Big East: Florida State Seminoles
The good: The Big East went 3-1 Saturday, improving to 4-3 against the ACC this season and even exacting a bit of revenge against the MAC, as UConn topped Buffalo at home. This was the final real nonconference weekend for the Big East, and by and large it did not disappoint.
AP Photo/Rogelio V. SolisThe Cardinals and Teddy Bridgewater played through horrendous conditions to eke out a win.
The ugly: The Southern Miss field. Woof.
The clutch: Munchie Legaux connected with Damon Julian for a 39-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds left, leading Cincinnati to an upset over Virginia Tech. More consistency is needed for Legaux, but he took a huge step forward with the pressure and spotlight on him. Props to Julian for bouncing back from a dropped touchdown earlier in the fourth quarter as well.
The scare: Louisville barely beat a winless Conference USA opponent in a game said opponent completed only two passes. And the Cardinals needed a botched punt to set up their game-winning touchdown drive. Yes, the conditions were awful, and the defense deserves plenty of credit. But this would have been as bad a loss as the conference could have had, regardless of the field, as the preseason No. 1 team survived a scare from a Southern Miss team in its first year under a new regime.
The improvement: The numbers may not exactly reflect it, but USF's defensive line played a strong game against Florida State. The Seminoles rushed for 183 yards, one week after they rushed for 287 in a win over Clemson. Yes, the Bulls lost a third straight game, but a defense that had trouble at Ball State played much better against a potential national title contender, and this is something the team can build on as it enters conference play.
The gutsy call(s): Buffalo coach Jeff Quinn called for an onside kick following his team's first touchdown, one it recovered. In the third quarter, Alex Zordich hit Alex Neutz with a short pass, with Neutz then lateraling the ball to Brandon Murie for a 50-yard hook-and-ladder touchdown. The risk-taking almost paid off, as the Bulls climbed back from a 17-point deficit at UConn and had a chance to drive for the win at the end.
- Florida State leads FBS with the most touchdowns drives that lasted two minutes or less (17) and three plays or fewer (11).
- EJ Manuel has completed 8 of 11 (72.7 percent) passes on throws of 20 yards or more, accounting for 232 yards and three touchdowns. Manuel completed 34.7 percent of his 20-yard throws last year.
- Manuel is completing 78.3 percent of passes when facing five or more pass-rushers this season. Manuel completed 59.8 percent against the blitz last season.
- Manuel is 10-for-13 for 122 yards and two touchdowns under duress this year.
- Teddy Bridgewater has completed 71.9 percent of his passes on third down this season, first in the Big East and ninth in the nation. Bridgewater has converted a first down on 56.3 percent of those throws, good for fourth-best nationally among quarterbacks with at least 10 attempts.
- Louisville leads the nation with drives of 10 plays or more (nine) and drives of five or more minutes (seven). The Cardinals had just five drives of 10 or more plays and one drive of five or more minutes last year.
- Virginia Tech holds the all-time series advantage over Cincinnati, 5-4, including a win in the 2009 Orange Bowl. Landover, Md., will mark the fifth different location these two teams have met in.
- Buffalo is UConn's third different MAC opponent of the nonconference slate, as the Huskies have beaten UMass and lost to WMU. UConn leads the series with Buffalo, 15-4.
As coach Skip Holtz said earlier this week, his Bulls are "looking down the barrel of a shotgun" when it comes to preparing for No. 4 Florida State on Sunday. The Noles come into the game with a supremely talented team that is gaining steam, with playmakers emerging on offense and a defense that has been relentless at times.
USF, meanwhile, has questions just about everywhere. The offensive and defensive lines have underperformed, and there has been no consistency at running back. At least on paper, the Bulls appear to be overmatched.
But they appeared to be overmatched in 2009, too, on the road in Tallahassee. That is, until USF pulled the stunner.
"Looking back on it, I could say it is one of the biggest moments in my career thus far," quarterback B.J. Daniels said. "I’m still looking forward to many things this year, but that moment for me and especially for our team, that was pretty special. That was an opportunity for USF to make a name for themselves especially here in the state of Florida."
