- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
Welcome back to another edition of the Big East mailbag. Your intrepid and road-weary blogger will get to sleep in his own bed this weekend with the South Florida-Louisville assignment. It should be a interesting week all around the league. Let's get to your questions:
Ken from Wilmington writes: Do you think Randy Edsall will hang around UConn a lot longer? I hope he does and unless he gets the Penn State job would it really be worth leaving? It seems like any available coaching position would be in the second tier of any major conference. Also Steve Addazio would make a great coach at Syracuse, but I'm sure the SU athletic director (who should also be fired) wants Lane Kiffin. He is a great recruiter, is getting Northeast kids to go to Florida, doesn't sound hard but it hasn't happened alot in the past.
Brian Bennett: As I've written before, I think Syracuse at least has to gauge the interest of Edsall, an Orange alumnus and former assistant. But I can't imagine he'd make what frankly would be a lateral move at best. I think Edsall is pretty happy where he is, having built that program nearly from scratch and with some of the best facilities in the league. Remember, he turned down Georgia Tech last year, so I would think it would have to be a very attractive opening to lure him away.
John from Cincinnati: Brian, I have been hearing how bad the Big East is for weeks. I don't think so. Do you think Boise State, Utah or Ball State would be sitting where they are today if they had to play the Big East schedule?
Brian Bennett: I'm going to take your question literally, John, and try to figure out where they'd be sitting today. Remember that most Big East teams have played only two conference games (Louisville and Cincinnati have played one each), so the records of all three of those teams would depend on who they've played in the league. I think Utah is good enough to beat just about any Big East team on its best day -- remember the Utes won at Louisville pretty convincingly last season. Any league team would have trouble going to Boise's blue turf. And Ball State is currently leading the MAC, and ask Akron and Bowling Green how their league stacks up against the Big East. So yeah, those schools probably wouldn't rip through the Big East undefeated, but let's give them credit for being good teams.
Rob from Orlando, Fla., writes: Here's one for you. If Rich Rodriguez had stayed at West Virginia, what would their record be so far this year? A question I'm sure many wonder.
Brian Bennett: Lots of hypotheticals this week. There's no way of knowing for sure, of course, and Rodriguez would have had to deal with the same issues the new staff faced -- lack of an inside power runner, young players on defense, injuries to Pat White and Reed Williams. If I had to guess, I'd say the Mountaineers would have still lost to East Carolina but might have found a way to beat Colorado, so 5-1. But what program doesn't miss at least a half-beat after a coaching change? (Cincinnati excluded).
Brian from Boston writes: So like many of the Husky faithful, I am in shock and aww in the loss to Rutgers. Now I was the first to point out that UConn was a subpar road team and played much better football at home. But to lose to a Rutgers team?? Who granted are better then the record (just look at who they lost to) on the road? This was a much-needed road game for UConn, and I really thought they would take two of three on the road for the rest of the season. That's looking like a pretty daunting task now. I guess I just don't know what to expect here on out. Somedays you get the dominant UConn team such as the one that showed up against Virginia, and sometimes you get a whole other team such as the one that showed up for UNC and Rutgers. Please provide me some hope that Uconn will bounce back!
Brian Bennett: I am no longer sure in which direction Connecticut is heading either, Brian. If you're looking for some immediate reasons for hope, here's one: the next two games are at home, where the Huskies have won 10 in a row, followed by a game at Syracuse. The loss to Rutgers was understandably frustrating but not overly surprising. The Scarlet Knights' defense has been one of the best in the league the last few weeks, and UConn still would have won if it doesn't miss three field goals and give up a safety. Penalties and special teams problems have plagued the team the last two weeks, and I expect Edsall to get that fixed. The coaching staff seems like it hasn't figured out yet how best to use quarterback Zach Frazer. Of course, if Frazer can't play this weekend, the Huskies could have trouble against a good Cincinnati team.
