Thursday, September 8, 2011
Big East what to watch
By Andrea Adelson
What you should be watching around the Big East in Week 2:
1. Undefeated again? The big story this week has been the way the league went 8-0 in Week 1. Can that be replicated in Week 2? There are some big challenges this week -- tough road games for Cincinnati, Rutgers and Connecticut. All three are underdogs, so the Big East is going to need some big-time upsets to remain perfect on the season.
2. Cincinnati pass D. One of the biggest problems for Cincinnati on defense last season was the way it played against the pass. Too many times the Bearcats allowed big plays and that ended up hurting them in a bunch of games. The Vols lost their top three receivers from a year ago, but had nice games from Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers last week. Tyler Bray went 17-of-24 passing for 293 yards and three touchdowns against Montana. The Vols had problems establishing the run last week, so they could try to take advantage of an area of concern by hitting some plays in the pass game.
Other questions aside, Quinton Coples knows how to get to the quarterback.
3. Rutgers' line play. The challenge up front will be formidable for Rutgers in its game against North Carolina. Coach Greg Schiano said the North Carolina defensive front had personnel similar to what he had when he coached at Miami in 1999 and 2000. One of the players who will present some problems is defensive end Quinton Coples, listed No. 2 on Mel Kiper's Big Board for the 2012 NFL draft. At 6-foot-6 and 290 pounds, he is a load to handle and will present challenges to an offensive line that had its share of struggles last season.
4. UConn's quarterback is ... Take your pick: Johnny McEntee, Scott McCummings or Michael Nebrich? If you said yes, then you are right! Coach Paul Pasqualoni says he will play all three until he sees a clear-cut starter. That might work against Fordham, but it will be interesting to see how well the plan works against FBS competition. Neither one of these players has ever played in a road game, so the challenge is on.
5. More offensive consistency. Plenty of teams struggled in this area in Week 1. West Virginia and Pitt have new offensive systems in place; USF and Syracuse clearly needed to shake off the rust; Louisville had four turnovers and shaky line play. The coaches from each team have said they want to see better execution from their units this week, so that certainly should be a priority.
6. Don't look ahead. Louisville, Pitt, Syracuse and West Virginia have tough games in Week 3, so each better beware of "look-ahead syndrome." Only Louisville plays an FBS opponent this week before playing Kentucky next week. Pitt goes to Iowa, Syracuse travels to USC and West Virginia goes on the road to Maryland on Sept. 17. So all three teams have got to use this week to get better and really focus before facing bigger tests.
7. Will Stein. The Louisville starting quarterback has a sprained ankle and was in a walking boot this week, but coach Charlie Strong says he is fine and will play. How effective will he be with the injured ankle? The Cardinals do plan on playing Teddy Bridgewater and Dominique Brown again and need to have much more consistent play out of this position this week.
8. USF letdown alert. It's only natural to have an emotional letdown in the week after a big win. The Bulls have to guard against that against Ball State, coming in with a big confidence lift after an upset victory over Indiana. Coach Skip Holtz knows his team has to build off its win against Notre Dame, and so do his players. They maintained a business-like approach after the game last week and have won big games before. But it's all about how you respond following those wins. No Big East team has ever lost to Ball State.
9. West Virginia offensive line. It appeared the Mountaineers had some struggles on the offensive line last week, failing to get the running game established and at times forcing Geno Smith out of the pocket. Coach Dana Holgorsen came to their defense last week, saying Marshall did a few things his team was not prepared to see. But you can bet they worked this week on trying to get more out of their line. The priority has to be keeping Smith out of harm's way.
10. Tino Sunseri. Will the Panthers try to get the passing game established early the way they did last week with some deep passes at the start of the game? They should, in order to help get a good rhythm going and help Sunseri get better.