USF has been known to get up for its big in-state rivalry games, though Daniels said, "I definitely think our biggest motivation is winning a ball game this weekend, it would mean more to us to make sure we win in all facets -- offense, defense and special teams -- to make sure we don’t have a lot of missed assignments and penalties if we do those thing we’ll be in position to do anything we want no matter who we’re playing."
As for Holtz, this is the way he described the mood of his team this week.
"Determined is the answer. We’re 2-2 and we’re four games into the season and there’s a lot of people on the outside (saying) woe is me, the dam is broke … when it’s the same thing, the ball gets batted up, you intercept it, you win a close game on the road. But right now for this team it’s very determined, it’s upset, it’s a reality check to look in the mirror and watch yourself play in a game where you don’t play at the level your capable of. They’re embarrassed for the way we performed on Saturday and excited for the opportunity to go play a top-10 team."
1. Conference pride again on the line: The Big East is coming off an 0-2 mark last weekend against MAC opponents and gets another shot against the conference this weekend. But the Big East does boast a 3-2 record against the ACC. Can it keep that mark above .500? Cincinnati will try to against Virginia Tech before USF hosts No. 4 FSU in a tough test.
2. UConn building off last week's second half: Chandler Whitmer easily had his best day, numbers-wise, in last week's loss, completing 28 of 44 passes for 333 yards and three scores. Much of that production came with the Huskies mounting a comeback from 17 points down, and Whitmer did turn the ball over twice and was sacked six times. The offense will look to limit such mistakes while taking another step forward this week against Buffalo.
AP Photo/Al BehrmanCincinnati's Munchie Legaux committed four turnovers against Delaware State -- not the best warmup for Virginia Tech.
4. FedEx atmosphere: The Bearcats received $3.5 million to move this game from Nippert Stadium to Landover, Md., where they will be much closer to Virginia Tech's campus. Yes, Butch Jones is treating it like a road game. But will it even feel like one?
5. Will USF rise to the occasion? No. 4 FSU would appear to be the worst possible opponent for a USF team on the brink of falling into last year's bad habits. Penalties, turnovers and inconsistent QB play have limited the Bulls in back-to-back losses. An admirable performance, even if it's in a loss, will show that this season is far from over for a team looking to put last year's 1-6 Big East mark in the rearview mirror.
6. Does Louisville put it all together? Coach Charlie Strong said he was glad in a sense that his team didn't blow UNC out after a big first half, because it practiced poorly a week later and survived a scare at FIU it probably wouldn't have without that sense of urgency. Now Strong can get on his players. With a cupcake in Southern Miss before Big East play, the Cardinals will try to get back on track and enter conference play as a more confident undefeated team.
Buffalo at Connecticut, noon ET, Big East Network/ESPN3: Another MAC upset? Unlikely. The Bulls just don't possess the threats that Western Michigan was able to utilize early last week against the Huskies. UConn's defense should have a field day against an overmatched offense and Chandler Whitmer and his offense will look to play with some of the same sense of urgency that they did late in last week's loss. UConn 20, Buffalo 3.
