NCF Nation: Dion Lewis
Let's start on the offensive side of the ball and take a look at where some Big East hopefuls are ranked. First, the skill positions:
- Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh: second round
- Jordan Todman, RB, Connecticut: third round
- Dion Lewis, RB, Pittsburgh: fourth round
- Delone Carter, RB, Syracuse: fourth round
- Bilal Powell, RB, Louisville: fifth round
- Anthony Sherman, FB, Connecticut: fifth round
- Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia: sixth round
- Henry Hynoski, FB, Pittsburgh: seventh round
- Armon Binns, WR, Cincinnati: seventh round
Now, the offensive linemen/tight ends:
- Jason Pinkston, OT, Pittsbugh: fifth round
- Cameron Graham, TE, Louisville: sixth round
- Zach Hurd, OG, Connecticut: sixth round
- Ryan Bartholomew, C, Syracuse: seventh round
- Jason Kelce, C, Cincinnati: seventh round
Now let's move to the defensive side and see where Scouts Inc. rates some Big East defenders:
- Terrell McClain, DT, South Florida: second round
- Jabaal Sheard, DE/LB, Pittsburgh: second round
- Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville: third round
- Greg Romeus, DE, Pittsburgh: fourth round
- Brandon Hogan, CB, West Virginia: fourth round
- Robert Sands, S, West Virginia: fourth round
- Lawrence Wilson, LB, Connecticut: fifth round
- Scott Lutrus, LB, Connecticut: fifth round
- Joe Lefeged, S, Rutgers: sixth round
- Chris Neild, DT, West Virginia: sixth round
- Derrell Smith, LB, Syracuse: sixth round
- J.T. Thomas, LB, West Virginia: sixth round
- Doug Hogue, LB, Syracuse: sixth round
- Greg Lloyd, LB, Connecticut: seventh round
These projections aren't gospel by any means, but they should give you a pretty good idea of how Big East hopefuls are being viewed right now.
We knew Paea, Oregon State's two-time winner of the Pac-10's Morris Trophy, was a beast, but the defensive tackle proved it to everyone else when he set an NFL combine record with 49 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press.
Folks, it's hard to do any repetitive movement 49 times, much less with 225 pounds.
Paea was just the lead note -- and he knows how to celebrate, by the way -- on what mostly appears to be a strong showing by Pac-12 players at the NFL combine.
Jake Locker ran fast; Nate Solder showed explosiveness, and a lot of other guys made good impressions, including a couple of Pac-12 running backs -- small ones -- per ESPN's Todd McShay:
Vereen leads smaller backs
California's Shane Vereen had a monster day, running the 40 in 4.48, posting a 34-inch vertical jump and putting up 25 repetitions on the 225-pound bench press. Vereen is an instinctive back on tape and shows good skills in the passing game, but we haven't seen the kind of explosiveness on film that Vereen displayed Sunday. It's time to go back to the film room and see if we missed anything during our previous evaluation.
Other diminutive backs had good showings as well. Pittsburgh's Dion Lewis, Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers, Syracuse's Delone Carter and Kentucky's Derrick Locke all showed good balance and lateral explosiveness when bouncing to the outside and then cutting upfield during position-specific drills.
Here are some more links and notes
- Here's a look at UCLA safety Rahim Moore.
- Two Pac-12 offensive tackles look like first-round picks. More on Colorado's Solder here.
- Any chance Casey Matthews joins brother Clay in Green Bay?
- Is California defensive end Cameron Jordan headed to New England?
- Checking in with Locker, who had a good day.
- Some USC combine notes.
- Oregon receiver Jeff Maehl wasn't lights out in the 40, but he showcased elite quickness in the three-cone drill and short shuttle run (see numbers on the right).
- Oregon State running back Jacquizz Rodgers didn't run a fast 40 either.
- You can check out the top performers here.
