinnati grad, and following them for a long time, I have a question concerning Tony Pike's recovery. Even if Pike is ready to play, should he be back in, or should coach Kelly ride the hot hand of Zach Collaros? I only ask because last year when he returned from his injury against UConn he had his worst game, and could only make it through the first half before the pain got to him. While his injury is not as bad this year, why not stick with Collaros for now?

Brian Bennett: I see where you're coming from, Nick, but I think this year's situation is a little different than last year's game at UConn. Then, Cincinnati had played Chazz Anderson a couple of games but the offense was clearly limited with the inexperienced freshman. There was more urgency to rush Pike back, especially on the road. This year, I don't think Kelly will put Pike back in there unless he's completely sure the senior can handle everything and protect himself. And even if Pike does try to start but can't finish, Kelly knows he has an extremely competent backup at the ready in Collaros, who's simply been magnificent.


Adam from Pittsburgh writes: Do you think that the surprising success of Zach Collaros, which is following the surprising success of Tony Pike, which is following the success of various QBs under Brian Kelly at Cincinnati and elsewhere will work against those respective players' credibility as individuals? I'm not saying that it's true, but do you think that Cincinnati QBs may be stuck with the same stigma as Texas Tech QBs -- guys like Kliff Kingsbury, B.J. Symons, Graham Harrell, and now Taylor Potts -- as in, "they're just 'system QBs?'" I know that it's probably unfair to UC's QBs, but it's possible, isn't it?

Brian Bennett: That's a fair question, especially when you see how much success Collaros has coming in right away. And certainly Ben Mauk, for all his great numbers in Kelly's first full season, wasn't an NFL prospect. One thing I'll point out is that those Texas Tech guys, for the most part, were undersized quarterbacks without cannon arms. The reason Pike is garnering a lot of NFL attention is because he's 6-foot-6 and can make every throw on the field. The question for him would be whether he can play under center in a more pro-style system at the next level (and whether he can stay healthy).

Beyond that, the whole "system quarterback" question is interesting. Kelly definitely knows how to teach quarterbacks and put them in a position to succeed, which I would think would be appealing to recruits at that position. Does his system get guys ready for the NFL? Well, with the proliferation of spread offenses around the country, I think that's the same question a lot of programs need to answer.


Dan from Virginia writes: After seeing the USF coaches take the reins off of B.J. Daniels I was wondering, as a big Rutgers fan, if you think that the coaches at Rutgers should let Savage play and not limit him as much. He has shown he can be composed and make plays. Do you think it's time to give Savage more of the playbook to work with and see what he can do?

Brian Bennett: I don't see the parallels between Daniels and Savage, Dan, and here's why. Daniels is at his best when he's scrambling around, making plays with his feet and doing some improvising. That leads to some mistakes, but he's also a dynamic talent who can make something out of nothing. And South Florida's system is set up for the quarterback to run.

Savage is far more of a pocket passer in a much more controlled, pro-style system. Without a lot of threats at receiver and without a big-play running game, the Scarlet Knights feel like they have to limit turnovers and mistakes as much as possible. That's why you see them being more cautious with their freshman. And let's not forget that Daniels is a redshirt freshman who played in a couple of games last year before getting hurt and then went through spring practice. Savage didn't arrive until August.


Bob from Plainville, Conn., writes: With all that has gone on at UConn, do you think that if the Huskies rally and make a bowl game that Randy Edsall will get serious consideration as Big East coach of the year? He has been everywhere during the recent tragedy and has taught his team there is more to life than football. He has kept the team together. It is amazing that UConn has been competitive for the last two games and a shame that they could not win them. No coach will have done more to change the lives of his team.

Brian Bennett: Bob, I definitely agree that Edsall deserves special recognition for how he's handled some incredibly trying times. I think a lot of fans around the country are rooting for the Huskies right now. As for coach of the year, I don't think that's going to happen, because either Brian Kelly or Dave Wannstedt will probably walk away with it given their teams' success.


Adam L. from St. Louis writes: I get that you're upset about Iowa jumping Cincinnati in the coaches' poll. That said, you fail to point out in your post that in reality, it changes absolutely nothing. Given the computer rankings, this minor change had zero effect on the fact that Cincinnati was going to need Iowa to lose no matter what if they were to have a shot at the title game. Both BCS-relevant human polls had Iowa below Cincinnati last week and Iowa was still solidly ahead of Cincinnati in the BCS average. As far as real injustice goes, maybe you'd be better served to advice the Bearcats' fans to go talk to Boise State and Utah, who got screwed when the polls actually counted.

Brian Bennett: I'm not sure that upset is the appropriate word, Adam. I have no real emotional investment in what happens. I am just continually dumbfounded by the "logic" of the coaches' poll. How does Iowa move ahead of Cincinnati when the Hawkeyes trailed for three quarters and beat Indiana by 18 at home, while the Bearcats beat Syracuse by 21 on the road? And don't tell me Indiana is better than Syracuse; the Orange beat Northwestern, which beat Indiana. Iowa does have better computer rankings, but those rankings can change during the course of the season. The polls still count for the 2/3 majority of the BCS formula, and you'd hope there would be some rationality to them.


Bob from Crestview, Fla., writes: The Big East has five teams with two or fewer losses. The next closest conference is the Pac-10 with four teams. With 63 percent of the Big East having less than three losses, why don't they get any love nationally? I live in the heart of SEC territory and there is no doubt they are jealous of the Big East and try to down play their success.

Brian Bennett: The SEC is jealous of the Big East? Well, now I've heard everything.