Big East: Pat White
- Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is completing 84.6 percent of his third-down passes, second-best in FBS (minimum 10 attempts). Nine of his 11 completions have gone for first downs. Bridgewater completed 59.8 percent of his third-down throws last season.
- Syracuse is riding a seven-game losing streak dating back to last season as it hosts Stony Brook, which is ranked 17th in both major FCS polls. The Orange have won 28 straight against current FCS schools, their last loss coming on Oct. 4, 1958, to Holy Cross, 14-13. Syracuse has never faced a Big South school.
- Maryland's game against UConn will mark Terrapins coach Randy Edsall's first meeting with his former school. The programs have met just once before, in 1942, when Maryland won 34-0.
- Cincinnati has never faced Delaware State. In the Bearcats' opener last Thursday, quarterback Munchie Legaux had a 77-yard rush, a school record for a quarterback. His 205 passing yards and 117 rushing yards for the game made him the first Cincinnati signal-caller in the modern era to notch the 200/100 feat. It has happened nine times by four different players in the Big East since 2006, with USF's B.J. Daniels the most recent quarterback to achieve it, doing it five different times. West Virginia's Pat White and USF's Matt Grothe are the others.
- Pitt will be an ACC division rival with Virginia Tech next season in the Coastal division. The teams' previous 11 meetings all occurred with both in the Big East, with the Hokies winning seven of them. The Panthers have won the past three meetings between the two.
So what are some of the best and worst moments in BCS history for the Big East? Let's take a trip down memory lane.
2002 BCS National Championship Game: No. 1 Miami 37, No. 2 Nebraska 14. Nothing tops Miami winning the national championship in 2001. Hard to believe that was 11 years ago that the Hurricanes were in the Big East and dominating in a major way. That 2001 team is one of the best that ever has played college football, featuring a huge share of NFL players and one of the most unflappable (and underrated) quarterbacks in Ken Dorsey. I covered that team, and I will never forget the way it absolutely dominated Nebraska in the Rose Bowl.
2008 Fiesta Bowl: No. 9 West Virginia 48, No. 4 Oklahoma 28. West Virginia came into the game reeling. The Mountaineers lost their shot at playing for a national title after getting upset by Pitt 13-9 in the Backyard Brawl. Then coach Rich Rodriguez left for Michigan. Nobody gave them much of a shot. But instead, Pat White absolutely dominated in one of the best performances of his career, running for 150 yards and throwing for 176 in the victory, led by interim coach Bill Stewart. West Virginia was able to overcome the loss of Steve Slaton in the game, and the big win led to Stewart being elevated to head coach.
2011 Fiesta Bowl: No. 7 Oklahoma 48, UConn 20. There is no question this was the biggest mismatch of the BCS era. Oklahoma went into the game with an 11-2 mark; UConn went in at 8-4. The matchup, consequently, began a debate about whether the Big East should really have automatic entry into the BCS. None of the blame should have been directed at the Huskies, who pulled off several close finishes to make it to their first BCS game. But the truth is they were not in the same ballpark as the Sooners, who had a 34-10 lead early in the third quarter. UConn never scored an offensive touchdown.
2010 Sugar Bowl: No. 5 Florida 51, No. 3 Cincinnati 24. The Bearcats went undefeated in the regular season but were not able to play for a national championship. After the regular season ended, coach Brian Kelly left for Notre Dame, and his departure may have contributed to the way they played against the Gators -- inspired in Tim Tebow's final game. Florida jumped out to a 30-3 halftime lead, and Cincinnati only had 246 yards of total offense.
The series ranked the Top 50 best college football players who never had the same success in the pros. White was unbelievably good for the Mountaineers, setting the all-time rushing record for quarterbacks, winning four bowl games and two Big East Offensive Player of the Year awards. He was a second-round pick of the Miami Dolphins in 2009 but only spent a year with the team before deciding to play baseball. He is now back in football, playing with the Virginia Destroyers of the UFL.
AP Photo/John SwartMajor Harris scrambles during the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2, 1989, in Tempe, Ariz. Harris was the first player in NCAA history to rush for more than 2,000 yards and pass for more than 5,000 in a career.
My take is a simple one -- I think White played too recently to be considered. Harris was on the list, though, at No. 38. So yesterday I asked the fans to weigh in -- if you had a choice between White and Harris, who would be on your "Simply Saturday" list? The results were nearly evenly mixed.