Kevin from East Hartford writes: Brian, can you please tell me why UConn has not fired offensive cordinator Rob Ambrose yet? This team has a Heisman Trophy candidate at running back and a QB with a cannon for an arm and yet there is no creativity in this offense whatsoever, in fact it might just be the most predictable offense in the country. So if you can please remind me why Ambrose still has a job it will be greatly appreciated because quite frankly I forgot a long time ago.
Brian Bennett: Probably because he was the same guy calling plays when the team won nine games last year and started 5-0 this year, Kevin. Look, we all know that UConn's offense isn't the most electric in the country. But Edsall believes this is the best way to play to give his team a chance to win: run the ball, take care of the ball and play strong defense. A lot of that stems from the talent on hand. The Huskies, quite frankly, don't have a very imposing receiving corps, and they're still adjusting with Frazer.
Rob in Pittsburgh writes: Booooooooooo! Don't call me a typical Mountaineers fan because I booed but 4th place in the Big East power rankings with a 2-0 record is a bad call! I know we've been identity searching a little this year but please don't lose sight of the fact that our defense has only given up four touchdowns in the last four games. I know that we were only playing against Colorado, Marshall, Rutgers, and Syracuse but still...and 2 of those 4 TDs were in the first quarter of the Colorado game. So they have actually only given up 2 TDs in the last 15 quarters of play. Think about that for a second...2 touchdowns in the last 225 minutes of gametime ... hmmm..
Brian Bennett: Rob, I'm going to pretend you weren't booing me and that instead you were saying, "Booo-urns." Yes, the defense has played very well, but you made my point for me when you listed those four opponents, all of whom have really bad offenses. That's going to continue this week against a lifeless Auburn attack. Let's see how the 'D' plays against South Florida, Cincinnati, Louisville, etc., though Jeff Casteel deserves praise for a job well done so far. As to why I had the Mountaineers fourth, let's not gloss over that Syracuse game in which West Virginia very nearly lost the lead late in the fourth quarter. Or the Rutgers game in which the Scarlet Knights had the ball at midfield on their final possession with a chance to tie. And both games were at home. I don't know for sure if the Mountaineers are a notch below Cincinnati, my No. 3 team, because the Bearcats haven't played anyone good in a while. But they're clearly behind South Florida and Pittsburgh right now, in my book.
Andrew from New York City: What are the chances of the Big East getting 6 bowl bids? How does this compare to the last couple years?
Brian Bennett: Chances ar
e pretty good that the league will have six bowl-eligible teams. Four teams already have five wins, while Louisville and West Virginia are 4-2. Last year the conference had six eligible teams as well, but Louisville stayed home at 6-6. This year, the Big East adds another bowl in the inaugural St. Petersburg game, but it may lose a slot if Notre Dame takes one of its bids. I'm going to write about these possibilities soon, probably next week.
Jim from Highland Park writes: What are your thoughts on the Rutgers / Pitt game this week? Rutgers has played 3 nail-biter Big East games so far and we Scarlet Knight fans are hoping that the team has turned the corner. Pitt is probably the conference's strong team at the moment but I do think that Rutgers matches up well against them. Rutgers really seems to struggle against mobile QB's and spread offenses. Pitt plays a more basic pro offense and Rutgers D seems to be rising to the occasion of late. I'm biased but I see this as the upset of the week. Love to hear your take!
Brian Bennett: You'll have to wait until Thursday morning for my official prediction, but I think you hit the nail on the head in many ways. Both teams are similar in that they don't do many fancy things. They line up in basic formations and try to punch you in the mouth. Dave Wannstedt said yesterday that Rutgers has the best defense his team will have faced this year. Greg Schiano coached under Wannstedt on the Chicago Bears and the two are good friends who know each other very well. I have a hard time seeing how the Scarlet Knights are going to score many points against a tough Pitt defense. But Rutgers has beaten the Panthers three years in a row.