NCF Nation: Big East stock report

Big East stock report: Week 12

November, 17, 2010
Stock up

1. Jeremy Deering: The Rutgers true freshman has been terrific lately and had 166 rushing yards out of the Wildcat last weekend, the most rushing yards by a Scarlet Knights player since Ray Rice left for the NFL. He's averaging 6.2 yards per carry his last two games.

Lindsey Lamar
Mark Zerof/US PresswireSouth Florida's Lindsey Lamar has established himself as a weapon on special teams.
2. Lindsey Lamar: The South Florida sophomore has become the most dangerous kick returner in the league. He's averaging 30.8 yards per attempt -- third best in the FBS -- with two scores. His electric 100-yard return on Saturday against Louisville changed the dynamics of that game.

3. Andrell Smith: Louisville coaches have long liked the potential of the 6-foot-3 sophomore receiver. Smith is beginning to turn into a valuable target in the passing game, with touchdown catches in his last two games.

4. Marcus Sales: The Syracuse receiver came into Saturday's game with just five catches for 39 yards. He equaled his season total for receptions and gained 73 yards against Rutgers, with 20 of those yards coming on the game-winning drive. The Orange had been expecting more of Sales this season, but he finally delivered in a big spot with Alec Lemon hurt.

5. Shawne Alston: Pressed into service with Noel Devine ailing, Alston had 17 carries for 75 yards for West Virginia against Cincinnati.

Stock down

1. Louisville's special teams: In addition to giving up Lamar's kickoff return score, the Cardinals surrendered excellent field position (and a subsequent field goal) after a 22-yard shanked punt from their own end zone. Special teams cost Louisville the South Florida game far more than the failed fourth-and-1 call in overtime.

2. Pitt's kickoff teams: Speaking of special-teams blunders, Pitt gave up a 100-yard return to UConn's Nick Williams that completely changed the momentum of a game they seemingly had under control. Ray Graham later fumbled a return, setting up a Huskies touchdown. Take those two scores off the board, and the Big East race looks a lot different this week. Pittsburgh's special-teams mistakes also contributed heavily to last year's loss to Cincinnati with the BCS bid on the line.

3. Cincinnati's offense: The high-flying Bearcats attack has been grounded the last two games, scoring only 17 total points in losses to Syracuse and West Virginia. Yes, Zach Collaros was hurt in the Syracuse game, but this team can't beat anybody with that kind of pathetic point production.

4. Doak Walker Award voters: Leaving Donald Brown, the nation's leading rusher at more than 2,000 yards, out of the 2008 finalists group was a disgrace I thought couldn't be topped. But the Doak voters outdid themselves by not including Jordan Todman on their list of 10 semifinalists. Todman is only the nation's No. 2 rusher despite missing a game with an injury. Someone mail the voters of this award a map of Connecticut and tell them the Huskies are in the FBS. Until then, rename it the Joke Walker Award.

5. Airheaded airplane ads: Some doofus hired a plane carrying a banner calling for Oliver Luck to fire Bill Stewart, and the plane circled Milan Puskar Stadium before the Cincinnati game. Not only was that banner a complete waste of money and air space, but the Mountaineers went on to win the game 37-10. If West Virginia wins the Big East, I hope there's an apology banner planned.

Posted by's Brian Bennett

Bulls and bears are the lingo of the stock market, while Bulls and Bearcats are the top teams in the Big East. Coincidence? Well, yeah. But that's one way to introduce this week's Big East stock report (with special teams our bonus category this week):

Stock up

1. Nate Allen: The South Florida safety has always had NFL-caliber talent, and he's living up to that his senior year. He played great at Florida State and had two interceptions at Syracuse.

2. Mike Williams: His stock was already high, but now it's soaring. The Syracuse receiver continues to shine and had 13 catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns against South Florida despite the Bulls knowing he's their best playmaker. Is Williams the best receiver in the Big East? Right now, yes.

3. West Virginia special teams: After looking shaky in the spring and earlier in the season, the Mountaineers are improving in the kicking game. Punter Scott Kozlowski was the Big East special teams player of the week. West Virginia allowed 25.5 yards per return on its much-maligned kickoff coverage team -- not great, but better than its season average.

4. Cincinnati fundraising: The school announced that donors had matched a $1 million private gift for an athletics project that includes long-awaited football practice fields. No better time to strike than when your football team is in the top 10. Construction of those fields is the only way the school has a prayer of keeping Brian Kelly.

