NCF Nation: Cam Dantley

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

When the assignment came down to rank the backup quarterbacks in each league, I had an obvious concern. We're not even entirely sure who the starting quarterback will be for five Big East teams come Labor Day weekend.

In order to do this, I'm going to assume the players currently leading the competition for each team will in fact be the starter, and the rankings will reflect the other quarterbacks in the mix. As Cincinnati showed last year, having capable backups can come in quite handy.

1. Cincinnati: Chazz Anderson won two games as a starter last year, and Zach Collaros looked terrific in the spring game. Brian Kelly knows he can call on either one if Tony Pike goes down.

2. Pittsburgh: Surprised? Don't be. Pat Bostick was maybe the most improved offensive player the Panthers had this spring, and he's won at West Virginia and at Notre Dame his last two starts. Tino Sunseri is coming on as well. There would be little dropoff if one of these two had to replace Bill Stull. The problem is that none of the three have separated themselves as a big-time starting quarterback.

3. South Florida: It's not fair that the teams with the most settled starting quarterbacks also have two of the top three backup situations. But the way B.J. Daniels and Evan Landi played this spring gave Jim Leavitt confidence in the unlikely event that Matt Grothe actually misses some time.

4. Rutgers: Assuming Dom Natale holds onto the starting job, the Scarlet Knights would have a senior (Jabu Lovelace), a stud true freshman (Tom Savage) and a talented if raw redshirt freshman (D.C. Jefferson) behind him.

5. West Virginia: Coley White made strides this spring, and hotshot recruit Eugene Smith arrives this summer. But the Mountaineers are ranked this low for now because neither has ever played a down in college.

6. Connecticut: Zach Frazer holds a slim lead over Cody Endres at the moment, but there's not a lot of difference between the two players.

7. Syracuse: The Orange currently have last year's starter, Cam Dantley, backing up Ryan Nassib. And then there's the enigma that is Greg Paulus.

8. Louisville: There's not really a clear-cut starter yet between Justin Burke and Adam Froman. Zack Stoudt would be the No. 3. None of them has been terribly impressive thus far.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

The on-again, off-again career of David Legree at Syracuse is off. Again.

Two days after Ryan Nassib was named the starting quarterback and Legree was slotted as the No. 3 signalcaller, Legree didn't show up for practice Wednesday night, Donnie Webb reports for the Syracuse Post-Standard. Head coach Doug Marrone said Legree, a sophomore who briefly left the team last year, is no longer part of the program.

Because backup quarterbacks Andrew Robinson and Cody Catalina have been moved to tight end, Syracuse now has just two quarterbacks in Nassib and backup Cam Dantley. Marrone told Webb he has no plans to switch either Robinson or Catalina back to quarterback.

The Orange do have a quarterback coming in this summer, when freshman Charley Loeb arrivs on campus. But right now, they're awfully thin under center should any more attrition strike.

Big East lunchtime links

March, 31, 2009
3/31/09
1:24
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

It's a late lunch for the links today as I just finished up practice and interviews at Cincinnati.

• The Syracuse Post-Standard's Donnie Webb has more on the promotion of freshman Ryan Nassib to starting quarterback, including reaction from last year's starter Cam Dantley and former starter Andrew Robinson, who's been switched to tight end.

"They obviously came to a consensus on what they wanted, so I respect their decision, obviously," Dantley said. "It just made me keep realizing, I've been in this situation before. Nothing new to me. I'm going to keep on working regardless."

"I feel a sense of relief," Robinson said, "and I feel a sense of rejuvenation with my football-playing career. I think it's going to work out for the better. I really do. I'm not just saying that just because it's the right thing to say. I'm saying that because that's really the way I feel."

• Pitt's uber-talenteed Jonathan Baldwin is working to become a more complete receiver, Colin Dunlap writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

• Scott Kozlowski is trying to follow in the footsteps of Pat McAfee as West Virginia's punter, Dave Hickman writes in the Charleston Gazette.

• Zach Frazer and Moe Petrus are spending time off the field mentoring kids, Desmond Conner says in the Hartford Courant.

