- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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After what happened last weekend, the race for offensive and defensive player of the year and coach of the year is really wide open in the Big East. Here are some of my early candidates.
Offensive Player of the Year
1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia. Smith had a rough outing against Syracuse on Saturday. Although he did throw for more than 300 yards, he had two critical interceptions and was constantly under siege. He still ranks in the top 10 in the nation in passing, but the mark of a true champion is how you respond to adversity. So let's see how Smith responds.
2. Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers. Sanu had his fourth double-digit reception game last week in a loss to Louisville. He ranks No. 4 in the nation in receptions per game (9.29) and already has 65 catches for 683 yards and six touchdowns.
3. Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse. How about a little love for Nassib, who is having his best season yet? Nassib threw four touchdown passes and no interceptions last week against West Virginia. Aside from his poor performance against Rutgers (three interceptions), he has been solid all season. His 15 touchdown passes rank second in the league.
4. Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati. He and Zach Collaros have been good for the Bearcats, though Pead probably has been more consistent. His 6.2-yard average ranks No. 1 in the Big East and he has scored eight rushing touchdowns.
Defensive Player of the Year
1. Khaseem Greene, LB, Rutgers. Greene leads the league in tackles with 66 and has been a big reason why the Scarlet Knights are much improved on defense.
2. JK Schaffer, LB, Cincinnati. Schaffer has 54 tackles on the season, along with three interceptions and seven passes defended.
3. Kendall Reyes, DT, UConn. Reyes leads the league with 11 tackles for loss, including four sacks, as the Huskies have been strong up front this season.
4. Phillip Thomas, S, Syracuse. You could make a case for Thomas, who has been the stabilizing force on an up-and-down defense this season. He has 53 tackles, four interceptions and seven passes defended.
Coach of the Year
1. Butch Jones, Cincinnati. Going from 4-8 to 6-1 atop the Big East is worthy of consideration.
2. Greg Schiano, Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights also are in the midst of a turnaround season.
3. Doug Marrone, Syracuse. If the Orange can build off their win over West Virginia, watch out.