Ubben's list was restricted to offensive players in conference games, and only players whose team won the game were eligible. I'm going to be a lot more inclusive than that. But I will give extra weight to performances in victories and in games against league competition or other high-caliber opponents. Sorry, but no stat-stuffing feats against FCS opponents were considered.
Here, then, is my Top 10:
2. Isaiah Pead versus Rutgers: Granted, the Scarlet Knights' defense was a shell of its former self by this point. Still, Pead racked up a whopping five total touchdowns, most by a Big East player in a league game in 2010. He had 213 rushing yards and four scores on 31 rushing attempts and added a touchdown reception. Rutgers had no answer.
3. Sio Moore versus West Virginia: The Connecticut linebacker, often overshadowed by Lawrence Wilson and Scott Lutrus at his own position, was a one-man wrecking crew in the win that changed the Huskies' season. He collected 17 tackles, forced two fumbles and recovered two of them in the hard-fought upset.
4. Dion Lewis versus Cincinnati: The Bearcats had seen this show before. For the second straight year, Lewis was a load that the Cincinnati defense couldn't stop. He carried 42 times for 261 yards and four touchdowns in the snow at Nippert Stadium for what turned out to be his final regular-season college game.
5. Geno Smith versus Marshall: Down 21-6 in the fourth quarter, West Virginia looked like it would suffer its first loss to its in-state opponent. But Smith came to the rescue. He calmly led two scoring drives in the final minutes and delivered perfect strikes for the tying touchdown and two-point conversion plays attempt near the end of regulation. He finished 32-of-45 for 316 yards, and that's even more impressive when you consider it was just his second career start.
6. Bilal Powell versus Cincinnati: Our first performance on the list that came in a losing effort. It wasn't Powell's fault. The Louisville senior rushed for 209 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries and had perhaps the highlight of the season with his bruising, 85-yard scoring run. Powell also rushed for 204 yards on just 18 carries the week before, but it came against a truly terrible Memphis defense (not that Cincinnati's was all that much better).
7. Delone Carter versus Kansas State: Carter had a strong year but lacked a lot of explosive plays. That changed in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl against Kansas State's admittedly shaky defense. Carter crushed the Wildcats for 198 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries as the Orange held on for the postseason win.
8. Mark Harrison versus Cincinnati: There were a lot of great performances against the Cincinnati defense, but Harrison's was truly breathtaking -- and record-breaking. The Rutgers wideout had 10 catches for 240 yards and four touchdowns against the helpless Bearcats secondary.
9. Ray Graham versus Florida International: Not an elite opponent by any means, but what Graham did was still mighty impressive. Subbing for an injured Lewis, Graham nearly broke the Pitt single-game rushing record with 277 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries.
10. Joe Lefeged versus Florida International: FIU appears again as a victim here in a ridiculous performance by the Rutgers safety. He had an interception, forced two fumbles and blocked a pair of punts to almost single-handedly ensure his team's narrow victory.
Honorable mention: Zach Collaros versus South Florida and Rutgers; B.J. Daniels versus Cincinnati and Clemson; Pead versus Oklahoma; Todman versus Cincinnati; Armon Binns versus Louisville; Chas Dodd versus Connecticut; Dave Teggart versus South Florida; Doug Hogue versus West Virginia; Marcus Sales versus Kansas State.
Quarterback: Ryan Nassib, Syracuse
Nassib, who struggled down the stretch of the regular season, took advantage of Kansas State's shaky defense to complete 13-of-21 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
Carter ran 27 times for 198 yards and two scores in the Pinstripe Bowl. Lewis rumbled for 105 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries in the BBVA Compass Bowl before declaring for the NFL Draft.
Wide receiver: Marcus Sales, Syracuse
Sales came almost out of nowhere to record five catches for 172 yards and three touchdowns against Kansas State. No other Big East receiver had even a fraction of his stats in the postseason.
Tight end: Cameron Graham, Louisville
The league's best tight in the regular season kept it up in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl, catching three passes for 31 yards and a touchdown.