• Rutgers kicker San San Te had back surgery after being bothered by a stress fracture all season in 2008, Tom Luicci writes in The Star-Ledger.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Ryan Nassib wasn't sure he would have a real chance to be the starting quarterback at Syracuse. He sure as heck didn't think he would win the job after just four spring practices.

But the redshirt freshman found out Monday morning that he had been elevated to No. 1 among the Orange signalcallers, over veterans Cam Dantley and Andrew Robinson.

"Truthfully, I always thought I could play," Nassib said Monday night after practice. "But I always doubted that maybe the coaches would want to go with experience. Maybe I would need to be groomed for another year.

"On other side, though, when I got out there I was like, 'I know I can do this.' So I started working for it. Better early than never."

Syracuse coach Doug Marrone said he likes Nassib's quick release and accuracy.

"He throws a great ball," receiver Mike Williams said. "He hits you right on your route. He's really looking good."

The downside is Nassib's lack of experience, outside of the scout team last year.

"I've got a lot of learning to do," he said. "But it's still early in spring ball. I have fun with it and I enjoy learning the schemes and the philosophies of the game. It's fun for me."

Nassib said he got plenty of text messages and voice mails from friends and family back home in Pennsylvania. He's the starting quarterback , and he's ready to start acting like it.

"It's real now," he said. "So I've just got to go out there and execute."

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Fear not, Big East football fans. In less than a month, South Florida will be back on the practice field, with the rest of the league teams starting their spring drills shortly afterward.

There will be no shortage of situations to follow during the spring. There's a new head coach at Syracuse, new coordinators almost everywhere and no fewer than five teams seeking a new quarterback.

We've got all the story lines covered here in our team-by-team spring primer:

Cincinnati Bearcats

Spring practice starts: March 31

Spring game: April 25

What to watch:

• Defense, defense, defense. Safety Aaron Webster is the only returning defensive starter from 2008, so this spring will be about finding out who's ready to step into bigger roles. Several backups have experience, including linebacker Andre Revels and defensive end Curtis Young. But all jobs should be open. And with this week's firing of defensive coordinator Joe Tresey, the Bearcats could be working under a new scheme.

• Cincinnati brings back quarterback Tony Pike, receiver Mardy Gilyard and its top two rushers in Jacob Ramsey and John Goebel. But the spring will be time to find new playmakers as well. Isaiah Pead averaged 6.6 yards a carry in limited duty as a freshman and should see his role increase. The bubble wrap will come off promising redshirt freshman Quentin Hines. Receiver D.J. Woods had a solid freshman season and will need to build upon that to help replace Dominick Goodman.

• You don't normally pay much attention to punters in spring practice, but this is an exception. The Bearcats have to find a suitable replacement for two time All-American Kevin Huber.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Who's owns the Web domain for HireGregRobinson.com?

Syracuse rallied around its fired coach and pulled off the stunning upset at South Bend moments ago. Cam Dantley -- whose father, Adrian, was a Hall of Fame basketball player who graduated from Notre Dame -- threw a touchdown pass to Donte Davis with 42 seconds left, and the Irish missed a 53-yard field goal attempt at the final horn.

Bully for the Orange and for Robinson, a good guy who's extremely well liked by his players. They proved that today.

It's going to be hard for Gator or Sun bowl officials to keep a straight face if they choose the Irish over a Big East team, since Notre Dame has lost to the Orange and to Pittsburgh at home and will likely be 6-6. They'll probably still do it, but they'll incite deserved ridicule.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

1. LeSean McCoy vs. the Cincinnati defense: The Bearcats have been strong against the run of late, holding West Virginia to under 100 yards as a team and limiting Louisville to 3.2 yards per carry. But Donald Brown gashed them for 150 yards last month, and Pitt had two 100-yard rushers in a win over Cincinnati last year. Pittsburgh proved against Louisville that it could win without a huge day from McCoy, but one of his vintage performances sure would help the cause.

2. Cincinnati's passing game vs. the Pitt secondary:
The Panthers' defensive backfield has upgraded its play since the disastrous showing against Rutgers, but it's still vulnerable to big plays. Cincinnati has the most productive pass-catching duo in the conference with Dominick Goodman and Mardy Gilyard. You'd better believe Tony Pike is going to test Pitt deep early and often.

