What we learned in the Big East

September, 20, 2009
9/20/09
11:33
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett


What we learned from Week 3 in the Big East:

1. The Big East can hold its own: You want to make fun of a conference? Look to the ACC or the Big Ten, each of which has had several embarrassing losses. The Big East doesn't have any of those head-scratching defeats, and Saturday was a very good day for the league. The conference notched three wins over BCS opponents -- Cincinnati winning at Oregon State, Syracuse beating Northwestern and UConn prevailing at Baylor -- while Pitt throttled a solid Navy team. And the Big East's two setbacks were both respectable, as Louisville and West Virginia had fourth-quarter leads before falling on the road to Kentucky and Auburn, respectively.

2. Cincinnati needs to be taken very, very seriously: The Bearcats' win at Oregon State might not have garnered a lot of national attention, but it should have. The Beavers hadn't lost at home to a team outside the Pac-10 since 1996, and they came into Saturday ranked 24th in the coaches' poll. Cincinnati, despite missing one of its top defensive playmakers in linebacker Curtis Young, held Oregon State to just one touchdown in an impressive 28-18 victory. The defense is much stronger than most people anticipated, and the offense led by Tony Pike has a lot of answers. This team could easily be 5-0 heading into its game at South Florida, and it's worthy of top 10 consideration.

3. West Virginia is the only team that can stop itself: The Mountaineers have as much offensive talent as just about anybody in the country. They rolled up more than 500 yards at Auburn and appeared to overwhelm the Tigers early with their speed. But West Virginia simply is too mistake-prone to be an elite team right now, and six turnovers doomed it in Saturday's 41-30 loss. Jarrett Brown, who almost never turned the ball over in preseason practice, had four interceptions and a fumble, though not all of those can be blamed just on him. The Mountaineers now have 10 turnovers on the season to just three by their opponents; that definitely needs to be shored up if they want to contend for the Big East title.

4. This is not the same old Syracuse: Big East teams had better watch out for the Orange. They played hard the first two games against Minnesota and Penn State and finally broke through with an exciting 37-34 win over Northwestern on Saturday. The Greg Paulus experiment seems to be working, as he threw for 346 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday, and this team is starting to believe in itself under Doug Marrone. The first-year coach has already brought the excitement back to the Carrier Dome, as fans aren't daring to leave early anymore. And with the next five games at home, Syracuse has a chance to tack on a few more victories.

5. Handoffs are better than hurry-up for UConn: So much was made in the offseason of Connecticut's new no-huddle attack. And the Huskies came out and struggled on offense their first two games. Well, UConn did what it does best on Saturday at Baylor, using the ground game to sustain physical drives. Andre Dixon and Jordan Todman each rushed for more than 100 yards for the second time in three games, and the Huskies led 27-7 at one point. Huddle or no huddle, this team's identity remains the same.

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