Sound off, readers:
InsaneWVUfan: Major Harris and Pat White are about as identical as one can get, however, Pat White would have to get the nod for the Top 50 list because of one thing....winning. Sure Major brought WVU the first untied, undefeated season and appearance in the national championship game, but he also never won a bowl game (Sun, Fiesta, Gator) and left before his senior season. "Chief" on the other hand won 4 bowl games (2 BCS games), finished his career as the NCAA's all-time leading rusher for QBs and did all this with Mountaineer superstars Steve Slaton and Owen Schmitt taking their share of the yards and stats. Major Harris was a legend on Saturdays, Pat White was a God.
Gary: With both Major and Pat, WVU always had a chance to win and you never thought you were out of a game. Major has admitted his mistake in leaving early -- youth. You have to take Major. He single-handily dismantled teams because he could run and throw without predictability. Pat's predictability is what sometimes stopped him -- USF, Pitt. Major had less of a support system too, although the rest of the offense was no slouch. Pat was fast, but Major had moves and improv ability.
AP Photo/Jeff GentnerPat White led West Virginia to four bowl victories.
pbwiili: After Major Harris got hurt in the national championship game against Notre Dame, he was never the same. He could throw the ball 60 yards on a spiral and could run with authority. I thought he had more pro potential than Pat White and more potential than the WVU qbs that did make it to the pros.
lspat1980: I would pick Pat White over Harris. Harris was a great talent and did lead WVU to the National Title Game, but let's consider a few things: Pat White was 4-0 in Bowl Games (2 BCS Bowl games and was MVP of 3 of those games). Harris was 0-3 in Bowl games. White was much more accurate and a better runner, although Harris was a great runner. White also has the most rushing yards of anyone to play QB in College History. Harris was an all-time great and will be forever one of the greatest players in WVU history, but I give White the edge. Also, WVU finished ranked #5, #10, #6, and #19 in White's 4 seasons (Only reason they finished #19 was because of Bill Stewart and Jeff Mullen ruining the team). In the end I say: WHITE > HARRIS
Scott-Chapman: The "Major" as Brent Musburger called him, put WV on the map, and believe it or not, started the influx of great black quarterbacks who could throw and run, like Steve McNair. ... He changed the game, and if not for his injuries, should have won the national championship. Pat White, I am sorry to say was a twig in a great offensive system that produced big numbers for Rasheed Marshall, Shaun King, and Denard Robinson. Major Harris got hoodwinked into leaving school early and had his problems, Pat White is still trying to enhance his legacy, but the large professional players are going to just keep smashing him to bits (see Pittsburgh game which took him 2 years to recover).
withrowsp: I am old enough to have watched both play and I would have to go with the all-time leading rusher in NCAA FBS history and only QB to start and win 4 bowl games: Pat White. Major Harris was great, though, and I would really rather not have to choose.
Dan in Dover, Pa., writes: Do you make anything of Temple recruits saying that Temple will be playing in the Big East in 2012? It sounds more like a recruiting ploy from Steve Addazio and company but could there be any merit to this?
Andrew in New Jersey writes: I think adding Temple would be a great basketball move for the conference, and a better football move than some would imagine. Temple gives you another big city to try to tap into, though I agree it's a pro-sports town. The fact of the matter is a 10-team conference is prime in college football. The Pac-10 was the purest form of determining a champion, with a full round-robin season. Temple also gives each Big East team one more victory a year, which will offset the TCU loss and help us get into bowl games.
Andrea Adelson: The Philadelphia Daily News reports that Addazio is not the one planting the notion that Temple could be headed to the Big East. But it certainly raises eyebrows that recruits have been talking about this. Not just one recruit, but multiple recruits. Seeing Temple surface is not surprising, because we have heard this speculation in the past. The school would not be able to join the Big East until 2013 at the earliest anyway. Temple certainly has improved its on-field product and has more of a commitment to football than the last time it was a member of the league. But I am not sure asking Temple to come back into the fold does much for the Big East. The Big East already has been down this road, and does not need Temple to boost its basketball cred. It needs a new team to help boost is football cred and TV dollars for a new media rights deal. Conference officials have been and remain tight-lipped on expansion. This just seems like more speculation from 18-year-old kids who are completely out of the loop.
Joe in Piscataway, N.J., writes: So say that come this fall there is no NFL. How do you think it will affect the Big East? With so many teams in NFL favored markets, do you think that the lack of football will greatly help out the Big East? I mean it most likely will help, but maybe to a degree where it really has a positive impact on the conference?