3. Jonathan Baldwin vs. Mike Mickens: The league's most electric young receiver will certainly find himself matched up at times with one of the best senior cornerbacks in the nation. Pitt's ability to throw deep off play-action will force Mickens and his teammates to react quickly. At 6-foot-5, Baldwin can erase mistakes by quarterback Bill Stull and can jump over the 6-foot Mickens. "Our corners are going to be challenged," Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly said. "DeAngelo Smith and Mike Mickens have to play their best football."

4. Pat White on the loose in Louisville: Last year against the Cardinals, White ran for 147 yards and passed for 181. Two years ago against them, he had 125 yards rushing and 222 yards passing. The West Virginia quarterback is usually at his best in this game, and given Louisville's inexperienced linebackers and dearth of speed on the defensive line, he could be in for another monster performance.

5. Louisville's spirits: The Cardinals have lost three straight, are surrounded by negativity and can't even get fans buzzing about a game against West Virginia. But it is Senior Day, and some terrific players like Eric Wood, George Bussey, Earl Heyman and Hunter Cantwell won't want to leave without a fight. Can they get something going early against the usually slow-starting Mountaineers and build some confidence?

6. Matt Grothe: The South Florida quarterback clearly isn't healthy right now. He hurt his left ankle against Rutgers and wore a boot for a few days afterward. He's a tough guy who will probably still play Sunday against UConn, but if his mobility is limited, that takes away one of his greatest strengths. And Grothe has thrown eight interceptions in his past three games even when healthy.

7. Donald Brown: The nation's leading rusher will go against a struggling Bulls defense. While South Florida's real weakness is in its defensive backfield, teams have been able to run up the middle against them, which is something Brown can do with the best of backs.

8. Air raid on Army: Rutgers has been flying high through the air during its four-game winning streak, and Army is going to have a tough time slowing down the Mike Teel-to-Kenny Britt connection. Certainly Army doesn't practice much against a passing offense; the Black Knights average just 50 yards passing per game and had a game this year where they didn't even attempt a throw.

9. Chip Bowden's well-being: Bowden is Army's quarterback, which places him in the crosshairs this weekend. Five of the last six quarterbacks have not been able to finish the game against the hard-hitting Rutgers defense, which made Grothe its latest victim last Saturday. Bowden is the team's second-leading rusher, so he'll be exposed to several hits.

10. Syracuse's motivation: How will the Orange react to the firing of Greg Robinson when they go to Notre Dame this weekend? Will they play with fire in an effort to show support for their well-liked coach? Or will they fold under the first sign of adversity?

Big East internal affairs

November, 19, 2008
11/19/08
11:09
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights have had four different tailbacks take starring roles this season. Last week, redshirt freshman Joe Martinek ran for 98 yards and two touchdowns at South Florida. The week before, Kordell Young had 143 yards against Syracuse. Earlier this season, Jourdan Brooks and Mason Robinson each had big games, but their roles have diminished of late. Coach Greg Schiano said he determines who will be the featured back each week based on the opponent. "We have to look and see what do we think we're going to try to do most in the run game, and then who fits that description best and try to rep it that way during the week," he said. "It's hard to get more than two backs ready for a game. There's always a third guy that is ready and a fourth guy that's ready, but they don't get many repetitions. I can't tell you right now who that guy will be."

Cincinnati: Should the Bearcats be concerned about kicker Jake Rogers? He lost his job early in the season after missing a few extra points, and coach Brian Kelly wondered about his confidence. But then Rogers came back and tied a school record with 13 straight converted field-goal attempts. Since then, however, Rogers has missed four straight kicks, including all three tries at Louisville. The conditions were poor at wet and windy Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, and Kelly said that had more to do with Rogers' problems than anything. "It's the development of a kicker," Kelly said. "Earlier in the year, he struggled mentally. This time, it was technique. He has a natural draw on his kicks, but they didn't draw because of the wet balls. He hit all of them well, but he missed all of them to right. Then he overcompensated. I'm sure he'll be able to correct it for this weekend."