Offensive line: Jacob Sims and Sampson Genus, South Florida; Jason Pinkston, Pittsburgh; Mark Wetterer, Louisville; Justin Pugh, Syracuse.
Sims and Genus were part of a USF line that pushed back Clemson's talented defensive front in the Meineke Car Care Bowl; Sims in particular helped keep Da'Quan Bowers quiet, which is not an easy thing to do. Pinkston showed some fire in protecting his quarterback after Tino Sunseri was hit late, and the Panthers ran for 261 yards while surrendering zero sacks against Kentucky. Wetterer and Pugh helped open holes for their high-scoring postseason offenses.
Defensive line: Brandon Lindsey, Pittsburgh; Terrell McClain, South Florida; Bruce Irvin, West Virginia.
Lindsey stepped up his game in the regular season when Greg Romeus was hurt and did so again in the bowl with Jabaal Sheard out. McClain didn't record many stats but was his usual dominant self in the middle against Clemson. Irvin had two sacks and a forced fumble against NC State in the Champs Sports Bowl.
Linebackers: Derrell Smith, Syracuse; J.T. Thomas, West Virginia; Brandon Heath, Louisville; DeDe Lattimore, South Florida.
I went with a 3-4 look on defense to recognize the many strong performances by linebackers during bowl. Just about all of these guys had double-digit tackles and/or a couple TFLs.
Cornerbacks: Johnny Patrick, Louisville; Quenton Washington, South Florida
After getting burned on a play early, Patrick was all over the field. He forced a fumble and blocked a punt. Washington also blocked a punt and had a 45-yard interception return.
Safeties: Dom DeCicco, Pittsburgh, and Robert Sands, West Virginia
DeCicco had nine tackles and a forced fumble, while Sands had eight tackles and a sack.
Punter: Cole Wagner, Connecticut
Wagner punted seven times for an average of 46.9 yards -- with a long of 52 yards -- against Oklahoma in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
Placekicker: Chris Philpott, Louisville
Philpott only got the call once, but he made the game-winning 36-yarder in the fourth quarter.
Kick returners: Jeremy Wright, Louisville, and Robbie Frey, Connecticut
Both Wright and Frey returned kickoffs for touchdowns in their bowl games. Wright's was especially crucial, as it tied the score in the fourth quarter.
Punt returner: Terrence Mitchell, South Florida
Mitchell had a 34-yard punt return against Clemson.
Pitt's introductory coach news conference 2.0 was much different. Sure, Todd Graham talked about wanting to mold fine young men and all that. But compared to Haywood's public persona, Graham was high-octane, just the way he promised his offenses would play. And, yes, he smiled.
"The No. 1 thing in our system is speed and explosive power," Graham said. "I want the people at Heinz Field to not sit down in their seats."
Graham said it's a misconception that he runs a spread offense. Instead, he described it as a no-huddle attack that likes to be physical and tough. He said he'll have two backs in the backfield about 70 percent of the time and will incorporate tight ends and fullbacks. It won't be that big of a transition from Pitt's pro-style scheme, he said.
"I don't know how to be physical without fullbacks and tight ends," he said. "We are a run, play-action pass football team.
"We'll adapt our scheme to the skills and talents we have. ... When I went to Rice, they ran the wishbone. I put this offense in and we had a little bit of success."
Graham even said he'd like to speak to receiver Jon Baldwin, running back Dion Lewis and fullback Henry Hynoski and tell them about the benefits they could see from playing in this offense. All three announced their intentions to enter the NFL draft on Monday. Hynoski in particular was seen as a guy who bolted because of the forthcoming style change.
The former defensive coordinator said he will run a 3-4 base scheme on that side of the ball with multiple fronts and coverages. Philosophically, he said, the approach is not that different from what former Pitt coordinator Phil Bennett ran.
Pitt fans couldn't help but be excited when Graham talked about wanting to score lots of points and have quarterbacks throw for 4,000 yards like they did at Tulsa. Of course, fans haven't had a lot of reason for optimism during the coaching turmoil, and many had turned on athletic director Steve Pederson. Graham said he wants to unite the Pittsburgh family again.