Adelson writes: Perhaps there will be more fans in the seats and more media coverage. But what will positively impact the conference most of all are wins in some of their big nonconference games. Because the Big East is competing for respect not against NFL teams, but against teams from the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and all the rest.
Sean in Storrs, Conn., writes: I just wanna point out that ESPN blog specialists for the Big East always doubt UConn, yet they always seem to come through. UConn's defense is going to be hard to score on, very hard. And if anyone watched (Zach) Frazier last year at quarterback, they'd know you can't get much worse. So if you can win the Big East on Frazier's arm and a really good defense, I'd say your in great position with a dual threat Scotty McCummings and Sio Moore, plus nine returners on defense. And I don't think the (Jordan) Todman card will work, either. Todman's loss is big, but (D.J.) Shoemate is a USC recruited player who I believe will step in and fill those shoes. Watching him in the spring, he definitely plays with a chip.
Adelson writes:I absolutely agree that UConn will have a top-notch defense. But let us not forget that the Huskies did go 8-5 last season and ended up in a three-way tie for first. The Huskies did not exactly dominate the league, but they did do enough to get to a BCS game and they get credit for that. I wonder whether Shoemate can be an every down back after being a fullback for most of his career. Stay tuned for a video I am going to do on him, because I do believe he has the potential to be an impact player. But UConn has more questions on offense than any other Big East team, in my opinion, so that is why I have the Huskies lower in my power rankings. I am looking forward to seeing how the season plays out. If I am wrong, I will be glad to admit it.
Steve in New York writes: I know that we are still not 100 percent sure about his football future, but don't you think Pat White deserves a spot among the the top 50 for those that were college stars but never quite cut it in pro football?
Adelson writes: I think he played too recently to be considered. If the list is done again in another five to 10 years, then perhaps he has a spot. But here is a good question for West Virginia fans: If you could choose one player on that list, would it be Major Harris or Pat White? Discuss among yourselves and I will do a blog post with your comments.
- Syracuse will play 10 "home" games at the New Meadowlands Stadium -- one every other year, beginning in 2019.
- Joe Lefeged is optimistic about his draft hopes after a solid NFL combine showing. Brandon Bing put up some dazzling 40 times at Rutgers pro day, but will that be enough? Eric LeGrand was in the house for pro day, and the fact that it wasn't a big deal was good news.
- Pat White has given up baseball.
- A quick look at the UConn quarterback depth chart.
Connecticut, to its credit, won its final five games to get here, but needed a 52-yard field goal in its season finale to win the Big East, a conference with one team (West Virginia) in the BCS top 25.
Even Vegas agrees, pinning the Sooners as a 17-point favorite.
So the big question is simple: What reason do we have to believe that we're not in for a snoozer on Saturday night?
AP Photo/Ross D. FranklinThe last time Bob Stoops was at the Fiesta Bowl, he left with West Virginia interim coach Bill Stewart consoling him.
Or do you think this is cracked and the Sooner are going to come out on fire?
David Ubben: Yeah, for as much as the Huskies have heard they don't belong here, Oklahoma has heard just as much about those famous flops on big bowl stages. Those didn't happen back in the 70s. Plenty of the guys on this team were there or played in the losses to West Virginia and Florida. They want to prove those days are behind them, and close a pretty good season by Oklahoma standards with a win. Also, unlike those teams, which had some of the best players in college football like Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin and Pat White, there's nothing about UConn that's particularly scary or gamebreaking. Jordan Todman is solid, but he's not a guy that's going to give Oklahoma nightmares like Noel Devine did.
And though teams like Boise State and West Virginia were short on program pedigree like the Huskies, they were also short on losses, where Connecticut has a healthy surplus. All five of those losses came to experienced teams and those five teams have the same number of losses combined (4) as the unranked Huskies have in just this season.
So, if Oklahoma is ready to play, are there any reasons for Sooners fans to be concerned?
Ted Miller: Well, I think we can all agree that if Oklahoma comes out and plays its best, it's going to win the game. It's simply more talented in nearly every area.
But this is college football, and talent doesn't always carry the day. UConn's recipe for success here isn't revolutionary. It needs to win the turnover battle, probably decisively. It needs to win third down on both sides of the ball. It needs to establish its running game and play keep-away from a potent Sooners offense. It needs to make at least a few plays downfield in the passing game to keep the Sooners defense reasonable honest when it tries to gang up on the line of scrimmage against running back Jordan Todman. And it needs to win the red zone, scoring TDs when it's there and keeping the Sooners out of the end zone when they are there.