West Virginia: The Mountaineers could be without starting center Mike Dent for a second straight game this week at Louisville. A mainstay in the lineup the past two seasons, Dent missed the Cincinnati game with a neck injury. Now he has swelling in the neck, and team officials aren't sure what the problem is. Dent could play this weekend, but coach Bill Stewart is fearful of further damage to his neck. Sophomore Eric Jobe got the start versus Cincinnati and likely will be the snapper on Saturday. "Eric Jobe is good.," Stewart said. "He's just not Mike Dent. Mike Dent isn't good, he's great. We had two pro scouts watching tape on him. He's got a chance to play at the next level.''

Pittsburgh: Fourth down doesn't necessarily mean it's time to punt for Pittsburgh. The Panthers have shown an inclination to go for it on fourth down this year, and usually with success. They have converted 13 of their 17 fourth-down attempts, a 76.5 percent rate that ranks sixth-best in the nation. An outstanding running game and a strong offensive line gives coach Dave Wannstedt confidence in going for the gamble. "I think that every time we get in a fourth-down situation our players want to go for it," he said. "That's a normal reaction. They're like the fans and the media. I think you have to look at the defense and what we feel we can execute and then try and make up a sound decision as to what your chances are of making it. You don't want to do something just to do it. We have been outstanding though."

Syracuse: Quarterback Cam Dantley has struggled in his past few games and was pulled for Andrew Robinson in the Connecticut loss. Dantley was just 3-of-12 for 19 yards against Rutgers and 4-of-16 for 38 yards with an interception against UConn. Robinson hasn't been much better in relief, going a combined 4-of-14 for 29 yards and throwing two picks in those same two games. Cody Catalina even got a couple of looks under center versus the Huskies. Coach Greg Robinson isn't saying yet who will be the starter this week at Notre Dame.

Big East internal affairs

November, 12, 2008
11/12/08
11:02
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Cincinnati: Coach Brian Kelly says that strong safety Aaron Webster has added toughness to the Bearcats since he moved into a starting role after the Akron game. "He's brought a physicality to our defense that we were lacking," Kelly said. "And having him on our defense has elevated everybody." The only non-senior starter on defense, Webster was named Big East defensive player of the week after he recorded 13 tackles, including two for loss, in last week's win at West Virginia. Also for the Bearcats, senior Dustin Grutza is expected to serve as the No. 2 quarterback for Friday's game at Louisville. Grutza hasn't played since breaking his leg in Week 2 at Oklahoma.

Connecticut: The job of replacing the irreplaceable Darius Butler begins this week. Butler, who played cornerback, wide receiver and returned kicks for the Huskies, is out perhaps as long as the regular season with a knee injury. Junior Robert McClain will start at corner and will be backed up by Terry Baltimore. Freshman Jordan Todman will take over the primary kick-return duties. Butler had been playing about 12-to-15 snaps on offense and provided an electric presence that will be hard to match.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers' short-yardage woes resurfaced in the Cincinnati game, and some of that can be blamed on injuries. Fullback Will Johnson couldn't play because of a quad injury. Backup quarterback Jarrett Brown, who had been used as a blocker and short-yardage specialist earlier in the season, was still nursing shoulder and leg problems and couldn't go. Coach Bill Stewart said he planned to "turn him loose" for the Louisville game on Nov. 22. Center Mike Dent missed the Cincinnati game with a neck injury, and Stewart described him as "week-to-week."

South Florida: The banged-up Bulls could get running backs Mike Ford and Jamar Taylor back for the Rutgers game. Neither made the trip to the Cincinnati game because of injuries but were working out in drills earlier this week. The status of offensive lineman Zach Hermann (foot) and tight end Trent Pupello (concussion) remains unknown. Quenton Washington took over starting cornerback duties from Tyller Roberts for the Cincinnati game and is listed as the starter there again this week.

Syracuse: Orange coach Greg Robinson will stick with Cam Dantley as his starting quarterback this week against Connecticut, but backup Andrew Robinson will see time. The coach hasn't specified how much or what role Andrew Robinson would play. Third-string quarterback David Legree told the Syracuse Post-Standard that he feels he's ready to play after two years in a back-up role. Tailback Delone Carter returned for the Louisville game after a four-week absence with a hamstring problem. He did not play against Rutgers, but Greg Robinson said that was not a health issue.

