NCF Nation: Montel Harris

ACC weekend rewind: Week 6

October, 7, 2013
There were plenty of fireworks across the ACC this past weekend. There is now one fewer undefeated team, too. Here's a look back at the weekend that was in the conference as some teams reach the halfway point of their seasons.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsJameis Winston was unstoppable yet again, as the redshirt freshman is moving up Heisman watch lists.
The good: Jameis Winston and Tajh Boyd further solidified their standings among early-season Heisman Trophy contenders, and their teams now look destined for a collision course Oct. 19. Winston completed 23 of 32 passes for career-bests of 393 yards and five touchdowns, respectively. He also added 24 rushing yards in Florida State's 63-0 rout of Maryland. Meanwhile, Boyd completed 20 of 27 passes for 455 yards with touchdowns and two interceptions. The national spotlight will be on Death Valley once again in two weeks, as the game between the Seminoles and Tigers will have large implications in both the awards race and the national title race.

The bad: Virginia accounted for the ACC's lone nonconference loss Saturday, falling 48-27 to Ball State at home and again making its Week 1 win over BYU look more and more like a mirage. The Cavaliers were outscored 24-3 in the game's final 16 minutes as they fell below .500. Their normally stout defense surrendered 506 total yards of offense, a far cry from its stingy performance a week earlier in a 14-3 loss at Pitt. The Cavaliers remain just 0-1 in ACC play, but need answers fast if they hope to finish the season at .500 and go bowling.

The ugly: For as much credit as FSU deserves for its 63-0 rout of Maryland ... this game said plenty about the Terrapins, too. For one, they were ranked No. 25 coming in, and were 4-0. Secondly, they made all kinds of bad history. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Maryland was on the losing end of what is now tied for the largest margin of victory over a ranked team since the AP poll began in 1936. (UCLA beat No. 11 Texas 66-3 in 1997.) This was also the largest margin of defeat for any team in an ACC game in league play. Maryland entered the game No. 6 nationally in total defense and No. 3 in scoring defense. The Terps dropped to 22nd and 33rd, respectively.

The resurgence: Logan Thomas is beginning to look more and more like the Logan Thomas everyone expected from the Virginia Tech quarterback two years ago. And, more important, he has the Hokies looking like a viable Coastal Division contender. Thomas completed 19 of 28 throws for 293 yards against North Carolina, matching a career high with three touchdown passes in a 27-17 win to get to 2-0 in conference play. Thomas, who had miserable start to the season (48.5 percent completion rate, four touchdowns, six interceptions), has now churned out consecutive strong performances to open conference play, as he was coming off a win at Georgia Tech in which he started the game 9-for-9 and finished 19 of 25 for 221 yards and a touchdown.

The workhorse (again): Andre Williams just keeps going and going, and going some more. The senior helped Boston College eclipse last season's win total, as a 48-27 win over Army got the Eagles to 3-2 under first-year coach Steve Addazio. Williams carried the ball 30 times for career-bests of 263 yards and five touchdowns. The five scores tied Montel Harris' single-game school record. The 263 yards were one shy of Harris' single-game BC record, although Williams actually held the record for a very brief moment before losing a yard on his final carry of the game. Williams has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in four of five games this season, and he now leads the nation in rushing yards per game (153.6) and total carries (133) while ranking third in rushing yards (768).

The in-state stand: Few would have argued entering Saturday that Wake Forest was the worst team in the ACC. But the Demon Deacons reversed course against NC State, getting a huge lift from Tanner Price and Michael Campanaro to pull off the 28-13 upset. Surprisingly enough, it was Wake's sixth straight home win against the Wolfpack, who have not won in Winston-Salem, N.C., since 2001, when Philip Rivers was their quarterback. NC State looked to have a favorable road ahead of it after a 3-1 start (and close loss to Clemson), but the Pack now find themselves in an 0-2 hole in conference play. The imminent return of quarterback Brandon Mitchell should provide a boost.

The slide …: When will it end for North Carolina? The Tar Heels have now lost three in a row, and their next game is next Thursday at undefeated Miami. Marquise Williams got the surprise start at quarterback in place of Bryn Renner (foot) and was stellar, but he and the Tar Heels offense turned it over to Virginia Tech three times while generating zero takeaways, erasing what was the best offensive output against the Hokies this season (376 total yards). A block-in-the-back penalty on what would have been an 82-yard Ryan Switzer punt return marked the third straight week UNC had a touchdown revoked because of a penalty.

… and the surge: Miami is up to No. 13 in the country after improving to 5-0 with a 45-30 win over Georgia Tech, placing themselves in the driver's seat, along with Virginia Tech, of the Coastal Division. What was impressive this time around was the way the Hurricanes recovered when down 17-7, as they went on a 38-6 run over a 37-minute stretch -- against a very good Yellow Jackets defense -- to seize control of the game and win their conference opener. The win was big for the Sunshine State too, as Saturday marked the first time all seven of Florida's FBS teams won in the same day.