"It's time to come together," he said. "I'm one of those guys who's about looking forward. Through change you have conflict, you have adversity, emotions run rampant and all that. The bottom line is we've got to move past that. I will work hard to earn their trust."
If his teams score points, win games and generate as much excitement as Graham did in his first news conference, he won't have any trouble getting the fans on his side.
The decisions by receiver Jon Baldwin and running back Dion Lewis weren't too surprising, while fullback Henry Hynoski's call was not something anyone would have predicted a month or so ago.
Baldwin has been a first-round type of talent since he stepped onto Pittsburgh's campus. The 6-foot-5 wideout was a two-time All-Big East performer who had 53 catches for 822 yards and five touchdowns this season. His skill set should allow him to flourish in the NFL if he continues to improve and mature.
Lewis is only a sophomore but is eligible for the draft because he went to prep school. Of course, he was the Big East's offensive player and rookie of the year in 2009, rushing for 1,799 yards. His numbers were way down this year, but he finished strong to go over 1,000 yards for the second straight year. It will be interesting to see how the NFL views a guy his size, as he is only about 5-foot-8. But when he's on his game, no one runs harder.
Hynoski was the team's fullback and is considered one of the top fullback prospects in the draft. Of course, not every team uses a fullback that much. He did an excellent job as a lead blocker for both Lewis and Ray Graham, and probably saw the writing on the wall for his Pitt future. While Dave Wannstedt used a pro-style system, the Panthers appear to be close to hiring Tulsa's Todd Graham, who runs a spread offense which has little use for the fullback.
All three guys will be missed, but the new coach will still have a lot to work with. Devin Street is a guy who could blossom next season in Baldwin's role, while Graham should pick up the torch left behind by Lewis.
- The Pittsburgh and Connecticut coaching searches continue to churn on. Tulsa coach Todd Graham has emerged as a leading candidate for the Panthers, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Others in the running include Penn State assistant Tom Bradley and Stanford assistant Greg Roman.
UConn interviewed Bradley on Sunday, according to multiple reports. Delaware coach K.C. Keeler announced that he was not interested in the Huskies. Since he could more than triple his salary by taking the UConn job, he must have either realized he was not a serious candidate, or he really, really likes Delaware. Interim coach Hank Hughes and former Miami assistant Mark Whipple remain candidates, but I've got a feeling this one will end in a surprise name.
- Pitt tailback Dion Lewis evaded questions about entering the NFL draft when he was asked about it after the Panthers' win in the BBVA Compass Bowl. Multiple reports have said that Lewis, who is a draft-eligible sophomore, will indeed leave school. The 2009 Big East Offensive Player of the Year went over 1,000 yards for the season with a strong bowl performance. Underclassmen have until the end of this week to declare.
- Louisville coach Charlie Strong and his staff continue to recruit the heck out of Florida. A pair of standout defensive backs from Miami -- Gerod Holliman and Andrew Johnson -- both committed to the Cardinals at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Both had decommitted from Mississippi. Holliman is an ESPNU 150 prospect, the third from the Miami area to commit to Louisville. Big East teams have been lucky in the recent past to land one or two ESPNU 150 players per class. Strong is taking advantage of the coaching turnover at Miami and Florida.
Louisville also picked up junior college linebacker Brandon Golson on Monday. He originally signed with South Carolina out of high school and was rated a four-star prospect by ESPNU. He is expected to enroll at Louisville this week and be ready for spring ball. The Cardinals are putting together what looks to be easily the best recruiting class in the Big East.
How the game was won: Despite the coaching turmoil swirling around the team for the past month, Pittsburgh came out focused and determined to play well in its final game. The Panthers were able to overpower the Kentucky defensive line with their running game, and their defense hung tough every time the Wildcats threatened. Kentucky, which suspended starting quarterback Mike Hartline for this game, was unable to generate many big plays behind sophomore signal caller Morgan Newton. Pitt, missing two key defensive starters and three coaches off its staff, showed plenty of mental and physical toughness in its best nonconference win of the season.
