Ten things to watch in the Big East, Week 2
It's Friday, Kickoff Eve, so that means it's time to list 10 things to watch for in the Big East this weekend:
1. The trenches in Norman: Nothing separates the truly elite teams from the very good ones more than line play. Oklahoma has one of the biggest and most experienced offensive lines in the country, averaging 6-foot-5 and 310 pounds per man. Cincinnati's defensive line averages 272 pounds. The Bearcats must avoid getting steamrolled by the Sooners' size advantage.
2. East Carolina's defensive strategy: West Virginia coach Bill Stewart has all but changed his Facebook status to "Will pass if you put nine in the box." Do the Pirates try to crowd the line of scrimmage and dare Pat White to duplicate his Week 1 throwing numbers? Or do they take their chances against the option?
3. The temperature in Orlando: We're not talking about the weather. The final (for now) installment of the South Florida-Central Florida series should be a heated exchange. Will the Bulls take the lead early and run up the score to rub it in their rival's face? Or will Central Florida ride emotion to an upset? And speaking of motivation ...
4. The revenge factor in Philadelphia: Think Temple has gotten over last year's controversial call in East Hartford? Then check out the Owls' official site, which has a major promo for "Temple-UConn II." (Never mind that this is the 11th meeting between the schools.) Click on it, and it takes you to the video of the notorious play, in which Bruce Francis appeared to catch a potential game-winning touchdown off a double-reverse pass. Maybe it's just a marketing ploy. Or perhaps Temple will have enough incentive to pull off a landmark victory.
5. Buffalo winging it: Pittsburgh is hurting at linebacker a week after giving up 27 points in a loss to Bowling Green. Now here comes Buffalo and quarterback Drew Willy, who threw for 221 yards and four touchdowns last week in a blowout of UTEP. Willy has thrown 251 passes without an interception, the longest streak in the nation.
6. Louisville's resuscitation: For the first time in eight years, Louisville failed to score a point on offense on Sunday against Kentucky. Simply beating Tennessee Tech this weekend won't suffice. The Cardinals need to score and score often.
7. Cincinnati's kicking game: If the Bearcats are going to make Oklahoma sweat, they'll probably need a field goal or two somewhere along the way. Brandon Yingling takes over place-kicking duties this week from incumbent Jake Rogers. Yingling has never attempted a college field goal. Doing it in front of 82,000 hostile fans might not be the easiest place to begin.
8. Attendance at Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Louisville: Disheartening defeats to begin the season have the fan bases grumbling at all three schools. Without marquee opponents to draw crowds this weekend, how many empty seats will there be at the Carrier Dome, Heinz Field and Papa John's Cardinal Stadium?
9. Tyler Lorenzen's confidence: Lorenzen threw three interceptions against Hofstra, or half as many as the Connecticut quarterback had all of last season. The Huskies can't win consistently while losing the turnover battle, and Lorenzen has to at least make defenses respect the passing game so Donald Brown and Andre Dixon can do their thing. He could use a solid performance at Temple, although the weather might make throwing a challenge.
10. Big East pride: After league teams went 0-4 against FBS competition last week, losing them all by double digits, the Big East needs to take care of business tomorrow. Having Cincinnati at least throw a scare into Oklahoma would help, and West Virginia and South Florida need to roll in their first FBS games. UConn, Pittsburgh and Syracuse all are playing MAC teams; anything less than a 2-1 record would come as an embarrassment.