Monday, October 1, 2012
Big East: Looking back and forward
By Andrea Adelson
Now that we have closed the book on September, let's take a look back at three of the best moments and three of the worst moments in the Big East.
1. Three undefeated teams. Heading into the season, I thought Louisville had a good chance at being undefeated through the month of September. Rutgers and Cincinnati? Not so much. But here we are on Oct. 1, and all three teams are proving there is some darn good football being played in the Big East. Rutgers is 4-0 for the first time since 2006; Louisville is 5-0 for the first time since 2006; and Cincinnati has won a league-high six straight games. The Big East needs these three teams to keep going strong.
2. Best game. USF had a thrilling win over Nevada, and Rutgers had an important victory at Arkansas. But I think Cincinnati's 27-24 win over Virginia Tech was the best win for the Big East in the month of September. Arkansas is now 1-4; Virginia Tech was ranked No. 25 in the coaches' poll headed into that game, and most recently beat the Bearcats 20-7 in the 2009 Orange Bowl. Plus, the victory allowed the Big East to move to 4-3 against ACC teams, a huge stat for those keeping score at home.
3. Best players. Offensive MVP for September goes to Rutgers running back Jawan Jamison, who leads the Big East in rushing with 491 yards. Defensive MVP for September goes to UConn linebacker Yawin Smallwood, who leads the league with 53 tackles and 10 tackles for loss, and ranks second with four sacks.
1. Week 4. This was the worst week for the Big East by far, as UConn and USF both lost to MAC teams, Temple lost to Penn State, and Syracuse couldn't do much against Minnesota. USF had won 44 straight games against teams from non-automatic qualifying conferences heading into its game against Ball State, but its last minute rally fell short. When you are in a conference like the Big East, you have to win games against non-AQ competition.
2. Worst loss. Pitt's 31-17 loss to Youngstown State in the opener sent alarm bells ringing. Pitt lost to an FCS program for the first time in school history and broke the Big East's 57-game winning streak over FCS teams. Pitt followed that with a loss to Cincinnati before rebounding to win two straight.
3. Worst start(s). Syracuse is 1-3 and has now dropped eight of its past nine games. Coach Doug Marrone has taken responsibility for the tough start and is making no excuses despite the schedule his team has played thus far; Syracuse's four opponents have a combined 14-2 record. USF is right up there, as well, and stands 2-3 after losing three straight games.
Top storylines in October
1. All eyes on Oct. 26. Cincinnati and Louisville have the best rivalry remaining in the Big East, and this year's version should be a dandy. Cincinnati has a great shot at being 6-0 heading into this game. To get to 7-0, Louisville has to get past Pitt and USF. It won't be easy, but it can be done.
2. Can Rutgers move to 8-0? Rutgers has a tendency to lose games it absolutely should not lose. October sets up very nicely for the Scarlet Knights, with games against UConn, Syracuse, Temple and Kent State. Only Temple is on the road, and that is a quick one-hour ride down the Jersey Turnpike. Rutgers cannot afford to drop any of these games.
3. Louisville has a tough month. The Cardinals have only three games in October, but all three are going to be major tests. After a bye this week, they play at Pitt. The Cards have lost four straight to the Panthers. USF is next, and the Bulls are not going down without a fight. Then they close out October with the Bearcats, as mentioned above. Cincinnati has won four straight in the series. The last time Louisville beat all three of these teams in the same season was 2006.