Lunchtime links: Pike to keep job

November, 10, 2008
11/10/08
12:05
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

• Tony Pike will continue to start at quarterback even if Dustin Grutza is full healthy this week, Bill Koch writes in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

"The most important equation is who gives you the best chance to win at this time of the season," Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly said, "more than massaging anybody's hurt feelings.

"At the end of the day, we're going to play the guy who at this time of the season gives us the best chance to win."

• Defensive tackles Mick Williams and Rashaad Duncan are big keys to Pittsburgh's success, Paul Zeise writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

• Syracuse is considering playing two quarterbacks this weekend against UConn, Donnie Webb notes in the Syracuse Post-Standard. The combined numbers for Cam Dantley and Andrew Robinson last week versus Rutgers: 5-of-19 for 35 yards.

• The stirring comeback to force overtime was nice, but West Virginia showed some major deficiencies before that, Dave Hickman writes in the Charleston Gazette.

• Rutgers has won three in a row, but coach Greg Schiano is far from satisfied, Brendan Prunty writes in The Star-Ledger.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

1. Tony Pike and the Cincinnati passing game vs. the West Virginia defense: The Mountaineers lead the Big East in points allowed and passing efficiency defense. But Cincinnati has the best passing offense in the league at more than 260 yards per game, and that's despite all the injuries the Bearcats have weathered at the position. Pike has a big arm and the young Mountaineers secondary hasn't been tested by a team this good through the air. UConn had receivers open last week, but drops and an inexperienced quarterback kept the Huskies from taking much advantage. Exploiting this matchup looks like Cincinnati's best chance for the upset.

2. Pat White, Noel Devine and Jock Sanders against the Cincinnati defense: Don't read too much into the 182 yards rushing the Bearcats gave up to South Florida last week. They were keeping extra defenders back to guard against the Bulls' spread passing attack and didn't mind if Matt Grothe handed off. Still, this week presents a huge challenge against a West Virginia running game that's revving up to Rich Rodriguez levels. Most teams change their schemes against the Mountaineers, like UConn did last week by bringing in an extra safety and playing three defensive linemen. Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly said his team will have to play differently as well. The Bearcats' defensive strengths lie in their secondary and pass rushers. That won't be the priority on Saturday.

3. Mardy Gilyard vs. West Virginia's kickoff coverage team: The Mountaineers are last among 119 FBS teams in covering kicks, allowing 29.58 yards per return. Gilyard leads the Big East with more than 27 yards per return. West Virginia coach Bill Stewart promised personnel changes on special teams this week. Gilyard doesn't have to score to have a huge impact on this game. If he can help give Cincinnati some short fields to work with, that would make the Bearcats' offense that much more potent.

4. West Virginia's I-formation: The I was closed during the Rodriguez years, but new offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen has used it to great effect in recent weeks. Devine sprang a 92-yard touchdown run against Syracuse out of it, and Sanders scored twice out of it last week as the formation helped jumpstart the offense. White even threw out of it a couple times at UConn, showing off a new wrinkle. West Virginia's little backs can hide behind a burly blocker in the I, and it gives Cincinnati something else to think about.

5. LeSean McCoy: The Pittsburgh running back is one of the hottest offensive players in the country, going over 140 yards in each of his last five games and scoring 10 touchdowns in that span. On Saturday he gets a Louisville defense that was steamrolled by Syracuse's Curtis Brinkley for 166 yards last week. The Cardinals have been working on stopping the run all week, but no one's really found a way to slow McCoy in two years.

6. Hunter Cantwell vs. Pitt's pass defense: The Panthers have allowed 619 passing yards and nine touchdowns through the air their past two games. They finally seemed to find some answers in their coverage during the second half of the Notre Dame game, and they'll need to keep that up against the cannon-armed Cantwell. The good news for Pitt is, with Scott Long injured, the Cardinals don't have any receivers nearly as good as Kenny Britt to deal with.

7. Heinz home-cooking: Every time the city of Pittsburgh gets ready to embrace its local university football team, the Panthers seem to throw out a clunker at home. Happened in the season opener against Bowling Green. Happened against Rutgers two of the past three years. Maybe it's all the consternation and criticism Dave Wannstedt has taken from the fan base that gives the home team a little performance anxiety. Who knows? But beating Louisville at home is a must, not just to stay in the Big East race, but to build the excitement in the area.