What can't happen? UConn can't make mistakes. And it must maintain some pass-run balance to keep the Sooners honest.
So that's a fairly involved scenario for a UConn win. What do the Sooners need to do to prove the experts correct?
David Ubben: You're right, I think even Connecticut players would admit Oklahoma is the more complete team, but two of the greatest equalizers in football are turnovers and weather. Unfortunately, the three-point shot in college football (a.k.a. a field goal) isn't quite as effective as in basketball.
Since we'll be indoors, Oklahoma can count out that as a factor.
AP Photo/Fred BeckhamConnecticut may need to win the turnover battle to beat Oklahoma. Jerome Junior (15) was one of two Huskies with four interceptions this season.
Don't expect the Sooners to put the ball on the ground, though. They've lost just five fumbles this year in 13 games, good for sixth nationally.
So, theories aside, let's get down to it. How does this play out?
So let's say 42-24 Oklahoma.
What's your take?
David Ubben: Yeah, I'm taking Oklahoma 41-20. Oklahoma hasn't seen a back as good as Todman this year that also plays in a power system. The closest thing has been Cyrus Gray at Texas A&M, who ran for 122 yards and the Aggies beat Oklahoma.
But unlike A&M, Connecticut doesn't have enough weapons elsewhere to keep up with an Oklahoma offense that it won't be able to stop barring turnovers. Remember, Connecticut is playing without nickel back Mike Lang, too. Oklahoma should be able to move the ball consistently, and while I think it might be close early, I tend to buy into your idea of them being worn down.
I think the Huskies can catch the Sooners on play action a couple times for big plays, but not enough to outscore them.
- Pitt's Jabaal Sheard had his hearing postponed as his attorney works on a possible settlement.
- Louisville cornerback Johnny Patrick pleaded guilty to a reduced charge and entered a diversionary program. No word yet on his playing status.
- Charlie Strong and Kentucky's Joker Phillips are close friends who are starting a feel-good rivalry -- for now.
- Running back recruit Jameel Poteat doesn't fear the shadow of Shady McCoy.
- Syracuse's Bud Tribbey is doing good work on and off the field.
- Could a former USC signee be headed to USF?
- Don't count out Pat White just yet.
So I thought it would be fun to come up with a different sort of all-decade team, one that incorporates only the current teams and the current league format. In other words, only players from 2005 on. So call this the All-Half-Decade Team.
QB: Pat White, West Virginia
RB: Ray Rice, Rutgers
RB: Steve Slaton, West Virginia
WR: Kenny Britt, Rutgers
WR: Mardy Gilyard, Cincinnati
WR: Harry Douglas, Louisville
OT: Ryan Stanchek, West Virginia
OT: Jeremy Zuttah, Rutgers
C: Eric Wood, Louisville
OG: Trevor Canfield, Cincinnati
OG: Donald Thomas, Connecticut
DE: Elvis Dumervil, Louisville
DL: Eric Foster, Rutgers
DL: Amobi Okoye, Louisville
DE: George Selvie, South Florida
LB: Scott McKillop, Pittsburgh
LB: H.B. Blades, Pittsburgh
LB: Tyrone McKenzie, South Florida
CB: Darrelle Revis, Pittsburgh
CB: Mike Mickens, Cincinnati
S: Eric Wicks, West Virginia
S: Courtney Greene, Rutgers
K: Art Carmody, Louisville
P: Kevin Huber, Cincinnati
You could almost make the list solely from Miami players between 2000 and 2003; the Hurricanes were that dominant with that many unbelievable athletes on the roster.
But there were several other outstanding players on other teams throughout the decade. When trying to pare down the top 10, I gave extra benefit to longevity. Many stars had amazing single seasons -- guys like Willis McGahee, Donald Brown and Elvis Dumervil -- but I leaned toward those who did it over a longer period of time. NFL production doesn't hurt one's case but is not a major determining factor; this is a list of the best Big East players, not top future pros.
So without further ado, here's my Top 10:
10. Brian Brohm, QB, Louisville: Brohm held the league's all-time career yardage mark before Matt Grothe broke it this past season. He led the Cardinals to the 2007 Orange Bowl title, and he still owns Big East records for passing yards in a career (9,956), season (4,024) and a game (555).
