Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Big East stock report, Week 3
By Brian Bennett
Money never sleeps. Nor does the Big East stock report. Bring on the ticker.
1. Geno and Tino: Heading into the season, sophomores Tom Savage and B.J. Daniels had the most experience of any Big East quarterbacks. But it's a different pair of sophomores who rank Nos. 1 and 2 in passing yards among league signal-callers after two weeks: West Virginia's Geno Smith and Pitt's Tino Sunseri. Smith was mighty impressive in leading West Virginia on two long scoring drives to win at Marshall, while Sunseri made strides from Week 1 in a pass-heavy game plan against New Hampshire.
Joe Lefeged has two forced fumbles and an INT so far in 2010.
2. Joe Lefeged: The Rutgers safety has been a beast on defense and in special teams and jumps up in our player of the year race below. It seems like every year, Rutgers has a breakout star in the defensive backfield who also excels at special teams work. Last year, it was Devin McCourty. This year, it's Lefeged.
3. Demetris Murray: Yes, there was the costly fumble on the exchange from B.J. Daniels deep in Florida territory. But I really liked how Murray ran the ball for most of the game in The Swamp. South Florida might have found its No. 1 tailback in Murray.
4. Louisville's defensive pressure: The Cardinals registered eight sacks on Saturday versus Eastern Kentucky, led by Rodney Gnat's four. Sure, it was only Eastern Kentucky. But when you consider that Louisville had only 14 sacks in 2008 and 23 in 2009, this counts as a definite improvement.
1. Brandon Hogan: The West Virginia cornerback was arrested for DUI and has been suspended indefinitely. This comes after Bill Stewart already gave him plenty of second chances. Coaches get blamed a lot when players mess up. But some players just never "get it." Hogan has NFL potential, but he needs to get his act together fast.
2. Tom Savage: I still believe in Rutgers' quarterback, but the results after two weeks scream "sophomore slump." Savage has completed just 50 percent of his passes, has only one touchdown throw and is averaging just 110 passing yards per game. And that's not against Alabama and Ohio State; the Scarlet Knights have played Norfolk State and Florida International. The entire Rutgers offense is struggling, and Savage is a big reason why.
3. Greg Romeus and Dion Lewis: The reigning offensive and co-defensive players of the year probably won't repeat their titles. Romeus could miss the majority of the season after undergoing back surgery this week. I discussed Lewis' early struggles here.
4. Syracuse's frequent-flyer miles: After traveling about 6,000 miles, round trip, to their first two games against Akron and Washington, the Orange finally return home for this Saturday's game. The next two weeks should provide a happy homecoming, with Maine and Colgate lined up for what should be easy wins and a 3-1 record.
Player of the year race: Offense
1. Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia: Devine is averaging a solid if not spectacular 111 rushing yards per game but is capable of breaking one at any time.
2. Jordan Todman, RB, Connecticut: Todman is leading the Big East in rushing yards (256) and touchdowns (four). But West Virginia is 2-0 and UConn is 1-1. Todman is definitely on the rise, though.
3. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: Smith leads the Big East in completion percentage (72.2) and passing yards (532) and is tied for the lead with three passing touchdowns. He's also got the most memorable two drives of the season so far.
4. Jon Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh: The Panthers showed a preference for throwing the ball last week, and anything that means more opportunities for Baldwin is a good thing. He's averaging 85.5 receiving yards per game and has two touchdowns. Look for those numbers to go up.
5. Bilal Powell, RB, Louisville: Powell is off to a really nice start, ranking second in the league in rushing yards and rushing TDs. But it will be hard for him to win the award unless Louisville finds ways to win more games.
Player of the year race: Defense
1. Robert Sands, S, West Virginia: Pass defense looked a little shaky at times against Marshall. But with Romeus sidelined, Sands is still the biggest star in the league on defense.
2. Joe Lefeged, S, Rutgers: A lot of his impact has come on special teams, but he's been really good on defense as well.
3. Lawrence Wilson, LB, Connecticut: Last year's tackles leader is tied with Syracuse's Derrell Smith for the most stops in the conference so far this year.
4. JK Schaffer, LB, Cincinnati: Had nine tackles and a pass breakup against Indiana State, and the Bearcats' defense has been pretty solid so far.
5. Mistral Raymond, CB, South Florida: Turning into a very good cornerback. Florida didn't look his way much on Saturday.
Dion Lewis vs. Noel Devine
So far, it's no contest between our two preseason favorites for offensive player of the year. Here are the stats:
Devine: 46 carries for 223 yards (4.8 ypc) and two touchdowns.
Lewis: 35 carries for 102 yards (2.9 ypc) and two touchdowns.
Tom Savage vs. B.J. Daniels
Lots of fuel for the debate about which QB is better after this week. Daniels was brilliant at times and awful at others against Florida, while Savage's struggles continue.
Savage: 17-for-34 (50 percent) for 220 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Daniels: 20-for-42 (47.6 percent) for 348 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. Has has also run for 130 yards and a score.