NCF Nation: Chris Coyer

Notre Dame's long offseason comes to an end Saturday, as the Irish play host to Temple at 3:30 p.m. ET. What can they expect against the Owls?

When Temple has the ball: Under former coach Steve Addazio, the Owls were a ground-and-pound team. Now they are without their top two backs from last season in Montel Harris and Matt Brown. They have a new coach in Matt Rhule, who has implemented a pro spread offense, which allowed quarterback Connor Reilly to ascend from the fourth team to starter since the start of this past spring. Leading receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick (30 catches, 363 yards, 2 TDs) is back. But Cody Booth, who led the Owls last season with four touchdown catches, has moved from tight end to left tackle. Former signal-caller Chris Coyer added 30 pounds this offseason as he moved to H-back. Notre Dame will likely look to pressure Reilly in his first career start and force him into some early mistakes, especially now that the Irish have a secondary that is better equipped to seize opportunities than it was last season.

When Notre Dame has the ball: Tommy Rees is Notre Dame's quarterback, again. So what changes? For one, Rees is two years older than he was the last time he started extensively for the Irish. He's a bit bigger, too. He has two proven receivers in captain TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels, and some unproven talent behind them. Notre Dame's pistol package in camp has caused some buzz in South Bend, and it figures to help a crowded but mostly green backfield. Those tailbacks, by the way, should try to avoid linebacker Tyler Matakevich at all costs, as he is the reigning Big East rookie of the year and already one of the leaders of the defense as a sophomore captain.

Intangible: This is 38-year-old Rhule's first game as a head coach. The former New York Giants assistant returned to the Owls after serving as an assistant under Al Golden. You never know how a new coach and his players will come out early, especially when entering a place with as much history as Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish, meanwhile, should know better than to look ahead to Michigan, as they had their 2011 opener ruined by what turned out to be a 3-9 Big East team (South Florida).

Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Temple 6. The Owls may be the worst team the Irish face this season. Some early first-game hiccups will keep it from eventually getting too far out of hand.
Connor Reilly has never started a game for Temple, but Reilly made his mark on the Owls in every single contest over the past two seasons.

It was Reilly who led his teammates onto the field before kickoff, waving an American flag his father flew with as a squadron commander in the Army on several missions in Afghanistan. After the euphoria of each moment, Reilly retreated to the sideline, clipboard in hand, headset on to signal in the plays.

[+] EnlargeConnor Reilly
Howard Smith/USA TODAY SportsQuarterback Connor Reilly has led Temple onto the field before games. Now it appears he'll be leading the Owls in the huddle, too.
He never got much of an opportunity to win the starting job. For one, Reilly was relatively new to football, having picked up the game during his sophomore year of high school. For another, former coach Steve Addazio emphasized dual-threat quarterbacks in his spread system. Reilly was more of a pro-style kinda guy with a rocket for an arm, thanks to his baseball background.

Indeed, Reilly continued to play both sports last spring as Chris Coyer took the starting quarterback reps. And he continued to play both sports this year, too (though he has taken a two-week hiatus to focus on football). A new offensive emphasis under coach Matt Rhule, finally gave Reilly his opportunity.

Reilly's rise from last on the depth chart to first has been one of the biggest spring surprises in the league.

In the spring game this past weekend, Reilly went 25-of-41 for 366 yards and four touchdowns. Coyer -- the guy who used to get the signals from Reilly -- caught two of them in his new role as tight end/H-back.

Those are quite impressive passing numbers, when you consider just how poorly the Owls threw the ball last year. Yes, Temple was a run-first team. But when the Owls needed to pass the ball, they simply could not find any consistency. Temple ranked No. 116 in the nation in passing, and its quarterbacks completed an average of 52.5 percent of their passes. Only nine teams had a worse percentage.

Run-oriented Navy and Air Force posted better completion percentage numbers.

Perhaps more impressive, though, are these comments about Reilly from Rhule following the game Saturday: "I think what you see is, you see our team when he's out there kind of rallying around him and believe he's going to make a play."

Quarterback was one of the biggest question marks on this team headed into the spring, but it appears as if a guy who was not even in the discussion back in March has solidified his status atop the depth chart. Whether he continues to carry the U.S. flag onto the field this season remains to be seen.

