What we learned in the Big East: Week 3

September, 16, 2012
9/16/12
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So what did we learn in the Big East in Week 3?

1. The Big East was pretty perfect. No, the Big East was not picture-perfect, but it went undefeated on Saturday and, well, that was better than what happened the first two weeks of the season. The Big East went 5-0 in its nonconference games -- including 3-0 against its archrival ACC. After going 0-2 last week against the ACC, the Big East needed a better performance this week. You figured UConn and Louisville had the best shot. But Pitt? Wow. The Panthers have been derided during their 0-2 start, with neither the Big East nor the ACC wanting custody. Well, I think after its big win over Virginia Tech, the Big East is happy to have it for the next few weeks.

[+] EnlargePittsburgh quarterback Tino Sunseri
AP Photo/Keith SrakocicPittsburgh quarterback Tino Sunseri enjoyed good protection from his offensive line in a 35-17 victory over Virginia Tech.
2. Speaking of Pitt -- Don't count out the Panthers. You know what we learned about this team? It has heart and determination and simply refused to be defined by its first two games of the year. Does this mean Pitt is going to have a good season? I think it is too early to make those sorts of projections. But perhaps Pitt is clearly not as bad as we thought. While the Panthers do have Virginia Tech's number -- each of Pitt’s five wins over Virginia Tech have come against nationally ranked Hokies teams -- there were exactly zero people outside of Pittsburgh who thought they would win. I was most impressed by two things: Tino Sunseri and the offensive line. The two played nearly flawlessly. The line protected Sunseri and allowed just one sack, in probably its best performance since 2010. Not once last year did Pitt give up fewer than two in a game. Ray Graham and Rushel Shell also teamed up to dominate on the ground, and Sunseri showed guts and smarts. This is truly a win to build on; now we'll see what the Panthers do with it.

3. Louisville needs to close 'em out. I admit that after Louisville took a 36-7 lead on North Carolina at halftime, I started talking about whether the Cardinals have what it takes to run the table this season. Then the Cardinals nearly imploded and had to hold on in a way closer than it should have been in a 39-34 victory. That second half was a reminder that Louisville is still a young team with only a handful of seniors, and mostly underclassmen leading the way. "That is what happens in the game of college football when you get a big lead," coach Charlie Strong said. "We are not a mature enough team to go out and play well, and I told them at halftime that if we are a mature football team, we would not lose our focus. We will go out and finish this game. It is so hard when you have a big lead and have a young football team the way we do and just did not go out there and finish the game.”

4. Jawan Jamison is one of the best running backs in the Big East. Rutgers already has the best defense in the league, as proven in its 23-13 win over USF on Thursday night. But the Scarlet Knights now appear to have one of the best rushers in the league in Jamison, who had 151 yards rushing and a school-record 41 carries. Jamison came on strong at the end of last season and has carried that over to 2012, where he has clearly separated himself from Savon Huggins (who sat out against USF with an injury). Jamison has 373 yards this season and is averaging 5.4 yards per carry. If he keeps that up, bank on Rutgers trying to ground-and-pound its way to a Big East title.

5. Yawin Smallwood should start his defensive player of the year campaign. I have been thoroughly impressed with the way UConn linebacker Yawin Smallwood has played to start the season. He had his best game yet in a win over Maryland, with 14 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble on quarterback Perry Hills. Smallwood made some major strides in his first year as a starter last year, finishing No. 6 in the league in tackles. But this season he appears to be a much more complete player and is always around the football. At least it seems that way. By the way, he is only a sophomore.

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