5. Ray Graham: Dion Lewis isn't the only freshman running back capable of big things at Pitt. Graham bounced back from a first-half fumble to post 75 yards and a touchdown at Louisville. He's got a little LeSean McCoy flair to his game as well.

Stock down

1. Cincinnati's time of possession: Opponents are trying their best to keep the Bearcats off the field, and Cincinnati has had the ball for a little more than 35 minutes in its last two games combined.

2. West Virginia's pass defense: The losses of Ellis Lankster and Quinton Andrews have hurt more than expected. The Mountaineers have been sliced up by both Auburn and Colorado, though they did pick off the Buffaloes' Cody Hawkins three times last week.

3. Syracuse's pass defense: Without starting defensive back Phillip Thomas, the Orange gave up two huge passing plays against South Florida. Thomas will be back this week. Could we see a shootout in the Carrier Dome this Saturday between Greg Paulus and Jarrett Brown?

4. Steve Kragthorpe: Just when you thought the Louisville coach's stock couldn't get any lower, his home stadium empties in the second half as Pitt outscores the Cardinals 28-0. Kragthorpe took over as offensive coordinator this season, and his team is last in the Big East in scoring. Speculating on the next coach has become a full-time obsession in Louisville. Kragthorpe had better beat Southern Miss this week.

5. South Florida's kicking game: Eric Schwartz missed a field goal and an extra point at Syracuse, one week after missing two at Florida State. The Bulls may lose a game because of their field goal troubles at some point this year.

Player of the year race: Offense

1. Tony Pike, QB, Cincinnati: Has completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 1,493 yards and 13 touchdowns with three interceptions.

2. Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia: Has rushed 73 times for 540 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 7.4 yards per carry.

3. Mike Williams, WR, Syracuse: Has 41 catches for 623 yards and five touchdowns.

4. Mardy Gilyard, WR, Cincinnati: Has 38 catches for 517 yards and seven touchdowns.

5. Dion Lewis, RB, Pitt: Has rushed 107 times for 580 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 5.4 yards per carry.

Player of the year race: Defense

1. George Selvie, DE, South Florida: Still the anchor for the Bulls' dominant defensive front.

2. Lindsey Witten, DE, UConn: This week's game at Pitt will be big to prove whether he was an early-season wonder or a yearlong force.

3. Nate Allen, S, South Florida: See above.

4. JK Schaffer, LB, Cincinnati: Has three interceptions and 31 tackles on the year.

5. Greg Romeus, DE, Pitt: Had 3.5 sacks last week and is now second in the league in that category.

Player of the year race: Special teams

1. Ryan Lichtenstein, K, Syracuse: Has converted 9 of 10 field goals this season, including the game-winner against Northwestern.

2. Mardy Gilyard, KR, Cincinnati: Numbers are down for last year's winner of this award, but he does have a punt return touchdown.

3. Cameron Saddler, KR, Pitt: Freshman is averaging 31.5 yards per return.

4. Trent Guy, KR, Louisville: Senior is averaging 30.2 yards per return.

5. Desi Cullen, P, UConn: Leads league with a 43.9-yard average.

Big East stock report

September, 30, 2009

Posted by's Brian Bennett

More reliable than Wall Street, here comes the weekly Big East stock report. Your bonus category this week is coach of the year race.

Stock up

1. South Florida's defensive line: I ranked the Bulls' D-line No. 2 in my preseason position rankings primarily because I didn't know how good the newcomers would be. All questions were answered in the Florida State game, when this group played like one of the best in the country. "It would be a challenge for an NFL offensive line against this team," Syracuse coach Doug Marrone said this week.

2. B.J. Daniels: This may be heresy, but when I saw Daniels run the show for the Bulls, I didn't think Matt Grothe as much as I did a young Pat White. Not as fast as White, but with a stronger arm. Maybe Daniels will be the one who eventually breaks Grothe's yardage record.

3. Jonathan Freeny: The junior is developing into the pass-rusher that Rutgers needs, with four sacks already on the season.

4. Delone Carter: The Syracuse back had four touchdowns against Maine. He's built like a fire hydrant and runs with 100 percent effort.

5. Cameron Saddler: The Pitt freshman was one of the lone bright spots in the NC State loss, with 111 total yards and some nice kick returns. He's becoming a weapon in the offense at receiver.

Stock down

1. Pitt's discipline: The dumb penalties and missed assignments have to get fixed in a hurry before the Panthers start Big East play.