But there seems to be little question that Reilly is a guy to root for when the season begins.

Big East spring game previews

April, 19, 2013
Nine of 10 Big East teams will be through with spring practices come Monday, with Rutgers serving as the outlier. With UConn, Temple and SMU all gearing up for their annual spring games this Saturday, here's a peek at what to look for.

Fans in attendance for the noon start at Rentschler Field should keep an eye on how the offense moves under new coordinator T.J. Weist. The Huskies ranked 118th in total offense last year as coordinator George DeLeone was stripped of his duties, though he remains the offensive line coach. But the squad returns all five starters up front to protect incumbent quarterback Chandler Whitmer, as well as top running back Lyle McCombs, as the unit will look to keep pace with a defense that was nothing short of outstanding last season but is down a few stars who will hear their names called next weekend in New York.

Hank Hughes is the new man in charge of the defense, and he has Yawin Smallwood back to anchor a unit that has said goodbye to Sio Moore, Jory Johnson, Trevardo Williams and Blidi Wreh-Wilson. The Huskies boast plenty of potential in the middle with linebackers Graham Stewart, Ryan Donohue, Jefferson Ashiru and Omaine Stephens -- but that is just potential, for now.

UConn needs answers on both sides of the ball if it hopes to improve off head coach Paul Pasqualoni's consecutive 5-7 seasons.

The Mustangs will have an open practice at 9 a.m. local time at Pettus Practice Field, with many current and former players signing autographs afterward. There will be an NFL Punt, Pass and Kick competition afterward for kids ages 6 through eighth grade.

The Mustangs are intriguing, first and foremost, because they brought Hal Mumme aboard as their assistant head coach and passing game coordinator. Pairing the Air Raid curator with head coach June Jones and his run 'n' shoot pedigree is a fascinating experiment in and of itself.

Kenneth Acker, who is coming off a second-team All-Conference USA season in the secondary, is another experiment this spring, with the staff splitting the cornerback wide to catch some passes with the offense.

Defensively, the Mustangs are replacing a bulk of their production from last season, with Margus Hunt, Ja'Gared Davis and Taylor Reed all gone. Kevin Pope and Robert Seals must step up at linebacker.

Head coach Matt Rhule's first spring will feature live kicking and punting, normal scoring and 15-minute quarters. Who will eventually emerge as quarterback, however, is another matter. Juice Granger and Thomas Rumer will see action on the Cherry squad, which is coached by defensive coordinator Phil Snow, while Chris Coyer and Connor Reilly will take reps for the White team, coached by offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield.

Reilly has thrived under the pro-style attack, ascending to No. 1 on a depth chart that was expected to see Coyer and Granger fight for the top spot. Coyer has seen time as an H-back in practice, but Rhule said he will remain under center. Kevin Newsome, out with a shoulder injury, has been moved to H-back.

Reigning conference freshman of the year Tyler Matakevich leads a defense that struggled across the board last season, while Levi Brown and Sean Daniels are the big guys up front worth keeping an eye on.

The live kicking and punting part of Saturday's 1 p.m. contest at Edberg-Olson Hall is worth noting in that the Owls need to replace Brandon McManus, who held the school records for field goals made and punting average.
Temple coach Matt Rhule knows what priority No. 1 is headed into spring practice next week -- find a starting quarterback.

He has five players in the mix, but Rhule said in a recent phone interview with that Chris Coyer and Juice Granger will get first shot with the first team.

"Chris and Juice are the top two going in, and they’ll rep with the first team and then everyone else will get their opportunities with the second team until they prove otherwise," Rhule said. "Those guys coming in, based off the offseason and what they’ve done in the past, will get first crack at running with the starters."

Coyer began last season as the starter before giving way to Granger in the final two games as then-coach Steve Addazio tried to look for a spark to get his offense going. Both players are going into their senior seasons.

One other player to watch is Penn State transfer Kevin Newsome, who has asked to remain at quarterback to prove himself to the new coaching staff.

"He wants an opportunity to show what he can do at quarterback, so I’m going to start him there, and if he’s the best player, he’ll play," Rhule said. "I’ve assured him of that. How we go into spring is based off the offseason and their effort and performance in the offseason, and that would put Chris and Juice with the first group."