8. Mike Teel: The last time we saw Teel, he was bombing away for six touchdown passes against Pittsburgh. It was an incredible turnaround from his poor performances in the Rutgers' first seven games. So has Teel turned the corner, or was that an aberration? And how will the team's bye week affect the timing between him and his receivers? Syracuse does not have a great secondary, and a couple of key defensive backs are nursing injuries this week, so the opportunity for another terrific Teel throw-a-thon is there.

9. Curtis Brinkley: As mentioned earlier, Brinkley is coming off a big game against Louisville and has set a school record with five straight 100-yard performances. Can he do it again against a Rutgers defense that has been sturdy of late but still ranks next-to-last in rushing defense in the Big East? One more 100-yard game, and Brinkley will tie Jim Brown and Joe Morris for the most in a career with seven. He'll probably need to get there for the Orange to have any chance of grabbing their second straight league win.

10. Cam Dantley's well-being: Call it coincidence or credit Rutgers' hard-hitting ways. Three of the last four quarterbacks who have gone against the Scarlet Knights defense could not finish the game. West Virginia's White left with a head injury, while UConn's Zach Frazer and Pittsburgh's Bill Stull each suffered concussions. Even Cincinnati's Chazz Anderson sprained his knee, though he kept playing. Rutgers players and coaches say they're not trying to hurt quarterbacks. But if you're a friend or family member of Syracuse signal-caller Dantley, you might be a little more nervous this week. Andrew Robinson better keep his arm loose just in case.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

1. Pat White and Noel Devine vs. the UConn defense: It's no big secret how the Mountaineers have hammered the Huskies the past few years. Their skill players have sliced and diced through the Connecticut defense, doing so last year to the tune of 517 rushing yards. Obviously that can't happen again if UConn wants to register its first win over West Virginia. The problem for the Huskies is the Mountaineers' offense looks like it finally put things together in its last game against Auburn.

2. The Huskies' quarterback situation: Coach Randy Edsall is now saying it will be a game-time "announcement" rather than a game-time decision over whether Cody Endres or Zach Frazer starts. That seems to indicate he has known for some time who will be under center. Whoever starts might determine the offensive game plan. Against Cincinnati last week Endres passed 42 times, but most of them were manageable throws at safe distances. Frazer could help the Huskies stretch the field more with his big arm. One or the other needs to play well.

3. Donald Brown: How will the nation's leading rusher fare against West Virginia's 3-3-5 defense? The Mountaineers lead the Big East in scoring defense and have only allowed two 100-yard rushers this season. But they haven't seen anyone quite like Brown, who hasn't failed to go over 100 yards this season. Running the ball effectively will be UConn's best bet for keeping White and Devine off the field.

4. "Rent" control: Connecticut can't afford to repeat last year's performance when it lost three fumbles in a 66-21 loss in Morgantown. West Virginia can't be nearly as sloppy as Cincinnati was last week when it had six turnovers at Rentschler Field and fell 40-16 to the Huskies. UConn has created the most turnovers in the Big East with 17, while West Virginia has coughed it up the fewest times (8). Turnovers are always big, of course, but in this game and in this league, they can make all the difference between a close game and a blowout.

5. Jimmy Clausen vs. the Pittsburgh pass defense: Another obvious matchup, one so obvious that Notre Dame will surely try to exploit it as much as possible. The Panthers gave up six touchdown passes to Mike Teel last week in a loss to Rutgers. How many can golden boy Clausen throw? Expect Pitt to change up its personnel and scheme significantly this week. It has to.

6. LeSean McCoy vs. Notre Dame's defense: The Irish have been mediocre at best against the run this season. Michigan State's Javon Ringer rang up 201 yards against them earlier this year. McCoy has been brilliant his last four games and has been especially good on the road. The bigger question may be how Pitt's offensive line, reshuffled after the loss of center Robb Houser, clears lanes for him.

7. Pat Bostick: After Bill Stull suffered a concussion last week, it appears Bostick will start at quarterback for Pittsburgh. Bostick was thrust into a starting role last year as a true freshman, and the Panthers had to dumb down the offense for him. Until two weeks ago, the plan had been to redshirt him this season. He threw a momentum-killing interception in the Rutgers loss. There will be a lot of pressure on Bostick going on the road to South Bend, and Pitt probably can't win without some semblance of a passing attack.