2. Louisville's red zone production: The Cardinals have scored just seven touchdowns in 17 trips inside the 20 and have missed three field goals in the red zone. And when they did score a touchdown in the fourth quarter to make it 23-13 at Utah last week, Steve Kragthorpe didn't go for two to make it a one score contest. He said later he was thinking about winning the game at that point; seems like an extra point would help in that regard.

3. UConn's hands: Seven fumbles against Rhode Island is crazy. At least the Huskies recovered four of them -- and won 52-10.

4. Cincinnati's kickoff coverage: The Bearcats gave up 26 yards per return to Fresno State. Hey, we've got to find something to criticize this team for, right?

5. Saturday tailgating: This week in the Big East, anyway. There are only two games involving league teams on Saturday, and both of them will kick off by 1 p.m.

Player of the year race: Offense

1. Tony Pike, QB, Cincinnati: Has completed 70.5 percent of his passes for 1,223 yards, 11 touchdowns and two interceptions. Runaway leader at this point.

2. Mardy Gilyard, WR, Cincinnati: Has 32 catches for 442 yards and six touchdowns.

3. Dion Lewis, RB, Pittsburgh: Has rushed 86 times for 493 yards (5.7 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns.

4. Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia: Has rushed 51 times for 320 yards (6.3 ypc) and five touchdowns.

5. Mike Williams, WR, Syracuse: Has 28 catches for 437 yards and three touchdowns.

Player of the year race: Defense

1. George Selvie, DE, South Florida: Leader of the league's nastiest unit.

2. Lindsey Witten, DE, UConn: Numbers down the last two games, but he's also been dealing with a stomach bug.

3. Lawrence Wilson, LB, UConn: Leads league with 42 tackles and has been strong in absence of Scott Lutrus.

4. Nate Allen, S, South Florida: Showed his potential with a great game at Florida State.

5. Aaron Webster, S, Cincinnati: Bearcats still looking good on defense, and he's their leader.

Coach of the year race:

1. Brian Kelly, Cincinnati: The way he replaced so many parts and made this team even better makes him the front-runner for a third straight trophy.

2. Jim Leavitt, South Florida: Losing Matt Grothe and still winning at Florida State says a lot.

3. Doug Marrone, Syracuse: Has the Orange at .500 for the first time since 2006.

4. Randy Edsall, Connecticut: Lost a slew of draft picks but has the Huskies at 3-1.

Big East stock report

September, 18, 2009

Posted by's Brian Bennett

Our weekly look at who's up, who's down and who's leading the player of the year races in the Big East:

Stock up

1. Jarrett Brown: We knew the guy was good. But 334 yards, four-touchdown good? Brown made some throws against East Carolina that not many other college quarterbacks could pull off.

2. Mo Plancher: The South Florida back had his first career 100-yard day against Western Kentucky, and coach Jim Leavitt said, "We trust him a lot."

3. Dorin Dickerson: It took Pitt and Dickerson four years to figure out how to use his talent, but better late than never. The senior tight end has four touchdowns already this season.

4. Jock Sanders: Coming back from his offseason suspension for a DUI arrest, Sanders leads the Big East with 17 catches in two games.

5. Yankee Bowl: The Big East should announce within the next couple of weeks that it will send one of its top teams to Yankee Stadium for the new bowl game starting in 2010.

Stock down

1. UConn's offense: Remember Zach Frazer's spring quote that the Huskies would average 40 points a game? Now he's hurt, and the Huskies are hurting for points. They've scored 33 in two games combined.

2. Syracuse receivers' hands: After bobbled catches cost the Orange a touchdown and led to an interception at Penn State, coach Doug Marrone minced no words. "We have to get away from the dropped passes," he said. "That's hurting our program right now."

3. Delbert Alvarado: The South Florida kicker is once again making Bulls' fans very nervous after he missed two field goals at Western Kentucky. Darn those amusement park rides!

4. Pitt's pass defense: The Panthers were torched for 433 yards by Buffalo, making you wonder how they're going to stop Notre Dame, West Virginia and Cincinnati.

5. Bowl games in nice football stadiums: The addition of the Yankee Bowl means the Big East will have two of its five postseason games in baseball stadiums (the other being Tropicana Field for the St. Petersburg Bowl) and two others (the Champs Sports and bowls) in badly-aging facilities.