Andrea's pick: UConn 23, Buffalo 17
Virginia Tech at Cincinnati (in Landover, Md.), 3:30 ET, ESPNU/WatchESPN: The Bearcats are treating this contest like a road game, as they should. We still don't know too much about them yet, and they probably don't either after two bye dates through the season's first four weeks. But the Hokies have struggled up front and will have their hands full with a Cincinnati defense that has recorded eight sacks through its first two contests. Cincinnati 20, Virginia Tech 17
Andrea's pick: Cincinnati 24, Virginia Tech 23
No. 4 Florida State at South Florida, 6 ET, ESPN: A press release from FSU earlier this week was headlined "Seminoles Aim to Clean up Mistakes Against USF." What would USF's say if the Bulls were as harsh on themselves? This team has lost two in a row, first by giving the ball away four times to Rutgers, then by committing 11 penalties, turning the ball over two more times and missing an extra point in an upset loss at Ball State. The Seminoles committed 11 penalties themselves last week but still put up 49 on then-No. 10 Clemson. FSU 42, USF 10
Andrea's pick: FSU 40, USF 17
No. 19 Louisville at Southern Miss, 8 ET, CBS Sports Network: Coach Charlie Strong challenged his Cardinals this week to keep pushing if they want to make the jump from good to great this season. Great would mean a run at a Big East title, something the 4-0 squad would likely fall short of with performances like the ones it has put forth over the past six quarters in too-close-for-comfort wins over FIU and UNC. The team needs to get more pressure on the quarterback, and the Golden Eagles may just be the perfect opponent for the Cardinals to shore up some loose ends against before entering conference play. Louisville 38, Southern Miss 10
Andrea's pick: Louisville 35, Southern Miss 13
- Damion Julian is pushing Alex Chisum for a starting job, Bill Koch writes in the Cincinnati Enquirer.
- Pretty neat: UConn welcomed participants from the “Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities” (EBV) program to its practice on Tuesday.
- The gang at AthlonSports debates who is better: Louisville or Rutgers?
- Reducing penalties is Pitt's top off-week priority, Sam Werner writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- Rutgers fullback Michael Burton is out for the year with a lower leg injury, Dave Hutchinson writes in the (Newark) Star-Ledger.
- The FSU game is nothing personal for USF QB B.J. Daniels, Joey Johnston writes in the Tampa Tribune.
- Justin Pugh headlines the list of players ready to return for the Orange's next game, Nolan Weidner writes in the (Syracuse) Post-Standard.
- Steve Addazio unveiled Temple's new state-of-the-art facility Tuesday, Keith Pompey writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
- The Big East is sixth in this week's conference rankings.
- Frank Beamer thinks Cincinnati is the most athletic team Virginia Tech has played, Mark Giannotto writes in The Washington Post.
- UConn AD Warde Manuel remains in Paul Pasqualoni's corner, Desmond Conner writes in the Hartford Courant.
- WDRB's Rick Bozich wonders if No. 19 Louisville is underrated or overrated through four games.
- Pitt freshman DT Darryl Render made an impression in his first start, Sam Werner writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- Rutgers' hot start could mean a boost in attendance, Tom Luicci writes in the (Newark) Star-Ledger.
- FSU is getting its long-anticipated game at USF, Greg Auman writes in the Tampa Bay Times.
- Syracuse TE Ron Thompson is out for the season, Nolan Weidner writes in the (Syracuse) Post-Standard.
- Temple aims to improve on third down, Keith Pompey writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Buffalo at Connecticut (Big East Network, noon ET Saturday): It's worth repeating that UConn must get its offense on track. Coming off a loss to one MAC opponent, the Huskies will look to close out their nonconference slate with a win over another one, with seven straight Big East games awaiting.
Virginia Tech at Cincinnati, in Landover, Md. (ESPNU, 3:30 ET Saturday): It's hard to figure out either team at this point. The Hokies got routed by a Pitt team that the Bearcats routed. But the Bearcats then turned the ball over six times in an unsatisfying win over an FCS school. They have played just two games, too. Having the "home" team play just a few hours away from the "visiting" team's campus probably doesn't clear up matters, either.
No. 4 Florida State at South Florida (ESPN, 6 p.m. ET Saturday): FSU is coming off a statement win against Clemson. USF is coming off a pair of losses that brought back bad memories from last season. The Seminoles, who put up 49 points last week, are hardly the team the Bulls' defense needs to see at this point.
No. 19 Louisville at Southern Miss (CBS Sports Network, 8 p.m. ET Saturday): The Ellis Johnson era is off to an 0-3 start for the Golden Eagles, who begin a three-game stretch that features the No. 19 Cardinals, No. 24 Boise State and future Big East member Central Florida. After consecutive so-so performances, Louisville hopes to shore up some loose ends in its final nonconference contest.