Temple opens spring practice March 22.

Spring Start: Feb. 28

Spring game: April 6

What to watch:
  1. Quarterback: Jacob Karam returns as the starter after throwing for 1,895 yards, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions. But coach Justin Fuente says Karam will be pushed during the spring and has to win the starting job all over again.
  2. Bump up the physicality: Fuente has said repeatedly that he wants to see his team be more physical, especially now that it is joining the Big East. The spring is the perfect chance to improve in this area. "We will play some of the same teams we played last year, but they will be the bigger, more physical teams we played last year," he said. "We have to understand that we have a lot of ground to make up. That is not ground that is made up easily."
  3. Competition at defensive back: The Tigers lose two starters from their defensive backfield -- Cannon Smith and Robert Steeples -- and Fuente is excited about the competition at this position going into the spring.

Spring Start: March 26

Spring game: April 27

What to watch:
  1. Quarterback: Even though coach Kyle Flood says Gary Nova is his starter, you can bet there is going to be competition at this position going into the spring, especially with a new offensive coordinator in Ron Prince. That doesn't mean there will be changes, but certainly Prince is going to want to take a look at all the players he has available to evaluate what they can or cannot do.
  2. Defensive leaders: Rutgers lost its top defensive playmakers and needs to find guys who can step in for Scott Vallone, Khaseem Greene, Steve Beauharnais and Logan Ryan, to name four. Plus, there is a new coordinator in Dave Cohen, so there might be some adjustment period.
  3. Huggins stepping up: The time is now for the highly heralded local recruit to live up to the expectations that came with him when he arrived on campus. Jawan Jamison is gone off to the NFL, so all eyes have turned to Huggins to see if he has what it takes to be the next 1,000-yard rusher.

Spring Start: March 25

Spring game: April 20

What to watch:
  1. Replacing Zach Line: The Mustangs have to replace their top runner over the past several seasons in Line, who had three straight 1,000-yard seasons. Leading the charge this spring are junior college All-American Traylon Shead and reserve back Rishaad Wimbley, who switched from defense a few seasons ago.
  2. New defensive starters: The Mustangs lost the bulk of their playmakers on defense in Margus Hunt and linebackers Taylor Reed and Ja'Gared Davis. Finding guys to step up without them is a huge priority. Watch for Zach Wood at defensive end in place of Hunt; and Kevin Pope and Robert Seals at linebacker.
  3. More consistency at QB: June Jones' offense runs best when the quarterback is at his best. Garrett Gilbert returns as the starter, but he is going to need to find much more consistency this spring and into the fall. Two numbers that have to be improved: accuracy (53 percent in 2012) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (15-to-15 in 2012).

Spring Start: March 20

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:
  1. New coaches, new style: Coach Willie Taggart has promised to ratchet up the intensity and transform his team into more of a smash-mouth group. That process begins in the spring, when he has his first opportunity to really show his players what he expects out of them. You can bet he expects a lot more physicality from his offensive and defensive lines to start.
  2. Quarterback competition: Who will emerge as the starter? Will we even know after the spring? Matt Floyd and Bobby Eveld, the top two candidates, have plenty of work to do as they fight to win the starting job. But this competition could very well go into the fall, when freshman Mike White arrives on campus.
  3. Defensive back improvement: This was the worst group the Bulls had a year ago and the one in most need of immediate improvement. USF registered two interceptions in 2012, tied with Auburn for the fewest among all 120 schools in the nation. And they both came in the same game -- against UConn on Nov. 3.

Spring Start: March 22

Spring game: April 20

What to watch:
  1. New staff: Matt Rhule certainly has a familiarity with Temple, having served as an assistant there under both Al Golden and Steve Addazio. But anytime a new coach comes in, there is change, so the spring gives him his first chance to really start implementing his style and what he wants to get accomplished.
  2. Quarterbacks: You can bet this competition is going to be open this spring, with Chris Coyer, Juice Granger and Kevin Newsome all returning. Coyer and Granger both started a year ago; Newsome transferred in from Penn State a few years ago. How this shakes out is one major story to watch.
  3. Running backs: Montel Harris and Matt Brown are gone, taking with them 1,426 yards rushing and 16 of the team's 21 rushing touchdowns. Jamie Gilmore got more carries as the season went on when Brown was hurt; Kenny Harper also is back and certainly will be relied upon even more.

