Sunday, December 5, 2010
What we learned in the Big East: Week 14
By Brian Bennett
1. Huskies were just tougher: Is Connecticut the most talented team in the Big East? Probably not. But the Huskies are going to the BCS because they were better at handling adversity than any other league team. Their three key wins -- at home against West Virginia and Pitt, and at South Florida in Saturday's finale -- came by a total of eight points. In each, they faced tough times; they trailed in the second half against the Mountaineers and Panthers, and they needed a goal line stand in the final two minutes to avoid falling behind against the Bulls. Each time they answered, and that's why UConn, improbably, is the Big East's BCS representative. That being said ...
Jordan Todman was held to just 2.8 yards per carry against South Florida, something that will need to improve for the Huskies to have success in their bowl game.
2. UConn needs to diversify: The South Florida game tape will no doubt be dissected in either Norman, Okla., or Blacksburg, Va., on Sunday night. The Bulls stacked the box and were athletic and aggressive enough to hold Jordan Todman to just 2.8 yards per carry and no runs longer than 9 yards on 33 attempts. The Huskies couldn't make South Florida pay in the passing game, throwing for just 112 yards. If Zach Frazer and the UConn passing attack doesn't improve in the next month, it will have trouble competing against Oklahoma or Virginia Tech.
3. West Virginia has only itself to blame: The Mountaineers and their fans were hanging on every play of the South Florida-Connecticut game, hoping the Bulls could win and send their team into the BCS. West Virginia had the best defense in the Big East and probably should have won the league going away. But even in Saturday's 35-14 win over Rutgers, the problem that plagued the Mountaineers -- turnovers -- reared its ugly head. They lost three fumbles inside the Scarlet Knights' 15-yard line and nearly gave away two more. That kind of sloppiness with the ball is why West Virginia lost to Syracuse and Connecticut -- and why it's now hoping for the Champs Sports Bowl at best.
4. Bobby Eveld will push B.J. Daniels: Eveld, a true freshman walk-on, made his first career start in place of the injured Daniels against UConn. Though he had his share of mistakes -- he threw three interceptions, two of them on tipped balls -- he also showed a pocket presence and moxie that ought to make Daniels a little nervous. A 6-foot-5, he's nearly six inches taller than Daniels, and he delivers nice, accurate balls. He threw for 105 yards in the fourth quarter and led his team on a scoring drive in the final two minutes for the second straight game. At the very least, the Bulls should let Eveld compete for the starting job next spring with the mercurial Daniels.
5. Rutgers and Cincinnati face long offseasons: The Scarlet Knights and Bearcats, who had seemingly begun to establish themselves as perennial bowl participants, each finished off 4-8 seasons on Saturday. Rutgers coach Greg Schiano needs to do a thorough examination of his program and staff, especially on offense. He might also lose former rising star Tom Savage to a transfer. Butch Jones never could get the young Cincinnati defense to play well, nor could he fix the team's turnover problems. There may have been some complacency around the program after two Big East titles, and there are some holes to fill on the roster. Neither team is going bowling, but each team's offseason should be busy.