1. Louisville at Rutgers, Nov. 29: Given that this is both teams' regular-season finales, a lot has to happen between now and then for the stakes to be at their highest. But with the No. 1 preseason Big East team traveling to the third-place squad -- in a conference that featured a three-way tie for first place last season, no less -- the opportunity is there for a de-facto conference title game should both teams meet expectations in 2012.
2. Florida State at South Florida, Sept. 29: What's the quickest way for the Big East to regain some national respect? By beating the nation's elite, of course. Many experts peg the Seminoles as a potential national title contender this season, and the Bulls will get them at home. An early-season upset could do wonders for both the conference and USF, so long as the Bulls don't trip over themselves like they did following an upset victory at Notre Dame last season.
3. Rutgers at Arkansas, Sept. 22: The Razorbacks were poised to contend for the national title before the Bobby Petrino mess this offseason. Can they still? They will be coming off a home tilt with defending champion Alabama, and Rutgers, like USF, could do the conference a huge favor by pulling off the upset, especially with this game coming in SEC territory.
4. USF at Louisville, Oct. 20: The conference's top-two preseason teams clash in each school's seventh game of the season. The season-ending date of the Louisville-Rutgers matchup enhances the potential for that game, but it likely won't matter as much if the Cardinals can't get by the Bulls in their first conference home game.
5. Syracuse vs. USC (in East Rutherford, N.J.), Sept. 8: Yes, this is the longest of longshots: A team coming off a 5-7 season taking down the frontrunner for the national title. But hey, nothing would boost the Big East's credibility more than topping the nation's No. 1 team, even if it takes place in the conference's backyard. Recent USC national title contenders have usually tripped up to lesser opponents in early-season road tests. And however unlikely that may look going into Week 2, the mere possibility is enough for this contest to crack the list of most important games for the Big East in 2012.
Speculation has run rampant regarding possible conference realignments, and it's not likely to stop until the playoff format has been decided. ACC blogger Heather Dinich and Big East blogger Andrea Adelson discuss the futures of both conferences.
So Heather, it seems the ACC is feeling a little like the Big East these days -- worried about getting raided. How must it feel to be on the other side -- to fear getting poached, after all the poaching the ACC has done to its neighbors up north over the last 10 years. A cloud of doom and gloom seems to be hanging over both the two conferences we cover. Will they survive the next round of expansion? Will they be squeezed out by the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12? I am not buying into the hysteria right now. What are you buying?
HD: I’m buying a new GPS system to find my way through the state of Texas, AA. Never been. Don’t know if I should fly into Dallas or Houston, but I was thinking of calling FSU Board of Trustees chairman Andy Haggard, who appears so eager to get to Big 12 country he may as well give the Longhorns his resume. Look, the ACC isn’t worried about anyone getting poached. Nobody has $20 million to give to Greensboro to leave the ACC, and right now, no offers are on the table. I believe they call it unrequited love. If there’s anything ACC officials should be worried about, it’s that both Clemson and Florida State have said publicly that they would even entertain the notion of leaving the conference. I understand that each school has to look out for its own interests, I’m just not convinced that any school in the ACC would fare better in another conference. So far, this has all been a lot of talk and speculation that all snowballed from Haggard's ill-informed comments a month ago. Now, with that all being said, who knows what the future holds or what officials in any conference are saying behind closed doors? All I know is the ACC shouldn’t be nearly as concerned as the Big East. What does the future hold for those guys? Is there any future at all?
AA: You might want to ask West Virginia about who helped foot its $20 million tab for leaving the Big East. Cough, cough, Big 12. These days, all it takes is one snowball to be headed downhill to set dominoes in motion. Board of Trustees are pretty powerful entities. You have one member at a pretty powerful football program mouth off, and all of a sudden an idea is planted and folks in Texas are starting to wonder, "Should we do this?" Maybe not today, but perhaps down the road. That has repercussions for your conference and the Big East. Because I can all but guarantee Louisville will be fighting some folks for a chance to get into the Big 12 after it narrowly lost out to West Virginia last year. And if the ACC needs some fillers, hello UConn and Rutgers. Now back to your question.