Turning point: Late in the second quarter, Andrew Taglianetti blocked a punt from Kentucky's Ryan Tydlacka that Kolby Gray recovered at the Wildcats' 10. Three plays later, the Panthers scored the game's first touchdown and took a 13-3 lead into halftime.
Player(s) of the game: Dion Lewis and Ray Graham. Playing in probably his final college game -- the draft-eligible sophomore is expected to go pro -- Lewis finished strong with 22 carries for 105 yards and a score. His backfield mate, Graham, had 90 yards on 17 carries.
Stat of the game: Pitt ran for 262 yards on 46 carries while passing for only 96 yards. The 262 yards was the third-highest rushing total by the Panthers this season. Kentucky had only 104 rushing yards on 32 attempts.
Unsung hero: Brandon Lindsey. The defensive end forced a fumble from Newton in the first half, made a fourth-down tackle for loss in the second half and helped Pitt make up for the loss of defensive player of the year Jabaal Sheard.
What it means: The victory brings a little bit of optimism to a program that hasn't had much reason to smile for the past nine days, and sends out the current staff -- especially defensive coordinator/interim head coach Phil Bennett -- on a high note. Pittsburgh (8-5) still has to hire a new head coach, and that will be more important than anything that happened on the field Saturday. But at least the team showed it has talent and potential to do good things with the right coach in place. The Big East, despite losing its top two bowl games, finished a very respectable 4-2 in the postseason and has now beaten an SEC team in Birmingham for the second straight year.
1. Come together, right now: Maybe that Beatles tune should be playing on the team bus ride to Birmingham's Legion Field. Pitt has been through an extraordinarily odd time the past month. Occasionally, that can help a team rally together -- see Ohio State's performance in the Allstate Sugar Bowl after the controversial suspensions of five players. Of course, the Buckeyes were 11-1 and playing in a BCS game; Pitt is coming off a vastly disappointing 7-5 season and playing in a underwhelming bowl in what will likely have a catatonic atmosphere in the stands. But the Panthers need to use the off-the-field problems as an us-against-the-world mentality, because if they play up to their capability they can still win this game. And they can bring some respect back to a program that has suffered a national embarrassment.
2. Point the Compass south: As in, downhill running with Dion Lewis and Ray Graham. (A lame play off the bowl's name, but I bet most of you have no idea what the sponsor company does. It's a bank.). Kentucky couldn't win many big SEC games this year because of its inability to stop the run. Pitt's running game with Dion Lewis and Ray Graham is still its strength, especially as the offensive line improved during the course of the season. The Wildcats are far better against the pass, so the Panthers' game plan should be to try and stuff it down their throats as much as possible.
3. Get pressure on Morgan Newton, but contain him: Newton, a sophomore, will make his first start of the season at quarterback after Kentucky suspended senior Mike Hartline. He played some last year but still should have some rust. That rust could create holes in the Wildcats offense if Pitt can force him to make bad decisions. The bad news is that Big East defensive player of the year Jabaal Sheard and tackle Myles Caragein are out of this game with injuries. So guys like Brandon Lindsey and Chas Alecxih need to have big games. Newton is also more mobile than Hartline, so the Panthers must be sure not to break contain when they rush him. Superstar Randall Cobb will likely be heavily involved in the game plan and figures to line up in the Wildcat formation a lot (though when your mascot is the Wildcats, aren't they all Wildcat formations?). He'll get his yards, but Pitt can still control things by making Newton's day miserable.
I realize that Miami and Virginia Tech dominated much of the late 1990s and early 2000s, but it's crazy that Pitt, with all of its tradition and advantages, has never won a league title in the clear. In fact, the Panthers own only two co-championships, and they both came in multi-way ties during arguably the worst two years the league has ever seen (2004 and 2010).