Another new-look spring for Big East

February, 27, 2013

For the second straight spring, Extreme Makeover: Big East edition has gripped the conference.

Four teams enter practice with an eye toward their first Big East season. Two teams enter spring practice wondering if 2013 is their final Big East season.

The mix makes for quite the dysfunctional pairing, and most likely the only configuration featuring remaining members Cincinnati, UConn, USF and Temple, incoming members UCF, Houston, Memphis and SMU and departing members Louisville and Rutgers playing under the same conference umbrella.

Got all that?

What must be most especially difficult for the league this spring is marketing and promoting what should be a preseason top-10 team -- Louisville -- knowing the Cardinals are not long for the Big East world. It was the same scenario that unfolded back in 2011, when West Virginia represented the Big East as its highest-rated Top 25 team and Orange Bowl participant, with a move to the Big 12 just months away.

[+] EnlargeTeddy Bridgewater
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesThere are many question marks at QB in the Big East this spring. Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater is certainly not among them.
Given all the conference realignment, this is certainly not uncharted territory. But it certainly takes the luster off what should be downright euphoria over having one of the projected marquee teams in all the nation in 2013. Along with that conundrum is the idea that the Big East cannot begin to rebrand itself while it continues to have a hodgepodge of teams with one foot in the door and one foot out.

None of this is new, but it certainly is more than a little uncomfortable. Having said that, Louisville remains the biggest story to watch this spring and into the fall because of the opportunity the Cardinals have in front of them. Not only do they return nearly all of their key starters from the Sugar Bowl-winning team of a season ago, they return soon-to-be junior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, already a preseason Heisman candidate.

Last spring, he was incredible, completing 70 percent of his passes in a near-flawless performance. That translated into a super sophomore season that not only has people talking Heisman now, it also has them talking about whether this is his final spring in a Cardinals uniform. Another solid spring showing from him, and Louisville should cement its standing as the preseason favorite to win the Big East, with an outside shot as a dark horse national title contender.

Louisville, however, is only one of a handful of Big East schools with quarterback certainty. UCF returns Blake Bortles, who had a 3,000-yard season in 2012 as the Knights went 10-4 in their final year in Conference USA. He is perhaps the next-best quarterback in the league, although that is probably up for debate, as Cincinnati returns Brendon Kay.

But Kay is going to face some competition this spring, with new coach Tommy Tuberville taking charge. He is not the only incumbent who is sure to be pushed. At Rutgers, coach Kyle Flood says Gary Nova remains the starter, but new offensive coordinator Ron Prince is certainly going to want to see what all his signal-callers have to offer. At Memphis, Jacob Karam must win his starting job again. At SMU, Garrett Gilbert needs to work on his consistency. So does UConn quarterback Chandler Whitmer, who is going to see some competition for his job as well.

At Houston, David Piland is in for a fight for his spot. USF and Temple need starters, too. The Bulls lose veteran B.J. Daniels and return Matt Floyd and Bobby Eveld. The Owls rotated between Chris Coyer and Clinton Granger last season, but Penn State transfer Kevin Newsome could figure into the mix as well with new coach Matt Rhule taking charge.

The quarterback position in the Big East represents the league as a whole: plenty of uncertainty this spring.

Temple dealing with growing pains

November, 16, 2012
Temple has a four-game losing streak. On Tuesday, the Owls found out that their season will all but end in less than two weeks, as a possible 12th game at Hawaii fell through -- something that also costs them a chance at bowl eligibility.

And, to complicate matters, the Owls have a three-man quarterback battle brewing heading into Saturday's game at Army.

"I just think that the bottom line is I feel like we need a spark," coach Steve Addazio said. "I feel like I want to see some energy at that position right now, and I'm just a big believer that no one could ever feel that secure, per se. And I just think that we've got guys waiting in that position that want reps, I'm going to give them reps out here and let's see who has the best week of all and I'll go from there."

Chris Coyer has started all nine games for the Owls, but Clinton Granger has appeared in the past four games, with Kevin Newsome appearing in the last two.

All three signal-callers are juniors, but Addazio isn't looking at this week's decision as one with future implications.