9. Mardy Gilyard, WR, Cincinnati: Gilyard's 3,003 career receiving yards rank just 40 yard behind the league's all-time leader, Rutgers' Kenny Britt. But he is also a two-time league special teams player of the year for his tremendous work on kick returns, and he was one of the main catalysts for the Bearcats' back-to-back Big East titles in 2008 and 2009.
8. Ken Dorsey, QB, Miami: Dorsey is the only Big East quarterback who can say he won a national title in the aughts. He finished his career with a ridiculous 38-2 record, was a two-time Big East offensive player of the year award winner, a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist and the co-MVP of the 2002 Rose Bowl.
6. Dwight Freeney, DE, Syracuse: Freeney was a holy terror on quarterbacks. His 34 career sacks ranks as the third most in Big East history, and he recorded 17.5 of them his senior year. He has gone on to stardom with the Indianapolis Colts.
5. Bryant McKinnie, OT, Miami: It's easy to forget the big guys up front sometimes, but it's impossible to omit McKinnie from this list. The 2001 Outland Trophy winner and two-time All-American did not allow a sack in his college career. He finished eighth in Heisman Trophy balloting in 2001 -- for an offensive lineman, that's staggeringly high.
4. Ray Rice, RB, Rutgers: Rice had two of the top three rushing seasons in Big East history and finished his three-year career with 4,926 rushing yards, only 113 yards behind all-time leader and four-year player Avon Cobourne of West Virginia. Rutgers' running game has sputtered ever since Rice left campus, and he has blossomed into a star at the next level.
3. Ed Reed, DB, Miami: Reed's Big East record of 21 career interceptions may not be broken for a long, long time. The two-time All-American had nine picks and returned three for touchdowns in 2001 alone.
2. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Pittsburgh: Fitzgerald finished second in the 2003 Heisman Trophy race and ought to have won it. His incredible season saw him catch 92 passes for 1,672 yards and 22 touchdowns. He was almost as good in 2002, as well.
1. Pat White, QB, West Virginia: White may or may not be the best player on this list, but his accomplishments put him above the rest. He finished his career as the NCAA's all-time leader in rushing among quarterbacks, led West Virginia to two BCS bowl wins and went 4-0 in bowls as a starter. Maybe more importantly, he helped save the Big East by leading the Mountaineers to a win over Georgia in the 2006 Sugar Bowl when the league's credibility and BCS status were in question. For pure impact and career achievement, White is the Big East's man of the decade.
Very honorable mention: Andre Johnson, Kellen Winslow, Willis McGahee and Jonathan Vilma, Miami; Donald Brown, UConn; Kenny Britt, Rutgers; Elvis Dumervil, Louisville; Antonio Bryant and Darrelle Revis, Pitt; Mathias Kiwanuka, Boston College; DeAngelo Hall, Virginia Tech.
That's my list. Who's in your Top 10 of the past 10 years?
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly wasn't too surprised by the NCAA's ruling on Vidal Hazelton and isn't sure whether the school will appeal, Bill Koch writes in the Cincinnati Enquirer.
• Incredible story about incoming Syracuse cornerback Philip Thomas and how he escaped his crime-ridden neighborhood by Gus Garcia-Roberts of the Miami New Times.
• West Virginia safety Robert Sands is still learning on the job, Mike Casazza says in the Charleston Daily Mail.
• Pat White was drafted by the Yankees in the 48th round of the baseball draft. I think he might be busy with the Miami Dolphins.
• South Florida's academic committee needs a lesson in timing after denying a defensive tackle recruit admission four months after he signed, Brett McMurphy says in the Tampa Tribune.
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
Rutgers has been (rightly) bashed for its schedule this year, but new athletic director Tim Pernetti is aggressively trying to line up better games for the future. The Scarlet Knights are in talks with UCLA about a home-and-home, bicoastal series, Tom Luicci writes in The Star-Ledger.
"I explained our scheduling situation this year to Rick (Neuheisel) and how we had to play two 1-AAs and he said, 'Hey, we ought to be talking about playing a game,'" said Pernetti. "I said, 'You're right. We should be.' So I talked to Greg Schiano about it and he was all for it.
"Since then we've exchanged information and we're trying to see if we can work something out."
• Virginia tight end Andrew Devlin is expected to transfer to Pittsburgh, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The 6-foot-6, 255-pound junior had three catches last year.
• The same paper reports that former Pitt linebacker Austin Ransom may avoid a criminal record by entering a diversionary program. Ransom was charged with swinging at a police officer earlier this month. Still no word on the fate of linebacker Adam Gunn, who was also charged in relation to the incident.