Player of the year race: Offense

1. Tony Pike, QB,Cincinnati: Has completed 77.2 percent of his passes for 591 yards and six touchdowns.

2. Jarrett Brown, QB, West Virginia: Has completed 75.4 percent of his passes for 577 yards and four touchdowns.

3. Dion Lewis, RB, Pittsburgh: Has run for 319 yards and four touchdowns while averaging 7.2 yards per carry.

4. Mardy Gilyard, WR, Cincinnati: Has 14 catches for 200 yards and three touchdowns.

5. Matt Grothe, QB, South Florida: Has completed 71.1 percent of his passes for 363 yards and three touchdowns.

Player of the year race: Defense

1. Lindsey Witten, DE, UConn: His numbers keep changing, but he's now credited with seven sacks, which leads the nation.

2. Adam Gunn, LB, Pittsburgh: Ranks second in the league in both tackles (19) and sacks (5).

3. George Selvie, DE, South Florida: Numbers not impressive yet -- just 10 tackles and one sack -- but he remains a force.

4. Aaron Webster, S, Cincinnati: Has grabbed an interception in both games this year.

5. Reed Williams, LB, West Virginia: Leader of the Mountaineers' defense will be a factor in this race if he stays healthy.

Big East stock report

September, 11, 2009

Posted by's Brian Bennett

I'm going to try something new here on Fridays, giving out a list of what's up and what's down in the Big East, along with how the races for the the league's offensive and defensive player of the year are shaping up. It's early, but this should be fun as the season goes along.

Stock up

1. Cincinnati: For obvious reasons. The Bearcats have cracked the Top 25 at No. 23 and could really climb high with a win at Oregon State next week.

2. Dion Lewis: The Pittsburgh back had a smashing college debut with 129 yards and three touchdowns. He could be a star in this league for a long time.

3. UConn's defensive ends: This position looked a little questionable after the departures of seniors Cody Brown and Julius Williams and the offseason dismissal of Marcus Campbell. But senior defensive end Lindsey Witten had three sacks and a safety at Ohio and showed he can be a full-time threat, while freshmen Jesse Joseph and Trevardo Williams also played well.

4. The Wildcat at Syracuse: They call it the Stallion package, but it's the same Wildcat formation just about every other school is using. Having Antwon Bailey and Delone Carter in the backfield at the same time with Bailey taking the snap added life to the Orange offense.

5. Julian Miller: Who needs Tevita Finau? The third spot on West Virginia's defensive line seemed like a concern going into the season, but Miller had other thoughts. He had 2.5 sacks against Liberty and brought a dose of speed to the Mountaineers' defensive front.

Stock down

1. Rutgers: For obvious reasons. No matter what the Scarlet Knights do the next few weeks, they won't have an opportunity to turn perception from that 47-15 beating until the Oct. 16 game against Pitt.

2. UConn fans: At last report, about 3,000 tickets remained for the North Carolina game. A team ranked 19th comes to town for the home opener, and the Huskies are having trouble selling out their 40,000-seat stadium? What's going on?

3. South Florida's Twittering: First, Jim Leavitt decided to stop tweeting after reports of his players and coaches doing so before the Wofford game. Now it seems that several players' accounts have either been shut down or switched to private. So much for embracing technology.

4. The Wildcat at Rutgers: They call it the Jabu package for quarterback Jabu Lovelace, but it's been so wildly ineffective since last year that it looks like it's time to scrap the project.

5. Steve Kragthorpe as offensive coordinator: Kragthorpe took over play-calling duties himself in the offseason and promised a new look. Fans didn't exactly like what they saw as Louisville scored only 30 points against Indiana State. Perhaps he's holding back the good stuff for next week at Kentucky. We can only hope that wasn't his best stuff last week.

Player of the year race: Offense

1. Tony Pike, QB, Cincinnati: Went 27-of-34 for 362 yards and three touchdowns in Week 1.

2. Jarrett Brown, QB, West Virginia: Completed 19 of 26 passes for 243 yards and ran for 69 yards and a score in the opener

3. Jordan Todman, RB, UConn: Ran for 154 yards and a touchdown in Week 1 win at Ohio.

4. Dion Lewis, RB, Pittsburgh: See above.

5. Matt Grothe, QB, South Florida: Went 19-of-23 for 155 yards and one score with an interception and ran for 44 yards versus Wofford.

Player of the year race: Defense

1. Lindsey Witten, DE, UConn: See above.

2. George Selvie, DE, South Florida: Got his first sack of the year versus Wofford.

3. Curtis Young, LB, Cincinnati: Had 11 tackles and a sack versus Rutgers

4. Reed Williams, LB, West Virginia: Relatively quiet day against Liberty (six tackles) but will be a factor in this race.

5. Aaron Webster, S, Cincinnati: Had 10 tackles and an interception at Rutgers.