Sunday, October 24, 2010
What we learned in the Big East: Week 8
By Brian Bennett
1. Pitt is it ... again: The Panthers limped into Big East play with a 2-3 record and no good wins. But it's almost as if the team flipped a switch since conference action started. A 41-21 beatdown of Rutgers leaves them as the only team with a 2-0 league record, and they've won their first two games by a combined score of 86-35. The offensive line problems seem to have been righted, Tino Sunseri has finally found a groove at quarterback and the defense remains stout. With West Virginia and Cincinnati both losing at home over the weekend, the preseason favorite Panthers once again stand as the team to beat in the Big East.
The Orange is on pace for a bowl game for the first time since 2004.
2. Yes, Syracuse is for real: Turns out that maybe the Orange's flop last week against home against Pittsburgh was just a bad performance against a team getting on a roll. Because the Orange are seriously improved. Exhibit A: their 19-14 upset at No. 20 West Virginia, the biggest win for the program since ... well, we're still checking on that. A long time, for sure. Syracuse shut out the dangerous Mountaineers offense in the second half and has allowed only two touchdowns in its two road conference games. With three winnable home games left, the 5-2 Orange should be going bowling for the first time since 2004.
3. B.J. will be OK: Some South Florida fans were ready to declare B.J. Daniels unfit to be their quarterback after his horrific start to the season that included 10 interceptions. The Bulls offense was simply offensive, not scoring a touchdown in its first two Big East games. That all changed at Cincinnati, as Daniels accounted for four total touchdowns -- and no interceptions! -- in a 38-30 upset special. The Bulls had scored a total of 29 points against their first three BCS opponents this year. If they can execute as well as they did versus the Bearcats, this team can still do some good things this year, and the future for Daniels and the offense suddenly looks much brighter.
4. Anybody can beat anybody: What if I told you before the season that Syracuse (5-2) and Louisville (4-3) would own better records than Cincinnati and Connecticut (both 3-4)? Or that six of the eight teams in the Big East would already have at least three losses the week before Halloween? Syracuse's win at West Virginia and South Florida's eruption at Cincinnati proved that there is true parity in this league. Or parody, if you prefer. But there's very little distance between the ceiling and the floor.
5. Prepare for more Big East bashing: West Virginia's loss means the Big East will once again be without a Top 25 team this week. It's quite possible that the league champion could be unranked headed into its BCS game if things continue this way. If Pitt wins the conference, skeptics will point to the Panthers 0-3 nonconference record versus BCS opponents. If West Virginia wins, the Syracuse loss will be highlighted. If Cincinnati wins, well, you get the idea. Bottom line: this just isn't a good year for the Big East and there's no standout team. But if you want to watch a wildly unpredictable league race where things change just about every week, keep watching.