Happy Friday, everybody. Is your head still spinning from the season finale of "Lost" like mine is? Never fear. You've come to the place that's full of answers.
Josh Anderson from Raleigh, N.C., writes: OK, so we are two-thirds of the way through the Top 30 players in the Big East with only one player from the reigning champs listed. I hope you have a slew in the Top 10 from Cincy! I know, I know, we lost a lot of good players to the draft/graduation/etc. but you don't win a championship with just seniors and starters. People rarely talk about it, but depth wins championships.
Brian Bennett: Josh, I don't think it's any big surprise to say there are more Bearcats coming in the final eight next week, and you can figure out who those are. Who else could I have put on the list? There are no proven players on the defense other than safety Aaron Webster, who didn't quite make the cut. I think you'll see a lot of these players emerge when the season kicks in, but for now they don't belong on a preseason top 30 list.
Zach from Somerville writes: Hey, Brian, I missed your recent Big East chat, but I had a few questions for you. 1) In the spring game, DC Jefferson ran a few QB draws and picked up some big yardage while showing some pretty good shiftiness for a big guy, as well as breaking a couple tackles. With the injuries at RB, should RU take a deeper look into where he's getting time (at RB instead of the shaky passer)? 2) Mason Robinson was my classmate. I was just wondering how you expected him, if at all, to perform this year. He never seemed to come into the college running game, but he did have some good separation in his snaps at WR. Is he a viable WR option outside of Brown and maybe Sanu? And 3) I'm a 6-foot-5, 180 pound guy with good-above average top-end speed and good hands (coming from a goalkeeper)/ Does Greg Schiano accept walk ons with no actual football experience?
Brian Bennett: Well, Zach, now you get your own personal chat. As for D.C. Jefferson, the guy is an athlete who needs to get on the field. I wonder whether it's ever going to be at quarterback with Tom Savage coming in. Then again, you can never have too much quarterback depth, as Cincinnati proved last year. Jefferson at running back? I haven't seen too many 6-foot-6, 250-pound tailbacks in my lifetime. Maybe tight end.
As for Mason Robinson, he started the spring at tailback, spent some time at wide receiver and was back at running back at the end of spring after some injuries. He didn't blow anybody away at receiver, but it was his first time there. Rutgers needs bodies there, and I bet he gets another look there in the fall. He seems to be stuck behind Joe Martinek, Kordell Young and Jourdan Brooks at running back, so receiver may be his best bet for playing time.
And hey, give Schiano a call. You never know. But 6-5 and 180? Come on, Zach. Eat something!
Franklin from Parkersburg, W. Va.: With the increased amount of media coverage of Pitt's ever-expanding legal issues, how does that impact coach Dave Wannstedt in the eyes of fans, administration, etc.? I know no team is without "problems," it just seems Pitt has been hit hard in the last month.
Brian Bennett: I don't think Pitt has all of a sudden become rogue outlaw biker gang. When it's all said and done, we're likely looking at two misdemeanor offenses, plus T.J. Porter's DUI. That's not the end of the world -- assuming this is all there is to come. But it has been a rough couple of months. Wannstedt will probably have to address it publicly at some point soon.
Jim from Pluto writes: Will Syracuse make a bowl this year and if not how do you think they will do?
Brian Bennett: I think a bowl game is asking too much, unless Greg Paulus is the second coming of Fran Tarkenton. I do see the Orange being improved, but looking at that nonconference schedule (Minnesota, Penn State, Northwestern), it's hard to find a lot of wins. I think 4-8 or 5-7 if everything goes their way sounds about right. That would still represent progress.
Finally, last week I asked West Virginia fans if they'd rather have Pat White or new College Football Hall of Fame member Major Harris as their quarterback. Here are a couple of responses:
Shawn from Parts Unknown writes: Major Harris or Pat White? Brian, that is a painful question. The first reaction is White because his accomplishments are fresher in my mind, but Harris led his team to the only national championship appearance that WVU ever made. Additionally, Harris was bigger and sturdier than White, which means he was less likely to get injured. Harris would be the better passing QB, but on the other hand, White really developed in his final season. Painful indeed, but if forced I would probably go with Major Harris. (Man that hurts - can't I just have both?)