If the Big East as it is currently configured can stay together, the future looks just fine. Let me drop some knowledge here. Since 2005, the Big East has had three teams finish the season with just one loss. Two of them -- Cincinnati and Louisville -- are remaining members. Let's add in future members, just for fun. That would give the Big East six more (Boise State 5, Houston 1). By comparison, the ACC has had zero teams finish with just one loss in the same time frame. Fancy stats, right? But nobody can guarantee the future configuration of the league, not with so much uncertainty in the landscape. The league *should* be able to survive, even if it loses members. But if it suffers heavy losses like Louisville and UConn, there is no doubt there will be growing sentiment for a split between hoops and football. There already is, and whatever materializes out of this future TV deal may not be enough. That is why a growing chorus of Big East fans have wondered whether a super-conglomeration between the Big East and ACC, an alliance if you will, makes sense. Your thoughts?
HD: My thoughts are that sounds like a watered-down version of flat diet soda. Bleh. Fans want calories at their tailgates, and more matchups against UConn and Rutgers aren’t gonna do it. It seems like every season in the nonconference schedule we get ACC-Big East matchups, and none of them get the pulse moving. Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Louisville, South Florida, Connecticut and even West Virginia -- all on the schedule this year. The ACC won’t do itself any favors by partnering with the Big East. It needs to beef up its bowl alliances and find more revenue, and it’s not going to find that in Connecticut. If the ACC is going to grow, it needs to look to South Bend, Ind. It needs a bowl partner like the Big Ten or SEC. What everyone needs to do right now is brace themselves and hang on tight, because there is change coming, but the Big East isn’t the life preserver the ACC should be clinging to. It’s sinking. Once conference officials decide how to move forward with a playoff, there will undoubtedly be another round of rumors, politicking and jockeying for power. The ACC and Big East commissioners can either put their conferences in position to thrive in the future, or watch from the sidelines. We should know more soon after the next round of BCS meetings June 13 and June 20. What are you hoping to learn from those meetings that will affect the Big East?
AA: Well it's easy for the ACC to talk a big game after essentially destroying the fabric of the Big East. You right there mentioned Pitt as a team that doesn't get pulses racing. So the addition of the Panthers to the ACC helps how? The ACC is not getting an alliance with another league for a BCS bowl game. Everybody else is partnered up. But hey, at least the ACC has a BCS tie-in, right? I still think a playoff benefits the ACC and Big East, but my big fear out of the meetings is that some sort of strength of schedule component will be added back into the calculations to determine the Top 4. Then the ACC AND Big East may very well get left out. I can see Jim Delany in his mad scientist's lab crafting a way for one-loss teams from the Big Ten, SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12 to finish higher than undefeated teams from the ACC and Big East. As it stands now, one-loss teams from the leagues we cover do not stand much of a shot at a title game. Whether you want to believe it or not, the ACC may end up in the same boat as the Big East. OK now it sounds like I'm a hysterical Chicken Little.
HD: First, the addition of Pitt and Syracuse -- moreso Pitt -- will help the ACC. John Swofford wouldn’t have made that move if it weren’t financially beneficial, among other reasons. I’m just saying that the ACC can stop there. Yes, the ACC still has its Orange Bowl tie-in, but who knows what kind of changes will happen to the current bowl structure after these BCS meetings? I think it will open the door for a lot of change and a lot of options for the ACC. I don’t think the league should rule out any kind of partnerships just because the Big 12 and SEC have their game and the Pac-12 and Big Ten have theirs. What about Notre Dame? A playoff DOES benefit both conferences. Right away you’ve got more opportunities, as the top four teams now have a chance instead of the top 2. If strength of schedule is included, you’re right -- both leagues could be in trouble, but everyone could be in trouble depending on how the teams are selected and who is doing the picking and choosing. Personally, I like the idea of rewarding conference champions. Then teams won’t be afraid to schedule teams like Alabama and LSU in the preseason for fear of it hurting their chances at the national title. And if the ACC champ were to be rewarded with a shot at the national title, why would Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech or any other team for that matter want to leave? I don’t think you’re being too much like Chicken Little. The Big East needs to duck. I’m not ready, though, to hit the panic button for the ACC.