"One guy might play and if that's not happening, well, I'll pull him and put the next guy in," the second-year Owls coach said. "My goal right now is I want to see guys performing under the bright lights, because that's really where you measure things. It's hard to measure it in spring ball and preseason camp; it's all part of it, but at this point we've got guys, I need to see them with the bright lights on. I want to see who's got that 'it' factor, if you will."

The growing pains have showed recently for a young team in its first year in a new conference, as the Owls have just 13 seniors and have played 23 freshman.

This is the natural cycle of things, Addazio said, and with a surprising 2-0 Big East start giving way to reality of this past month, he is challenging his upperclassmen to make the most of their final days as college football players.

"We've got to play a great game on Saturday," Addazio said. "We need to do that, so here it is. It's your opportunity. What do you want to get done here? So it'll be interesting to see those dynamics play out."

What to watch in the Big East: Week 12

November, 15, 2012
Here's what to keep an eye on Saturday.

1) Temple's QB. It is a three-man race to take the first snap under center for the Owls, with Chris Coyer, Clinton Granger and Kevin Newsome vying for the spot. One will be tasked with getting the Owls out of their four-game funk, with Army awaiting.

[+] EnlargeSavon Huggins
Joe Camporeale/US PresswireRutgers may need Savon Huggins to carry the offensive load at Cincinnati if Jawan Jamison is out.
2) Can Rutgers' offense keep up? The Scarlet Knights have been underwhelming on offense of late, to say the least. They had seven turnovers against Kent State and needed a very late run to pull away from Army, and now, heading to Cincinnati, are facing their biggest Big East test to date, possibly without star running back Jawan Jamison, too.

3) Brendon Kay goes for Round 2. The fifth-year senior's starting debut last week against Temple couldn't have gone much better. Now he has to do it against Rutgers' defense, with conference title implications on the line.

4) South Florida's QB. Skip Holtz, like Temple's Steve Addazio, has not announced a starter. Matt Floyd or Bobby Eveld will get the call against Miami -- a team Eveld beat two years ago. How the Bulls respond without B.J. Daniels the rest of the way -- and after finally snapping their losing streak … and after a bye, too -- is worth watching for a team that still has a chance at bowl eligibility.

5) Syracuse goes for bowl eligibility. Frankly, it would typify the Orange's past two seasons to follow up a masterpiece against Louisville with a letdown at Missouri. Winners of three of its past four, Syracuse instead hopes to build off a big win this time, with its offense clicking on all cylinders as it readies for a Tigers team that also is going for win No. 6.

Jamison, Harris statuses uncertain

November, 12, 2012
The status of two of the Big East's best running backs remains up in the air following Week 11 injuries.

Rutgers' Jawan Jamison is "50-50," coach Kyle Flood said Monday, while Temple's Montel Harris looks a bit more likely to play this Saturday at Army.

"Montel's doing well," Owls coach Steve Addazio said of Harris, who left Saturday's loss to Cincinnati in the second quarter with a knee injury. "Just got to give it a little rest and see how that goes, but I feel good about him."

Jamison hurt his ankle in the third quarter of a win over Army but returned in the fourth quarter, finishing the game with 90 yards on 22 carries, plus a 16-yard touchdown pass.

Flood said he's confident in Savon Huggins' ability to handle the extended workload should Jamison not be able to go Saturday at Cincinnati.

Louisville coach Charlie Strong said earlier Monday that leading rusher Senorise Perry tore an ACL and is out for the year.

QB shuffles: Cincinnati will stick with Brendon Kay as its starting quarterback this week after a strong debut at Temple. … South Florida has not named a starter for this week following B.J. Daniels' season-ending ankle injury two weeks ago. Temple remains undecided, too, following Clinton Granger replacing Chris Coyer this past Saturday.

Big East weekend rewind: Week 11

November, 12, 2012
Here's one more look back at what went down this past weekend in the Big East:

The good: Connecticut finally notched a Big East 'W.' Rutgers got back on the winning track. And Syracuse and Cincinnati turned in dominating performances a week after their tight battle, which went the Bearcats' way.

The bad: Louisville, which had risen to No. 9 in the BCS rankings and was carrying the banner for the conference, laid a gigantic egg in Syracuse, getting blown out 45-26. Lots of credit to the Orange, but make no mistake, this was a huge blow for the conference, which was already getting disrespected by computers and pollsters who had two two-loss teams ahead of the unbeaten Cardinals.