There's absolutely no reason that Cincinnati should have two more outright Big East titles than Pitt, or that Connecticut has earned as many BCS bids as the Panthers. Now that the program has pulled the plug on the Dave Wannstedt era, it needs to find the right coach who can take this team to the next level.
It figures to be a wide open search, with no obvious heir apparent. We are going to hear a lot of names in this one, including NFL guys like Russ Grimm the former Pitt player and current Arizona Cardinals assistant, and Marvin Lewis, a Pennsylvania native and former Pitt assistant who may be on his last legs with the Cincinnati Bengals. Dreamers will probably even toss Bill Cowher's name into the mix.
But the Panthers -- and especially athletic director Steve Pederson -- should have learned a vital lesson by now. They need to hire a college guy.
Pederson's last big hire, of course, was at Nebraska when he brought Bill Callahan in from the Oakland Raiders. Both of them were fired a couple of years later. While Wannstedt had some success in six seasons, it took him a while to adjust to the college game early in his tenure.
This is a job best suited for an up-and-coming assistant at a major college program or someone who has established themselves as a head coach. Louisville and South Florida both hit home runs by going that route -- the Cardinals with a talented coordinator (Charlie Strong) and USF with a head coach (Skip Holtz).
The next coach's most immediate task will be trying to hold together a recruiting class that ESPN.com currently ranks 21st in the nation. Wannstedt had already secured 18 commitments. But there is always going to be talent in the Pennsylvania/Ohio region, and Pitt should be well stocked for 2011. Though the Panthers lose Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard at defensive end, offensive tackle Jason Pinkston, starting linebacker/safety Dom DeCicco and most likely junior receiver Jon Baldwin to the NFL draft, they have a lot of talent coming back. The new coach can work with Dion Lewis and Ray Graham at tailback, Mike Shanahan and Devin Street at receiver, Brandon Lindsey at defensive end and plenty of young players ready to emerge. Tino Sunseri has a full year of starting at quarterback under his belt, and redshirting freshman Mark Myers has a world of potential.
What do Pitt fans want? A guy who's not as conservative as Wannstedt in his offensive game plans would rank high on that list. Wannstedt's pro-style, running-based power offense matched the blue-collar ethic of the Steel City, but it often seemed as if he still had the 1990s NFL coaching approach of simply avoiding mistakes and hoping to win on field position. That's the opposite of where the college game is heading; just look at the two incredibly wide-open offenses that are playing for the BCS title this year.
Pitt claims nine national titles, but it has been nearly 30 years since the Panthers were in that discussion. This program needs to focus on winning an undisputed Big East title, something that should not be that difficult. Pittsburgh is one of the better jobs in the conference, and the right coach who understands the college game can do some great things.
- Pittsburgh RB Dion Lewis runs for 261 yards and four touchdowns in the snow in a win over Cincinnati.
- Appalachian State QB DeAndre Presley runs for 264 yards and two touchdowns, and also threw for a touchdown in a 42-14 win over Western Illinois.
- Washington RB Chris Polk runs for 284 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Washington State.
- Auburn QB Cam Newton throws for 335 yards, runs for 73 more and accounts for six touchdowns in a win over South Carolina.
Jan. 8, noon ET (ESPN)
Pittsburgh take by Big East blogger Brian Bennett: If you would have told Pittsburgh before the season it would be be playing an SEC team in a bowl, the Panthers would have envisioned the Sugar Bowl, or maybe even the BCS title game. Expectations ran that high.
Playing Kentucky in something called the BBVA Compass Bowl? Never. But that's how disappointing this season has been.
Pitt was widely expected to win the Big East, and it did earn a share of the conference title. But it was one of the hollower championships you'll ever find as the Panthers finished 7-5 and spit the bit in all their crucial games (Utah, Notre Dame, Miami, UConn and West Virginia).