Welcome to the ACC: Syracuse surrendered a touchdown 38 seconds into its first-ever ACC game and never really could keep pace with Clemson in its 49-14 home loss, the Orange's first home loss since the start of last season after six straight wins. Hopes of pulling off another big home upset (Louisville in 2012, West Virginia in 2011) were washed away fairly early. Terrel Hunt struggled against good competition, going just 8-of-24 for 52 yards with three picks, while Scott Shafer lost his cool on the sideline when Dabo Swinney went for it on fourth down up 28 in the second quarter, though Shafer apologized after.

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.

Big East at the combine

February, 26, 2013
Twenty-four former Big East players and several more stars from future conference teams have been in Indianapolis the past week showing off in front of their prospective future employers. With the NFL scouting combine wrapping up today with defensive backs working out, we'll take a look at how some of the Big East's stars fared. All-Big East team

December, 10, 2012
The time has finally come to announce our picks for the All-Big East team.

You will see that only a few selections differ from the coaches'; they made their first- and second-team selections last week. Among the notable differences: I have Cincinnati running back George Winn on the first team ahead of Pitt running back Ray Graham. I thought Graham was great this year in his return from a torn ACL. But I thought Winn was better and more consistent. He also had more total yards rushing (1,204 to 1,042 for Graham), a higher rushing average (5.3 ypc to 4.7 ypc) and more 100-yard games.

I also have Pitt receiver Devin Street on the first team over DeVante Parker from Louisville. Parker had some flashy catches this year, but Street was way more productive and consistent. I actually went back and forth between Street and teammate Mike Shanahan for first-team honors. Both are worthy.

Defensively, I only have three linebackers on my team (no ties allowed!) so Sio Moore of UConn gets bumped. Moore had a heck of a year, no question, and linebacker was perhaps the strongest position in the league across every team. But I thought Yawin Smallwood, Greg Blair and Khaseem Greene were better. I also have Calvin Pryor at safety over Duron Harmon.

Here is the team in its entirety:


QB: Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

RB: Montel Harris, Temple

RB: George Winn, Cincinnati

WR: Alec Lemon, Syracuse

WR: Devin Street, Pitt

TE: Travis Kelce, Cincinnati

OT: Eric Lefeld, Cincinnati

OT: Justin Pugh, Syracuse

C: Mario Benavides, Louisville

OG: Austen Bujnoch, Cincinnati

OG: Antwan Lowery, Rutgers

K: Brandon McManus, Temple

RS: Matt Brown, Temple


DE: Trevardo Williams, UConn

DE: Dan Giordano, Cincinnati

DT: Scott Vallone, Rutgers

DT: Aaron Donald, Pitt

LB: Greg Blair, Cincinnati

LB: Yawin Smallwood, UConn

LB: Khaseem Greene, Rutgers

CB: Adrian Bushell, Louisville

CB: Logan Ryan, Rutgers

S: Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse

S: Calvin Pryor, Louisville

P: Brandon McManus, Temple

It would be nice to write one of these season-ending wraps without any mention of the word realignment.

Alas, for the second straight season, the Big East has been raided. And for the second straight season, the Big East representative in the BCS is on the way out the door.

Louisville had one of the best seasons in school history, and yet, the Big East cannot truly celebrate the accomplishments of the Cardinals. Commissioner Mike Aresco decided not to attend the de-facto league championship game between Louisville and Rutgers last week, as both teams have announced their intentions to leave -- the Cardinals to the ACC and the Scarlet Knights to the Big Ten.

That leaves the Big East headed into the future with a collection of former Conference USA and Mountain West schools. Temple is the only school remaining from the original group that began Big East football play in 1991.

But the future is not now, at least not for another few months. What we saw in 2012 was a roller-coaster season that featured three ranked Big East teams in the first BCS standings, then none at all, then the thud of conference realignment, then one of the grittiest college performances we have all seen in quite some time.

In the end, the Big East was not much better, and not much worse than it has been in seasons past. In typical Big East fashion, four teams ended up sharing a slice of the league title -- Louisville, Rutgers, Cincinnati and Syracuse. Yes, Syracuse, a team that begin the year 2-4 and was on the verge of implosion.

But it is the Cardinals who got the BCS berth thanks to their 20-17 win over Rutgers on Thursday night in New Jersey. Teddy Bridgewater did what he has done all season, this time with a broken wrist and sprained ankle. His performance in that game got folks around the country talking. And his body of work this season -- 3,452 yards, 25 touchdowns to seven interceptions -- should get him into the preseason Heisman conversation next season, perhaps Louisville's last year in the conference.

