Thursday, December 2, 2010
What to watch in the Big East: Week 14
By Brian Bennett
1. Championship week: The Big East doesn't have a title game, but this week works the same. Connecticut will claim the league's BCS bid with a win at South Florida. If the Huskies lose, West Virginia takes the crown by beating Rutgers. If both teams fall, Pittsburgh can still sneak in the BCS back door with a victory at Cincinnati.
2. Battle in the trenches in Tampa: The UConn-South Florida game will pit the Huskies' powerful offensive line versus one of the Bulls' main strengths: their defensive line. Nose guard Terrell McClain has quietly had a great season and will try to wreak havoc inside against Moe Petrus and Zach Hurd. Teams can run on the Bulls, though; their last three opponents have all rushed for at least 150 yards, which could mean big things for ...
Jordan Todman has rushed for 100 yards in all but one game this season.
3. Todman time:Jordan Todman has been the league's MVP and has carried the Huskies during their recent four-game winning streak, averaging 161 rushing yards in that span. You would think the Bulls would stack the box and force one of the nation's least productive passing attacks to beat them, but other teams have had the same idea and still can't stop Todman. If UConn is going to the BCS, Todman shall lead them there.
4. USF's quarterback situation: B.J. Daniels is gimpy on an injured quadriceps muscle. True freshman walk-on Bobby Eveld led the team to victory in the second half and overtime last week at Miami and may start Saturday. Eveld was impressive at times, but he's still wildly inexperienced, and young quarterbacks can have major ups and downs. Daniels may be able to play at least some snaps. UConn's defense has been a ball hawking bunch of late, and this is a dangerous situation for South Florida.
5. Return delivery: The USF-UConn game will feature two of the top kick returners in the country. Nick Williams is leading all returners with a 42-yard average and two touchdowns for the Huskies, while South Florida's Lindsey Lamar also has scored twice and is averaging 29 yards per attempt. If either of them gets loose, that could be a game-changer.
6. West Virginia's defense vs. the indefensible Rutgers O-line: The Mountaineers' defense is just plain scary and is among the nation's leaders in all important categories. It ranks sixth in the FBS in sacks, and this is a match made in hell for the Scarlet Knights' offensive line. Rutgers has given up a nation's worst 55 sacks already, and with guys like Bruce Irvin and J.T. Thomas charging through that line, things could get ugly fast. I fear for quarterback Chas Dodd's well being.
7. A 180 at Nippert: A year ago at this time, Pitt and Cincinnati staged a classic shootout for the Big East title. The Panthers still are mathematically alive for the BCS bid and can earn a share of the Big East title with a win Saturday, but no one will remember that tie after a 7-5 season. They have to beat Cincinnati just to avoid going 6-6, and a crummy bowl destination could await either way. Cincinnati has already been eliminated from the postseason and has nothing to play for but pride. All eyes were on this game last year; not many will be watching 12 months later.
8. Bowl bids: Since the Big East plays its regular-season schedule during other league's title-game week, nothing has been decided yet on bowls. We're reasonably certain Syracuse is going to the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, but that's it. This weekend's results will determine not just the BCS bid but which teams get the other six Big East slots.