Thursday, October 13, 2011
What to watch in the Big East
By Andrea Adelson
Here are the top storylines to watch in the Big East in Week 7.
1. How does Pitt respond? It is never a good sign when a coach admits his team underestimated an opponent. Pitt coach Todd Graham has taken full responsibility for not getting his team ready to play against Rutgers last week, and that cost the Panthers in a 34-10 loss. Now they get a nonconference game against Utah to try to make a turnaround. The Utes are about as inconsistent as Pitt, having lost three of their last four. Will Graham have his guys ready to play?
Dave Teggart's 52-yard field goal was the difference in UConn's win over the Bulls last season.
2. Dave Teggart. The last two times USF and UConn have played, the game has been decided on the leg of the UConn kicker. Teggart has been inconsistent this season, with five missed field goals, but he did hit a 53-yarder last week in a loss to West Virginia. Could the game come down to him once again?
3. Ray Graham to 1,000? The Pitt running back needs 101 yards to hit the 1,000-yard mark. But it is not going to be easy. Utah has done well against the run, ranking No. 19 in the nation. The Utes are allowing 99.4 rushing yards a game, and are holding runners to 2.9 yards a carry. They have only given up two rushing touchdowns all season.
4. Isaiah Pead vs. Louisville front. Not much has gone right for the Cardinals this season, but their defensive front has been strong against the run. The Cardinals rank No. 10 in the nation in run defense, allowing runners to average 2.3 yards a carry. Pead ranks second in the Big East in yards per carry, averaging 6.6 yards every time he touches the ball.
5. Hello, USF! The Bulls finally return to the field to put their last game behind them. Will the extra time off correct some of the errors that plagued them in a loss to Pitt? Coach Skip Holtz spent a huge portion of the bye week working on team drills. USF had 450 team reps because, "I felt like what had happened to us in the Pitt game, I felt like we weren't working as a unit. We needed to build that confidence."
6. Rutgers D vs. Navy triple-option. Navy runs one of the more unique offenses in the country, and it is a bear to prepare for when you do not see it every week. The Midshipmen lead the nation in rushing offense because, well, all they mostly do is run the ball out of various run and option formations. The Rutgers defense has been vastly improved, but the line took a hit last week when starting defensive end Michael Larrow was lost for the season. Getting a good rotation up front is going to be huge in this game on a defense that is starting to have some concerns about depth.
7. Can Louisville surprise? The Cardinals have been a better team on the road than at home under coach Charlie Strong. They pulled one upset over Kentucky earlier this year. Can they do it again? Cincinnati has won three straight in the series but Louisville pulled the 28-24 upset road win over the No. 15 Bearcats in 2007.
8. UConn rush offense. The Huskies have not been able to consistently get the ground game going, but you know they are going to try against a USF defense that gave up 307 yards on the ground in its last game against Pitt. Many of the problems for the Bulls were because of poor fundamentals and fits in run gaps. They worked on that during the bye.
9. Rutgers offense. It is no secret that Rutgers has struggled to run the ball. But if there was a week to get the runners going, this is the one. Navy ranks No. 112 against the run, giving up 220.8 yards a game. Rutgers is averaging 79.8 yards a game on the ground and is one of two Big East teams -- along with West Virginia -- to have just one 100-yard rushing total against FBS competition.
10. Bye week. Syracuse and West Virginia are on their bye weeks before they play next Friday in the Carrier Dome. For West Virginia, the big key this week has been working on maintaining a rhythm on offense. Syracuse was working to identify the cause of problems on defense and in the run game.