Now who has some questions?
Paul in New Jersey writes: AA, If there is no agreement with any of the new BCS proposals, is it possible the conference commissioners would just throw up their arms and continue to operate the BCS under the current rules in 2014?
Andrea Adelson: Anything is possible, Paul, especially when each conference has its own agenda. Just look at this comment from ACC commissioner John Swofford from our media availability Wednesday: "The more this gets focused, the more difficult it will become in terms of getting us all to agree on something. I don’t think we’ll end up back with where we are right now, but it’s possible. We’ll have to see how that plays out."
Paul in the Adirondacks writes: SU fan here who's still bitter about the move to the ACC. Is it wrong of me to feel some joy that FSU might bolt the ACC for another conference? That way they get a taste of their own medicine? Also at this point why don't the Big East and ACC be proactive and join the conferences together to form a beast in all sports?
Adelson: I feel your pain, but you have to come to terms with the fact that Syracuse will indeed become a member of the ACC. Therefore, you should feel no joy that Florida State might bolt for another conference. Florida State is one of the few high-profile football teams the ACC has. If the Seminoles go, then you are looking at potentially another addition from the Big East. If you just want another version of the Big East, then you can jump for joy. But if you want a strong football conference, then you should worry. As for the super conglomerate ACC/Big East, a 27-team conference is really not a conference. C-USA and the Mountain West just tried to create an association, but it appears that might not work out. The ACC has its own interests, so I'm not sure how it would benefit with a joint Big East venture.
Petey D. in Ansonia, Conn., writes: What's the deal with UConn having a plethora of quarterbacks with the offer to the prep school kid from Plano (Richard Lagow)? Not saying that he even signs with UConn, but, when do they take what they have and develop a couple quarterbacks instead of trying to use a stable of quarterbacks, because we all know if you have more than one starting QB you have no starting QB. And is the front-runner Chandler Whitmer?
Adelson: I don't have any issue with UConn offering a quarterback. Most teams carry somewhere in the neighborhood of four scholarship quarterbacks at one time. That is one position where depth is really important, particularly if the players you sign don't pan out, which has been the case recently for the Huskies. As for the front-runner, my guess is it's Whitmer after his spring-game performance, but coach Paul Pasqualoni has not said anything official.
Frank in Sarasota, Fla., writes: There is no way USF has the support for an on-campus stadium. Ray Jay is a better place than USF will ever be able to build and the student athletic fees are already fairly high. Let us figure out if we will be in Conference USA by 2015. I know I will be at the games no matter what, but how many fans will come out to see the Bulls play Rice, Tulane or another third-tier football school without any regional draw?
Adelson: As opposed to SMU, Houston, San Diego State and Boise State? Or heck, even Rutgers and UConn? As I mentioned in the post, I think it is good that USF is thinking big. But the only way the Bulls should ever do it is if they have the financial backing and are certain they will be able to get a better deal than they have at Raymond James Stadium. The old saying "If you build it, they will come" does not ring true for on-campus stadiums everywhere.
John in Louisville, Ky., writes: AA, hope you are having fun at the ACC meetings, and taking notes on how they are worse than the BE. I have a bowl question. With so many schools located in the north, and quite a few domes in those areas, why don't we have bowls there? Example in Indianapolis, shouldn't be that hard to find a weekend the Colts have an away game and have a B1G vs. BE (or ACC, or B12). Fans would love it and show up in larger numbers than having to travel to the south every year.
Adelson: I will be comparing meetings between the two, that is for sure. As for your questions, cities must want to host bowl games. Indianapolis might be interested in hosting a national championship game. But a second-tier bowl game? Maybe not. There also is an extensive application process even to be approved to host a bowl game. Detroit does host the Little Caesars Bowl, which pits the Big Ten against the MAC. But I'm not sure what other cities would want to start up their own games.