The ugly: Oh, Pitt. What shall we do with you? A week after taking the No. 3 team in the country to triple-overtime on the road, you fall behind 24-0 to a UConn team that has not moved the ball well in more than a month. Now your bowl chances are very slim, and you really have nowhere to look but in the mirror following some mind-boggling defeats this season.

The replacements: Brendon Kay's first start for Cincinnati could not have gone better, as the fifth-year senior completed 13 of 21 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns, adding 71 rushing yards on seven carries. His second-half opponent, Clinton Granger, replaced Chris Coyer, who has been ineffective throughout Temple's four-game losing streak. Here's guessing one of these teams' QB situations will be a lot clearer than the other's heading into this week.

Send it in, Jerome! Jerome Smith has now rushed for 100 or more yards in four straight games for Syracuse, who notched another huge home upset under coach Doug Marrone. The Orange are on the brink of returning to bowl eligibility, and their re-established running game is a big reason for that, with Syracuse winning three of its past four games.

Nice to see you again: Oh hey, UConn's rushing game. Lyle McCombs had his first 100-yard game since Sept. 22. In fact, he had not rushed for even 50 yards in a game since September, and the Huskies had not scored a second-half touchdown since then, either. But the nation's 116th-ranked rushing attack put up 132 yards while holding Pitt to 48, this after Ray Graham picked apart Notre Dame's defense for 172 rushing yards a week earlier.

Wild finish awaits: Rutgers is the only team without a Big East loss, but it will have its hands full this week at Cincinnati. Rutgers and Louisville both control their own destinies when they meet in the Nov. 29 regular-season finale, but the Bearcats can turn this into a completely chaotic race if they take down the Scarlet Knights this weekend.

Kay leads Cincinnati rout of Temple

November, 10, 2012
Was the Syracuse game the last we've seen of Munchie Legaux this season?

If Brendon Kay's performance Saturday at Temple is any indication, that may very well end up being the case.

The Bearcats could not have asked for much more from their new signal caller in a 34-10 rout of the Owls. Kay completed 13 of 21 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns and carried it seven times for 71 yards.

His touchdown passes, to Kenbrell Thompkins and Chris Moore, went for 75 and 65 yards, respectively.

George Winn, the Big East's leading rusher, added 83 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.

Cincinnati jumped out to a 24-3 first-half lead and never looked back, pressuring Chris Coyer into a costly interception late in the first half that cost the Temple signal caller the chance to start the third quarter.

That honor went to Clinton Granger, who fared little better. The two Owls quarterbacks combined to go 12-of-32 for 142 yards. Cody Booth's 4-yard touchdown catch late in the third quarter cut the Cincinnati lead to 14, but that was as close as Temple would get.

The Bearcats held Temple to just 267 yards of total offense in what was a complete, solid performance. Reality has come down hard on the Owls following their 2-0 Big East start, as they now find themselves in the middle of a four-game losing streak going into next week's game against Army.

Cincinnati scored another win Saturday when Louisville was routed by Syracuse, giving both the Bearcats and Cardinals one Big East loss. Louisville beat Cincinnati two weeks ago, so the Cardinals have to lose another game for Cincinnati to have a chance to win the conference outright and gain a BCS bowl bid.

To have that chance, the Bearcats need to start by beating Rutgers next week, which would create quite a wild race to the finish among three one-loss Big East teams. That's a scenario that looks much more possible after Kay's performance Saturday in Philadelphia.

What to watch in the Big East: Week 11

November, 8, 2012
Here's what to keep an eye on this weekend in the conference.

1) Can Pitt bounce back? The Panthers have been erratic this season, to say the least. They blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead in losing a triple-overtime contest to the then-No. 3 team in the country. Logic says UConn should be a cakewalk for Pitt, but things are never that easy for the Panthers. Another good rushing defense awaits, but Ray Graham had a field day last week at Notre Dame, which has been tougher against the run than UConn.