The offensive line was a mess early, but problems ran deeper than that. First-year starting quarterback Tino Sunseri had his ups and downs, reigning Big East defensive player of the year Greg Romeus barely contributed because of injuries, the linebackers looked lost, etc. But mostly, Pitt just kept making mistakes in costly situations.
Head coach Dave Wannstedt still has enough individual talent -- like running back Dion Lewis, receiver Jon Baldwin and defensive end Jabaal Sheard -- to beat just about anybody, especially a middling SEC team like Kentucky. But as a team, Pitt has been untrustworthy in big situations, and that's why Wannstedt is on the hot seat.
Kentucky take by SEC blogger Chris Low: Making its fifth straight trip to a bowl game, Kentucky is in some pretty exclusive company in the SEC. The only other four schools who can say they’ve done that are Alabama, Florida, Georgia and LSU.
The Wildcats (6-6) had high hopes for this season and looked like they might be on the verge of breaking through after rallying from an 18-point halftime deficit to beat South Carolina at home on Oct. 16. But that wound up being their final real highlight, and they lost three of their last four SEC games, including a 25th consecutive setback to Tennessee.
The thing Kentucky did do all season was keep defenses on its toes. Senior quarterback Mike Hartline had his best season with 3,178 passing yards and 23 touchdowns. It hurt the Wildcats when senior running back Derrick Locke went down during the middle of the season with a shoulder injury. He’s back now and should be completely healthy for the bowl game.
The Wildcats’ top playmaker, and one of the best all-around players in the country, is junior receiver Randall Cobb. Cobb accounted for 16 touchdowns four different ways this season and is ranked second nationally with 2,192 all-purpose yards.
Dion Lewis, RB, Pittsburgh: Lewis carried 42 times for a career-high 261 yards and four touchdowns in a 28-10 win at Cincinnati.
Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: The sophomore completed 23 of 28 passes for a career-high 352 yards and a touchdown in the Mountaineers' 35-14 win over Rutgers.
Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia: The sophomore caught six passes for 121 yards and a touchdown and ran for a 46-yard score.
That's the good news. The bad news for Panthers fans is, it's only a share of the league title, and West Virginia's victory against Rutgers means Pitt will not make a BCS game. And I doubt any Pittsburgh fans will remember this as a championship squad, or even look back on 2010 with any fondness at all.
That's because, of course, the team was the consensus league favorite to start the year but ended just 7-5, blowing a two-game lead in the conference standings. If the Panthers had played more like they did in Saturday's 28-10 victory against Cincinnati all year, things might have gone better.
Pitt finally ran the ball with authority against the Bearcats' shaky defense. Dion Lewis was better than he'd been all year, running 42 times for 261 yards and four touchdowns in the heavy snow. That means in the past two years, Lewis has run the ball 89 times for 455 yards and seven touchdowns against Cincinnati.
Of course, this was the first time Pitt has beaten the Bearcats in the past three seasons, but this was only a small measure of revenge against a Cincinnati team that finished a vastly disappointing 4-8. Butch Jones' team struggled all year with turnovers and committed four more Saturday, and his defense was awful; the 28 points was the fewest Cincinnati has allowed since giving up 27 to Louisville on Oct. 15. And the snow probably helped that.
Pitt is now off to some minor bowl instead of the BCS. The Panthers won a Big East title, but it's a pretty hollow one.
Lewis, who ran for 194 yards and three touchdowns in last year's finale against the Bearcats, has 164 yards and three scores today -- in the first half. Pitt leads 21-10 at the break and is riding the hard running of Lewis in the snow. Ray Graham is out with a back injury, so Lewis will get a lot of work today.
Cincinnati, as usual, is shooting itself in the foot. The Bearcats have lost two turnovers inside the Pitt 30-yard line. That has been their story all year, so no reason to change things now.
The Cincinnati defense has given up at least 30 points in each of its last five games, and it's well on the way to that again today. Give credit to Pitt for coming out strong in this game when it could have easily succumbed to the disappointment of last week's loss against West Virginia.