Jonathan in Storrs, Conn., writes: Concerning that USA Today study of the percent of subsidies each school receives from student fees, the 23.8 percent that UConn receives go to the Student Recreation Services as UConn puts that under the athletic department. So the fees technically go the athletic department, but are funneled to the student recreation services for the rec center and intramurals.
Adelson: Thanks for the clarification, Jonathan. Excellent information.
Jan. 1, 1 p.m., (CBS)
Three weeks ago, the Mountaineers stood at 7-3 with an uncertain bowl future. They finished by winning their final two games to earn the Big East's second-best bowl spot and make it a nice season.
The West Virginia offense has lacked its usual firepower lately, failing to score more than 24 points in any of its final five games. But it remains a dangerous attack, thanks to quarterback Jarrett Brown's strong arm and scrambling ability and running back Noel Devine's capability of turning any play into a touchdown.
The cure for whatever has slowed that offense may arrive in the form of Florida State's 98th-ranked defense. The Seminoles haven't really been able to stop anybody since October.
The biggest boon for West Virginia the past few weeks has been its defense getting fully healthy, especially difference-making linebacker Reed Williams and safety Sidney Glover. They helped put the clamps on Pitt and Rutgers and hold Cincinnati to its lowest-scoring output of the season.
Of course, the storyline of this game will be all about Bobby Bowden coaching his last game for Florida State against the school that gave him his first Division I head coaching job. Current West Virginia coach Bill Stewart has a little bit of Bowden's folksy wisdom and down-to-earth style about him. And this year, he's got a better team.
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett and Heather Dinich
The ACC and Big East will square off three times on Saturday -- South Florida at Florida State, Rutgers at Maryland and Pittsburgh at NC State. Which means it's time for another round of blogger debate between the conferences.
|Melissa Majchrzak via Getty Images|
|Christian Ponder has gotten off to a fast start this season, passing for 813 yards and 4 TDs.|
Heather Dinich: Is it March yet? Look, Bennett, last I checked the ACC had four teams in the national rankings and the Big East had ... oh, that's right, Cincinnati. Isn't that the same team Virginia Tech beat in the Orange Bowl last year? South Florida lost its quarterback and Florida State found one. UNC beat Connecticut, and Rutgers ... well, I might have to give you that one. The Pitt game should be interesting, unless, of course, NC State uses the same
offense it did against South Carolina. But what exactly is it you think the Big East has on the ACC heading into this week?
BB: The Big East has a 16-5 nonconference record, compared to the ACC's 17-10 mark. Hey, we could sit here all day and discuss which conference is better -- and I'm sure some people would want us to do that -- but why don't we look at this week's games instead?
Let's start with South Florida at Florida State. What has gotten into the Seminoles? Are they really as good as they looked at BYU this week? I had to check my calendar because I thought for a minute it was 1999 again.
HD: Well, let's just say the Noles CAN be that good. Christian Ponder has been overshadowed by Jacory Harris at Miami, but he's played just as well, and I expect him to be the difference in that game, especially with Grothe out. The question for FSU is which defense will show up. They seem to have given up as many big plays as they've made. What are you expecting from that Tally quarterback, B.J. Daniels?
|AP Photo/Chris O'Meara|
|Tallahassee native B.J. Daniels will be making his first start versus FSU.|
I think we both agree that FSU has the edge in that game. What about Pitt at NC State? I watched the Wolfpack get crushed by South Florida last year and lose to Rutgers in the bowl game. Any reason not to think another Big East team will whip them?
HD: I picked NC State, but it's probably the one I was least sure of. The Pack could be starting its fourth different offensive line in as many games, and they've been banged up too much to have any consistency in their secondary. Tom O'Brien has been talking about those units as areas of concern all week, and rightfully so. He's so excited, though, to finally play some "smashmouth football," and he's hoping a win over the Panthers will open some recruiting doors in Pennsylvania.
