Big East: What to watch

September, 1, 2011
9/01/11
10:15
AM ET
Week 1 is here. So what should you be watching in the Big East?

1. Debut time. There are plenty of anticipated debuts throughout the Big East: Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia, Todd Graham at Pitt, Savon Huggins at Rutgers and Teddy Bridgewater at Louisville to name the four biggest right at the top. But before we dive in there, we have to take a look at the biggest game in the league this week.

2. USF at No. 16 Notre Dame. The Bulls are ready to make a statement in South Bend as Skip Holtz returns to his alma mater. USF has the speed, but can it hold the line? I will have a preview video later today examining the USF offensive line versus the Notre Dame defensive front as my key to watch. History also is against USF. The Bulls are 0-4 all-time in road season-openers. This is their first road opener since 2005, when USF lost 23-13 to Penn State in Happy Valley.

[+] EnlargeTodd Graham
AP Photo/Don WrightTodd Graham makes his debut at Pittsburgh on Saturday night.
3. Holgorsen and his offense. A quick Google search reveals that there is wide-ranging national interest in the new head coach at West Virginia. So much has been written about what his offenses have done in previous stops, it is time to actually see it in action in Morgantown. The Mountaineers open with in-state rival Marshall on Sunday afternoon. Last year, the Mountaineers struggled to win the game. But this year ... could 70 points be a possibility?

4. Graham and new-look Pitt. We get our first glimpse at a new-look Pitt team on Saturday night, when the Panthers go from pro-style to hurry-up against Buffalo. The big question is how the Pitt personnel will look running a system that may not be tailored to their strengths. How does Tino Sunseri look, particularly throwing the deep ball? On defense, how does the team adjust to the 3-4? How does Brandon Lindsey do in the new "Panther" role?

5. Huggins the savior? Rutgers fans have been waiting on the debut of Huggins since he signed with Rutgers in February as the most decorated recruit in school history. Coach Greg Schiano has not said whether he or De'Antwan Williams will start tonight against NC Central. Both played extremely well during fall camp and in scrimmages. Schiano is not so much worried about who will start but is more interested in what he is going to see out of the position. High expectations have been placed on Huggins, but he has embraced them and is ready to make his mark.

6. What can Bridgewater do? Another true freshmen with a much anticipated debut is quarterback Teddy Bridgewater at Louisville. Will Stein will start tonight against Murray State, but Bridgewater will most certainly play. Early reports are that he is mature beyond his years and will bring a different look to the offense. But true freshmen quarterbacks always have a learning curve, so it remains to be seen whether he will become the starter at some point this season.

7. Now starting for UConn at quarterback ... Coach Paul Pasqualoni will unveil his starting quarterback to the world when the Huskies kick off against Fordham on Saturday. Michael Nebrich and Johnny McEntee appear to be the front-runners, with Scott McCummings also in the race. Your guess is as good as mine, because everybody up in Connecticut has been completely mum on the topic.

8. Cincinnati on D. The biggest question for the Bearcats has surrounded the defense. How much better will they be with another year of experience and essentially everybody returning? They should be much improved, though there is some youth at linebacker and still questions in the secondary. We may not get a real answer until next week, when the Bearcats go on the road to play Tennessee.

9. Big East-ACC challenge. Syracuse and Wake Forest play the first of six games between Big East and ACC teams. We all know how important these games are, what with my ongoing catfight with HD. OK, just kidding on that one. But still, a rivalry has grown between Big East and ACC fans about which league is better. The Orange, a bowl team a year ago, have got to beat a Wake team coming off a 3-9 season to keep their momentum going. The big question is how the much younger and slightly smaller defense will do against a pretty good running team.

10. Early Heisman candidates? This may not be realistic after Week 1, but I certainly recall Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson getting some Heisman love after his debut last year against UConn. If Geno Smith has a big game for West Virginia, or maybe even Ray Graham at Pitt, the Big East can maybe bask in some early Heisman talk -- something it has been unable to do for the past several years.

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