Kris from Hollidaysburg, Pa., writes: I have to say without doubt that I'd prefer to have Pat White. I am blessed enough to have seen Major Harris play in person, so I truly remember what he was capable of. (My first Mountaineer football game was during the undefeated 1988 season at the old Pitt Stadium, where Harris was at the helm of the offense, providing "Major" excitement.) As great of a scrambler as Harris was, Pat White was even better. His 65 percent completion percentage is much better than Harris' 55 percent.White is also faster and more elusive than Harris, in my opinion, though elusiveness is not exactly a measurable trait.
Also, and perhaps most importantly, White always won on the biggest of stages, where Harris usually fell short. White won four bowl games, including two BCS games against heavyweight, traditional powers. The Harris-led Mountaineers, as good as they were, never won a single bowl game, let alone a BCS game (even though there wasn't a BCS in those days). With that in mind, how could any sane person pick Harris over White? Don't get me wrong, everyone in Mountaineer Nation is nostalgic about the Harris-led undefeated regular seasons, but in my humble opinion, Pat White can do practically everything that Major Harris could do better.
Brian Bennett: Thanks, guys. See you next week.
Happy Friday, everybody. We're beginning the deadest of dead zones for college football, but there's still a lot to talk about. Let's get to your e-mails:
Mike from Connecticut writes: Brian, are you out of your mind with some of these choices for the top players in the Big East? Or is our league just that bad? I'm hoping to see some drastic changes soon and we actually start so see some of the upper-tier talents on your list.
Brian Bennett: Well, this certainly wouldn't be the first time I've been accused of being out of my mind. I admit, the list is a little shaky at the bottom, and it's debatable. Here's why: the Big East lost a boatload of frontline talent last year. Think about some of the names that are gone: Pat White, LeSean McCoy, Donald Brown, Kenny Britt, Mike Teel, Scott McKillop, Eric Wood, Darius Butler ... just to name a few. These weren't just good players. They were some of the best players in the history of their school at their positions.
That doesn't mean there isn't talent in the Big East. It just means there are a lot of players who aren't as well-known or who are still emerging. And I think there is a new wave of stars on the horizon, particularly from some of the strong recruiting classes coming in this summer. The top 30 list in December would look vastly different than it does now.
Stick around, though. We'll get into the top 15 next week, and you'll see many more recognizable names.
Nate from Cincinnati writes: OK, so the other day you had in your lunchtime links the way-too-early bowl projections ... this guy had UC going to the International Bowl?!? Seriously, Brian, am I blinded by my Bearcat love or do you agree with me that this is a joke? TWO-TIME Big East Coach of the Year, and we get a bowl basically reserved for a 7-5 team?! I say if we're not BCS bound again, it's Sun/Gator bowlin' we are. Do we (Bearcats fans, that is) have a right to be insulted by this, or am I off the deep-end?
Brian Bennett: I know you love your Bearcats, Nate. The fact is, it is way too early to be projecting bowls, especially in the Big East, which is incomprehensible right now. But it's May and it's fun, so there's no harm in it. There's something you need to keep in mind this year about the Big East bowl picture, however. After the BCS, things could drop off in a hurry. The Sun Bowl is not an option, because the Big East has fulfilled its two-teams-in-four-years obligation there. That means the No. 2 team can only go to the Gator. But Notre Dame remains available to the Gator Bowl, which would surely do everything in its power to snatch up the Irish if they don't make the BCS but get bowl eligible. So, the No. 2 Big East team could fall all the way to the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
Now, let's say Cincinnati finishes third in the Big East, and, say, Rutgers goes to Charlotte. That would mean Cincinnati's options would be the International Bowl, Papajohns.com Bowl or St. Petersburg. Though it's closer, the Bearcats were just in Birmingham a couple of years ago. So in this case, yes, it's conceivable that Cincinnati could find itself in Toronto even with a strong (think 8-4 overall, 5-2 Big East) kind of season.
It's too early to worry about such things. But if I'm a fan of any Big East team, I make sure I have my passport up to date.
Chris from Charleston, W. Va., writes: Do you think the Mountaineers D-Line has the definite potential to be one of the tops in the Big East and maybe the country? Also, people around me think I'm crazy, but do you think WVU also has major potential of going undefeated?
Brian Bennett: Chris, I admire your optimism, but cool your jets a bit. West Virginia's defensive line should be very strong, with second-team all-league performer Scooter Berry back, a projected big year for Chris Neild, plus Julian Miller and Larry Ford and whatever junior-college transfer Tevita Finau brings. Still, I wouldn't rank it higher than third in the Big East right now. South Florida and Pittsburgh have extremely impressive defensive fronts, and I think Rutgers and Connecticut have a chance to be very, very good there as well. Can West Virginia go undefeated? Anything's possible, but I don't see any Big East team getting close to that this season.