I'll tell you what, though, Bennett, if there's one difference in this game it's on the sideline, and I'd take O'Brien over Wannstedt. You think he'll have the Panthers in the Top 25 this season? I see you have them at No. 2 in this week's power ranking behind Cincinnati.
|Randy Litzinger/Icon SMI|
|Dave Wannstedt has Pitt off to a 3-0 start.|
I think Pitt is one of the most underrated teams in the country right now. The Panthers have gobs of talent all over the field, and their one big question mark -- quarterback -- has thus far been answered by Bill Stull's solid play. He's completing 70 percent of his passes and making great decisions. If NC State has problems on the O-line and in the secondary, the Wolfpack are in trouble. Because Pitt is absolutely loaded on the defensive line and has plenty of receivers to burn those DBs, especially freakish athlete Jonathan Baldwin. I like Pitt to control this game from start to finish and win a low-scoring battle.
OK, let's get to the Rutgers-Maryland game. The Scarlet Knights apparently have three FCS teams on their schedule now with the way the Terrapins have been playing. What in the world is going on with Ralph Freidgen's team?
HD: Oh, man, there's not even enough space in the blogosphere to start dissecting Maryland's problems. The big man has pinned the Terps' 1-2 start on a bit of bad luck and a young roster, but the truth is their problems range from recruiting to staff continuity -- much deeper issues than their woes up front on both lines. At first it was the defense not holding up its end of the deal, but last week it was the offense, which had four turnovers. To lose to Middle Tennessee two years in a row and barely beat James Madison at home is worse than bad luck -- it's inexcusable.
This is quite a different Rutgers team, though, than when these teams last met in 2007 and the Terps upended a top 10 team. How low has Rutgers sunk since then?
BB: Well, I thought Rutgers was ready to break through this year, and I picked them to win the Big East -- and then they went out and laid an egg in the opener against Cincinnati. This is a team that should be pretty good, with an experienced offensive line and a talented defense. But the passing game has been slow to develop, and now they're starting a true freshman quarterback (Tom Savage) who is a little groggy from a head injury last week. The running game hasn't blossomed and the Scarlet Knights have struggled to score points. Perhaps Maryland will be the cure to what ails them, though I think this could be a sloppy game.
So let's wrap this up. I say the Big East goes 2-1 this week, with Rutgers and Pitt winning. Not bad considering all three games are on ACC turf. What do you say?
HD: Well, I say the ACC goes 2-1, with the lone loss coming in College Park. If I'm wrong, I'll talk to you in March.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Here's what's happening around the Big East.
- It has been a rough offseason for Pitt, and recruiting losses to Penn State are the latest problem, Paul Zeise writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Panthers head coach Dave Wannstedt is still staying positive, Kevin Gorman writes in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- The Sporting News' Dave Curtis checks in with Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike.
- West Virginia bolstered its 2010 recruiting class with ESPNU 150 Watch List quarterback Barry Brunetti, Mike Casazza writes in the Charleston Daily Mail.
- Louisville picked up a commitment from cornerback Jordon Paschal, Chuck Ludwig writes in the Dayton Daily News.
- South Florida is the latest school to stop printing media guides, and the football team also will cut costs by taking a bus to Florida State, Brett McMurphy writes in the Tampa Tribune. Bulls head coach Jim Leavitt doesn't expect to have an on-campus stadium any time soon, Dave Nicholson writes in the Tampa Tribune.
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
Florida State has turned down an offer to play South Florida in Jacksonville next season, according to NoleInsider.com.
The story says Gator Bowl president Rick Catlett met with South Florida officials about playing a game in 2009 at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium. FSU coach Bobby Bowden said on Sunday that there have been talks about playing either the Bulls or Florida Atlantic next season but neither appears likely, the story says. FSU is still seeking a 12th game for next season.
South Florida and Florida State have never met. The Bulls have agreed to future series with in-state powers Miami and Florida.