[+] EnlargeTeddy Bridgewater
Jamie Rhodes/US PresswireLouisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has become a fringe Heisman candidate.
2) UConn's ground game. Speaking of ground attacks, what about the Huskies'? Lyle McCombs has not rushed for more than 47 yards in a game since September and the rushing game currently ranks 116th nationally. Can UConn finally break through, snap a four-game losing streak and win a Big East game?

3) Teddy Bridgewater. Louisville's QB has been a great flag-carrier for the Big East, giving many a reason to watch on Saturdays. Syracuse coach Doug Marrone this week called the fringe Heisman candidate the best quarterback his team will face this season -- and they faced USC's Matt Barkley in Week 2. Can Bridgewater do enough in these final few weeks to steal an invite to the Big Apple?

4) Does Jerome Smith keep it up? The Syracuse running back has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in three straight games and is making a late push for a 1,000-yard season. The Orange have a chance to knock off the unbeaten Cardinals, and Smith, at 731 yards, is looking to give his school a 1,000-yard back for the fifth straight season.

5) How does Gary Nova bounce back? Rutgers coach Kyle Flood has not wavered in support of his starting quarterback after a six-pick showing two weeks ago left the Scarlet Knights with their first defeat of the season. A bye week gave Nova extra time to recover and he is looking to get back on track against an Army team coming off a big win over Air Force.

6) Cincinnati's QB … whoever it is. Coach Butch Jones said his signal caller will be a game-time decision. Munchie Legaux was pulled last weekend for Brendon Kay, who put up modest numbers but led the Bearcats on consecutive scoring drives in their win over Syracuse.

7) Does Kevin Newsome see more action for Temple? The highly touted prep prospect and PSU transfer got in the action late last week in a loss to Louisville and has been seeing some first-team reps this week in place of Juice Granger (ankle). Chris Coyer has been relieved in each of the past three games.

Second-half surge lifts Rutgers to 7-0

October, 20, 2012
Rutgers' brand of football is typically not conducive to blowouts. The Scarlet Knights reached the midpoint of the season unscathed on the backs of a strong ground game and opportunistic defense and special teams.

A double-digit halftime deficit Saturday at Temple surely had some shaking their heads at a program that has consistently stumbled when on the precipice of great things. But Rutgers may truly be different this season under first-year head coach Kyle Flood, a notion it suggested in a Week 4 shootout win at Arkansas and one it supported after its 35-10 win at Temple.

The defense and special teams were there, as always, with Leonte Carroo blocking a Brandon McManus punt early in the fourth quarter and Khaseem Greene later returning a fumble 19 yards for a score.

But Rutgers' offense stepped up again when needed most, with Gary Nova tossing four touchdown passes on a day he completed 17 of 27 passes for 232 yards with just one interception. Four different receivers accounted for the scores, with Jawan Jamison using a nasty move midway in the third quarter for a 32-yard touchdown that put the Scarlet Knights in front for the first time on the day.

Jamison was everywhere on the afternoon, rushing for a game-high 114 yards on 20 carries and adding game highs of five catches and 81 receiving yards. The running back has now rushed for more than 100 yards in six of seven games this season.

Rutgers' offense capitalized throughout the second half. Nova hit Mark Harrison for a 5-yard score in the third quarter after Logan Ryan picked off Chris Coyer, and the Scarlet Knights' signal caller later found D.C. Jefferson for a 10-yard score early in the fourth quarter following the blocked punt.

Temple entered the day riding a two-game winning streak and showed plenty of positive signs early, but the Owls received an up-close measuring stick of what it may take to win the conference this season. Rutgers is only 4-0 in the conference and 7-0 overall, but it learned a little more about itself in a 35-0 second-half rout.

Temple stuns UConn in overtime

October, 13, 2012
Well, the Big East has rolled out the red carpet for Temple.

The Owls pulled the come-from-behind overtime win over Connecticut 17-14 on the road Saturday afternoon. Temple posted 17 unanswered points for the victory. This marks the first time in school history Temple (3-2, 2-0) has won back-to-back Big East games. Temple pulled another stunner last week, beating USF in its first Big East game since 2004.

At the beginning of the game, there were not many indications this would go Temple's way. UConn (3-4, 0-2) jumped out to a quick 14-0 first-quarter lead as quarterback Chandler Whitmer picked apart the Temple defense. In fact, he had 159 yards passing in the first quarter alone. Temple, meanwhile, could not get anything going against the No. 1 run defense in the Big East.