[+] EnlargeTeddy Bridgewater
Jamie Rhodes/US PresswireTeddy Bridgewater passed for 3,452 yards with 25 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions.
Bridgewater ranks in the top 15 in the nation in total passing yards and passing efficiency. There are only six players in the country with 25 or more touchdown passes who have thrown fewer interceptions than Bridgewater. His development this season was one of the biggest story lines to watch in the conference.

Had Louisville stuck around the league, there would be much more to celebrate. Realignment has put a damper on the entire Big East season, once again.

Offensive MVP: Bridgewater left no doubt with his final performance of the regular season, at Rutgers. He lifted Louisville to the BCS while hobbling, and he remained on the fringe of the Heisman talk throughout much of the season. The reigning Big East freshman of the year will likely be among the frontrunners for the trophy entering the 2013 season, and a strong Sugar Bowl performance against Florida could go a long way in gaining national attention.

Defensive MVP: Khaseem Greene won the Big East defensive player of the year award last season, and he is the frontrunner again this season. The senior overcame an ankle injury suffered in last season's New Era Pinstripe Bowl and notched 125 total tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 2 picks, 8 hurries, 6 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries.

Newcomer of the year: It's rare that you see a fifth-year senior in this category, but that's the situation Temple's Montel Harris found himself in after being dismissed from Boston College in the offseason for a violation of team rules. He overcame early-season injuries to lead the Big East in rushing yards per game, averaging 105.4.

Biggest surprise: Syracuse started its final Big East season 2-4 overall. Remarkably, it bounced back to win five of its final six games -- including delivering then-No. 9 Louisville its first loss of the season -- en route to clinching a share of the Big East title. The Orange cut down the turnovers, established their ground game and played much tighter defense, and coach Doug Marrone deserves plenty of credit after a late-season collapse a year earlier that had kept this team from bowling.

Biggest disappointment: South Florida entered 2012 as the Big East's preseason No. 2 team, looking to bounce back from a season that ended with seven losses in its final eight games. Instead the Bulls went through a program-worst 3-9 season defined by injuries and underwhelming play all-around. The defense recorded just two interceptions the whole season, and coach Skip Holtz was fired after his third season in Tampa, Fla.

Best game: Louisville's 34-31 overtime home win over Cincinnati on Oct. 26 takes the cake here. The game featured a 10-point Bearcats lead, a pair of touchdowns in the final two minutes of regulation, an untimely icing the kicker timeout from Butch Jones (and a shrug for the ages) and 416 passing yards from Bridgewater.
Steve Addazio is not a woulda, coulda, shoulda guy.

With his team's first season back in the Big East all wrapped up, and with plenty of extra time on his hands, the second-year Temple coach is not wondering about any potential wins or practices he may have gotten out of playing in another conference this season.

[+] EnlargeSteve Addazio
Eric Hartline/US PresswireCoach Steve Addazio says he's pleased with his Temple Owls' 4-7 performance this season.
The Owls' Big East switch in March culminated in a 4-7 campaign that featured a number of new faces in new places, giving Addazio plenty to be optimistic about moving forward.

"Football is about competition, it's about stepping up, it's about taking your shots as a program," Addazio said. "We stepped up this year. We learned a lot this year. We became a better program from this. … I think the development is going to be far greater, the competition higher and we're thrilled about that. That's what it is. Would you like to have a couple more weeks of practice? Yeah. But at the end of the day what they went through this year is more significant.

"I can't wait for next year. These things roll by really quick. It'll be next year soon."

Temple was greeted with two byes in the first month. The Owls played without running back Montel Harris for a majority of that first month, and they were without his replacement, Matt Brown, a majority of the last month, which also was cut short by their 11-game schedule, since they lost a game when leaving the Mid-American Conference.

A potential deal with Hawaii for a 12th game fell through two weeks ago, leaving Temple one fewer game than normal for this transition season.

Addazio loses just 12 seniors, and he welcomes back 23 freshmen who saw time this season. He will also have a healthy quarterback competition this spring among three seniors who saw Big East action.

"The way you did it is the way you did it," Addazio said. "I think we'll really grow from this. What's transition mean? You've got to get in, you've got to play, you've got to feel it, you've got to get used to the week in and week out grind. I think the best thing that happened was to get right in and play. This was a transition year for us, a rebuilding year, so I think nothing better than to come in here while you're rebuilding, while you're young and let these kid really feel this thing.

"I think we'll grow tremendously. Even though it's hard to swallow now and all that, it's about what I thought would happen. We're 4-7, we're very close to having another win or two in there. We were very competitive, so I'm proud of that, not disappointed in that. Disappointed that we're not still playing? Yes, but not disappointed in where we're headed or the effort or some of the really good football players we have along the way."

Big East weekend rewind: Week 13

November, 26, 2012
One last look back at the holiday weekend that was in the Big East.