Ryan Jackson from Madison writes: With all this expansion talk, who are your top three teams for the Big East to pick up? Also, how come Navy is never mentioned when it comes to the Big East? They have a decent program and are in a good location.
Brian Bennett: I don't want to get bogged back down in expansion talk, but it is an interesting question. First, on Navy: the Big East did have talks with both Navy and Army about becoming football-only members, or at least permanent Big East opponents. The negotiations never got far. Navy is not feasible as an all-sports member because it's not strong in many other sports, and the Midshipmen enjoy their independent status because of the flexibility in scheduling. If they can get to six or seven wins, they're guaranteed a bowl game because of their built-in following.
As for teams to add to the Big East, I've said in the past I don't think there's an obvious fit out there that's not currently in an auto-bid BCS league. That said, the program that intrigues me the most is Central Florida. I was on that campus recently and was impressed by the facilities and the overall newness of the place. That's a big, untapped market (Orlando) with easy access to talent, and it gives South Florida a natural rival and the Big East another foothold in Florida. The downsides are that the Bulls don't want to deal with UCF in the Big East, and by raising that program up, other league teams would face more competition for Florida high school talent. The other programs often mentioned as possibilities, like Memphis and East Carolina, don't appeal to me all that much. Memphis doesn't make a lot of sense geographically and has dreadful football facilities. East Carolina is too remote and brings nothing to the basketball side of things.
Mark from Martinsburg writes: With Major Harris being elected to the College Football Hall of Fame, I read the list of qualifications needed. What are your thoughts on Pat White and requirement for admission No. 1: First and Foremost, a player must have received first team All-America recognition by a selector organization that is recognized by the NCAA and utilized to comprise their consensus All-America teams?
Brian Bennett: This is the same requirement that, for now at least, would prevent White from having his jersey retired at West Virginia. I hope it changes, because Pat White deserves to be in the College Football Hall of Fame some day. I understand why the requirement was put in, but there are so many more teams and great players out there today that it's harder to make a first-team All-America squad -- which, by the way, is highly subjective anyway.
On another topic, I throw this out to West Virginia fans: Which quarterback would you rather have if you were starting a team today, Pat White or Major Harris?
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
• Greg Paulus wrapped up his two-day visit to Syracuse by attending a graduate student reception at the school's Newhouse School with Doug Marrone, the Daily Orange reports.
• Marrone has joined the Twitter craze.
• West Virginia coach Bill Stewart is changing his approach to walk-ons, Dave Hickman writes in the Charleston Gazette.• Where is George Selvie projected to go in the 2010 draft? The St. Petersburg Times' Greg Auman looks at some absurdly early mocks.
• Are the Miami Dolphins trying to bring the spread offense to the NFL with Pat White? Some league officials think so, the Sun-Sentinel's Omar Kelly writes.
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
The Cincinnati Enquirer's Bill Koch has an interesting look at how building a signature athletic hub on campus has both helped and hurt Cincinnati financially. The Bearcats are facing a budget shortfall and are cutting financial aid to three men's sports teams.
In addition to the debt from the facility that must be financed, Varsity Village costs approximately $1.1 million a year to operate -- $700,000 for utilities and $400,000 in maintenance and custodial costs, [athletic director Mike] Thomas said.
UC, compared with the seven other Division I football schools in the Big East, is ill-equipped to absorb that kind of debt year after year. According to Thomas, the average combined revenue produced by the men's basketball and football programs among the eight Big East football schools is $26 million per year. UC ranks last in that group at $14 million.
• Greg Paulus was in Syracuse this weekend and apparently met with Orange football coaches on Sunday night, Donnie Webb writes in the Syracuse Post-Standard.
In draft news ...
• Pat White was thrilled to be drafted by the Wildcat-running Miami Dolphins, Mike Casazza writes in the Charleston Daily Mail. Within this story, there is word that undrafted offensive linemen Greg Isdaner (Dallas Cowboys) and Ryan Stanchek (Atlanta Falcons) have signed free-agent deals.
• UConn's Julius Williams and Tyler Lorenzen signed with Jacksonville, while Dahna Deleston signed with the Bears and Keith Gray inked with Carolina, Desmond Conner writes in the Hartford Courant.
• Louisville's Hunter Cantwell signed with the Carolina Panthers, Mike Grant says in The Courier-Journal.