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What to watch in the Big East, Week 2

9/10/2009



Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

What to watch for in Week 2 of the Big East:

1. West Virginia's toughness: Ever since the East Carolina loss last year, Bill Stewart has been harping on the need for his Mountaineers to get tougher. They received a mixed grade in the opener, allowing Liberty to score 20 points and leaving too many points on the table in the red zone. But that was Liberty. The real litmus test comes against the team that smashed West Virginia in the mouth last year. It's gut-check time in Morgantown.

2. The Mountaineers' kickoff coverage: West Virginia fans thought the kickoff coverage couldn't get any worse than what it was last year ... until they saw the season opener. The Mountaineers simply can't give Patrick Pinkney and Co. terrific field position all day and expect to be successful.

3. Connecticut's punt protection: North Carolina's Bruce Carter was more like Bruce Wayne last year in Chapel Hill, turning in a superhero effort to block three straight Connecticut punts. It's hard to understand how a team could let the same guy keep coming in unblocked. Well, the Huskies have made changes to their punt protection scheme, and you'd better believe all 22 eyeballs from their punt team will be watching Carter's every move.

4. Zach Frazer's accuracy: The UConn quarterback has been a turnover machine, throwing nine interceptions in his last four games, including three more Saturday at Ohio. Frazer tossed three against the Tar Heels last year in Chapel Hill. There's no way the Huskies beat North Carolina if Frazer keeps giving the ball away.

5. Naaman Roosevelt vs. Jonathan Baldwin: Buffalo's Roosevelt is one of the best receivers in the country that nobody knows about. Pitt's Baldwin has the skills to be one of the best wideouts in the nation. Both could play important roles as the Panthers go into Buffalo, and it should be fun to see a little can-you-top-this situation develop.

6. Pitt's quarterback situation: Bill Stull got booed last week while Tino Sunseri got cheered. It was easy for Dave Wannstedt to give both time against Youngstown State. What does he do against Buffalo, especially if Stull struggles early on? Will he stick with the fifth-year senior, or have a quick hook and go with the promising redshirt freshman Sunseri?

7. South Florida's youngsters: Junior-college transfer Jason Pierre-Paul could get a lot of time at defensive end. Running back Lindsey Lamar and wideout Sterling Griffin have received a lot of attention and could become bigger parts of the offense. For some of the true frosh, the trip to Western Kentucky will be their first time playing outside of Florida. Will this be a breakout game for them, or will they be intimidated by the road atmosphere?

8. The Greg Paulus road show: Paulus was surprisingly decent in his college debut last week for Syracuse, nearly leading the Orange to a win over Minnesota. Of course, he wasn't asked to do a whole lot, and his critical mistake in overtime made the difference. How much has he learned from that, and can he come through in one of the toughest places anywhere to play, at Penn State? Paulus is certainly used to hostile environments from playing at Duke, but he's never had 100,000 people rooting against him. The fans won't be as big a problem as the Nittany Lions' defense, though.

9. Tom Savage's starting debut: Rutgers fans don't have much to look forward to after Monday's 47-15 shellacking by Cincinnati, except for the starting debut of true freshman quarterback Savage. This could be the start of a long, productive era for the former highly touted recruit. He's playing against Howard of the FCS, so the opportunity to learn on the job and build confidence is definitely there.

10. The Bearcats were virtually unstoppable offensively against Rutgers. They scored 47 points and they had called off the dogs after the third quarter. How in the world can Southeast Missouri State, an FCS opponent, possibly hope to handle that offense? Then again, Cincinnati may want to keep things simple and rest starters as much as possible with a cross-country trip to Oregon State looming.