It looked as if the Huskies would have no trouble.

But Temple started chipping away once it got its running game going midway through the second quarter. Montel Harris got the Owls on the board late in the quarter, running for 62 of Temple's 80 yards on the scoring drive. UConn could not get going on offense, and the offensive line in particular did this group no favors. The Huskies also played without leading rusher Lyle McCombs, though replacement Max DeLorenzo held his own with 90 yards rushing.

UConn blew several opportunities to build on its lead. Kicker Chad Christen missed three field goals in regulation. Temple, meanwhile, came up short on several opportunities of its own, fumbling at the UConn 25 just before halftime. Then later in the fourth quarter, with opportunities to kick field goals, coach Steve Addazio went for it on fourth down but came up short.

Temple got one final chance with 2:56 remaining. The Owls were able to convert twice on fourth down, and then Chris Coyer made two incredible throws -- the first a 33-yarder to Deon Miller on third-and-13, and then the last to Jalen Fitzpatrick for a 14-yard touchdown with 19 seconds remaining. That sent the game into overtime.

Once again, UConn could not move the ball and sent out Christen. He missed his fourth field goal of the day, this one a 28-yarder. Temple kicker Brandon McManus made his 29-yarder when he got his chance, and the Owls came out with the victory. Harris ended up with his second straight 100-yard game, carrying the ball 30 times for 142 yards with a touchdown. He got the majority of the carries with Matt Brown on the sideline because of a sprained ankle.

As Steve Addazio celebrates the win over his former mentor, questions about whether UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni is on the hot seat are only growing stronger. UConn has a defense that can keep the Huskies in games, but it has been futile on offense. UConn has now lost to Temple and Western Michigan this season, raising serious questions about whether UConn is headed in the right direction.

What to watch in the Big East: Week 7

October, 11, 2012
Here's what to keep an eye on Saturday in the Big East.

1. Pitt's offensive line. In two wins against two nonconference opponents, the Panthers have surrendered just two sacks. In two Big East games? Those numbers balloon to 11, including five last week at Syracuse, making life very difficult for quarterback Tino Sunseri.

2. Louisville's offense in Big East play. It will be an unusually early (11 a.m. ET) start at Heinz Field for the Cardinals, who are also the last BCS conference team to begin league play, per Rick Bozich. The offense couldn't get much going in the muck at Southern Miss (and who can really blame the unit?), but Louisville had late scares at FIU and against UNC in the two weeks prior. Has the team used the bye to help shore up loose ends?

[+] EnlargeRutgers' Jawan Jamison
AP Photo/Chris O'MearaCan Rutgers running back Jawan Jamison make it six games in a row this season in which he gains at least 100 rushing yards?
3. Jawan Jamison going for 100 again. The Rutgers back has matched Ray Rice's school record with five straight 100-yard games to open the season. He broke through last week against UConn's stout run defense and should do it again when Syracuse visits.

4. Cuse hoping to turn a corner. The Orange have scored just 24 points in their past two games, with seven of those points coming on a defensive touchdown. Look for Ryan Nassib, who eclipsed the 300-yard mark in the season's first three games, to air it out more and try to keep the Scarlet Knights' defense honest as Syracuse looks to build off its first Big East win in nearly a year.

5. UConn still looking for offensive answers. It's not that the Huskies scored just three points against Rutgers; it's that there was little reason to believe they could have scored any more had that game lasted another quarter or two. Temple's defense isn't Rutgers', so now is the time for Chandler Whitmer & Co. to move the ball and avoid their first losing streak of the season.

6. Chris Coyer trying to build off Big East opener. The Temple quarterback completed 16 of 20 passes in a win over USF, but is facing a much tougher defense at UConn. Expect the Huskies to stack the box against Montel Harris following his breakout game and see if Coyer can lift his team again.

7. Munchie Legaux seeking better accuracy. There's not a whole lot to find out about Cincinnati as it hosts another overmatched nonconference opponent, this time FCS Fordham. But the Bearcats still have a quarterback in his first full year as the starter, one who has completed just 55 percent of his throws this season. Despite his late-game magic and unblemished record, Legaux has room for improvement before he gets into the heart of Big East play.