8. Louisville's mental state: The Cardinals had a big, emotional win over South Florida last weekend and then absorbed the loss of their top wide receiver, Scott Long, to an ACL injury. Now they're going on the road for the first time in conference play. You would think Louisville has to be motivated to avenge last year's loss to Syracuse, and the Carrier Dome is hardly an intimidating environment any more. But if the Cardinals -- who have been a slow-starting team this season in the best of circumstances -- come out flat, they'll only give the Orange more reason to believe.

9. Cam Dantley: The Syracuse quarterback maintains a slippery grip on the starting job and was nearly pulled in favor of Andrew Robinson during a brutal second half at South Florida. If he can't get things going early, don't be surprised to see the Orange turn to Robinson, who engineered last year's upset at Louisville.

10. Greg Robinson: The other Syracuse Robinson remains on this list, and might this be the weekend for some resolution to the coach's status? The Orange have had two weeks to prepare for the one Big East team they beat last season, and a loss would officially guarantee another losing season. With Clemson and Washington already on the hunt, how much longer can Syracuse AD Daryl Gross wait to get his next coaching search started?

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

  • Cincinnati has a senior-laden defense and a favorable home schedule. The Bearcats better take advantage by protecting Nippert Stadium, Bill Koch writes in the Cincinnati Enquirer.
  • South Florida's Big East hopes are already on life support, and that haunts the team's veterans, Brett McMurphy writes in the Tampa Tribune.
  • "Why can't we win championships?" senior linebacker Tyrone McKenzie said. "It's just mind-boggling. We have just as much or more talent than anyone in the conference. We work hard and these coaches work so hard, why can't it be us? It's mind-boggling."
  • The Syracuse offense hasn't been much better with Cam Dantley at quarterback, Donnie Webb says in the Syracuse Post-Standard. Might Andrew Robinson get another chance soon?
  • The Pittsburgh-Notre Dame series has featured numerous star performances over the years and could do so again this weekend with LeSean McCoy and Jimmy Clausen, Kevin Gorman writes in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
  • West Virginia is dead last among 119 FBS teams in kickoff coverage, and Ellis Lankster has been shaky fielding punts, Dave Hickman notes in the Charleston Gazette.
  • UConn can't explain why it's so much better at home than on the road, but the Huskies hope the trend continues this Saturday against West Virginia, Dave Solomon writes in the New Haven Register.
  • Scott Long's Louisville teammates plan on wearing his No. 84 in games the rest of the season to show support for the wide receiver, who's out for the season with a knee injury, Rick Bozich writes in The Courier-Journal.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

  • Cincinnati has a senior-laden defense and a favorable home schedule. The Bearcats better take advantage by protecting Nippert Stadium, Bill Koch writes in the Cincinnati Enquirer.
  • South Florida's Big East hopes are already on life support, and that haunts the team's veterans, Brett McMurphy writes in the Tampa Tribune.
  • "Why can't we win championships?" senior linebacker Tyrone McKenzie said. "It's just mind-boggling. We have just as much or more talent than anyone in the conference. We work hard and these coaches work so hard, why can't it be us? It's mind-boggling."
  • The Syracuse offense hasn't been much better with Cam Dantley at quarterback, Donnie Webb says in the Syracuse Post-Standard. Might Andrew Robinson get another chance soon?
  • The Pittsburgh-Notre Dame series has featured numerous star performances over the years and could do so again this weekend with LeSean McCoy and Jimmy Clausen, Kevin Gorman writes in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
  • West Virginia is dead last among 119 FBS teams in kickoff coverage, and Ellis Lankster has been shaky fielding punts, Dave Hickman notes in the Charleston Gazette.
  • UConn can't explain why it's so much better at home than on the road, but the Huskies hope the trend continues this Saturday against West Virginia, Dave Solomon writes in the New Haven Register.
  • Scott Long's Louisville teammates plan on wearing his No. 84 in games the rest of the season to show support for the wide receiver, who's out for the season with a knee injury, Rick Bozich writes in The Courier-Journal.

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