The good: Pitt and UConn (both 5-6) kept their bowl hopes alive with upset wins over Rutgers and Louisville, respectively. Syracuse and Cincinnati won, too, keeping their slim hopes alive for shares of the Big East title. For the Bearcats, that would be four in a five-year span.

[+] EnlargeLyle McCombs
Jamie Rhodes/US PresswireUConn RB Lyle McCombs hasn't let his relatively small size affect his durability.
The bad: Rutgers' and Louisville's losses take some major luster off their de facto conference title game matchup Thursday night in Piscataway, N.J. South Florida, meanwhile, fumbled the ball eight times at Cincinnati. Eight.

The ugly: See Sunday night's BCS standings? Yup. No Big East teams. (Three non-AQ teams are ranked, however, as well as four-loss Michigan and four-loss Oklahoma State.)

Get well soon: Rutgers' Jawan Jamison was limited by his ankle injury again. Scarlet Knights quarterback Gary Nova missed some time after his shoulder took a nasty hit on the frozen ground of Heinz Field, and linebacker Khaseem Greene left after a hit on a punt return, but got back into the game . . . Both starting quarterbacks -- UConn's Chandler Whitmer (hit to head) and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater (wrist, leg) -- were injured. Bridgewater returned, but ultimately throwing a fateful pick in triple overtime.

So long: Temple's return to the Big East (2-5) came to a close in Friday's loss to Syracuse. The young Owls squad had plenty of ups and downs in a transition year, from playing just 11 games (4-7) to dealing with backfield injuries all season. Their two conference wins were two more than most anticipated, but expectations will increase in Year 2.

Backs carrying the way: Syracuse rushed for 260 yards on the backs of three major contributors. Temple's Montel Harris closed his storied career with 106 rushing yards. Cincinnati's George Winn continued to impress with his 119-yard, two-touchdown performance. Pitt's Ray Graham closed out his home career with a bang, going for 113 yards and a score. And Lyle McCombs lifted UConn to a second straight win with a second straight 100-yard performance, this one for 133 yards.

By the thousands: Jerome Smith eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark Friday for Syracuse. Alec Lemon eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark. Together they have given the Orange their first 1,000 rushing/receiving combo since 1989, when Michael Owens and Rob Moore accomplished the feat. Moore currently coaches the Syracuse receivers.

Syracuse ends Big East play with win

November, 23, 2012
We have seen Syracuse win various ways this season.

The Orange turned to their running game to do the damage against Temple on Friday afternoon. Syracuse overcame a sluggish start to pull away in the second half for a 38-20 win in the final Big East game in school history. Running back Jerome Smith went over 1,000 yards on the season, Adonis Ameen-Moore had two rushing touchdowns and Prince-Tyson Gulley added another as the Orange ran for 260 yards in their regular-season finale.

Receiver Alec Lemon also went over 1,000 yards on the season, giving Syracuse its first 1,000-yard rusher/receiver combination since Michael Owens and Rob Moore back in 1989. Moore is now the receivers coach for the Orange.

This was not a crisply played game on either side, as both teams had several fumbles and way too many costly penalties. Temple jumped out to a 10-0 lead and then led again 20-17 early in the third quarter. But Ameen-Moore and Gulley had back-to-back rushing scores to essentially put the game out of reach.

The most pleasant surprise of the game was the way Ameen-Moore contributed. Going into Friday, Ameen-Moore had 20 carries on the season for 51 total yards. He went over 50 alone against the Owls, showing just how much depth the Orange have at the position. All three rushers will be back next season, too.

Syracuse (7-5, 5-2) ends the regular season with wins in five of its past six games, and their most wins in Big East play since going 6-1 in 2001. The Orange now await their bowl destination.

As for Temple (4-7, 2-5), it was a disappointing end to its first season in the Big East. The Owls end the season with five straight league losses. They had untimely penalties cost them several chances to come back in the second half. Montel Harris ended the season with over 100 yards in three of his four final games, and went over 1,000 yards on the season.

We saw some flashes out of quarterback Clinton "Juice" Granger as well. He made some nice throws to rejuvenate the Temple passing game. But he also threw two interceptions late. Keon Lyn had both, including one he returned 31 yards for a touchdown to seal the victory.

Harris reflects on record performance

November, 21, 2012
Montel Harris played plenty of video games growing up, particularly the "Madden" and the "NCAA Football" series. Like most kids, he would often pad his stats with digital players who do not feel the repercussions of their efforts during the next time out.

On Saturday, Harris rushed for 351 yards and seven touchdowns. With a football, not a joystick.

"Actually, my real-life numbers exceeded my [video game] football numbers," Harris told, laughing. "But I had some crazy numbers before, but never 351, seven touchdowns."

[+] EnlargeTemple's Montel Harris
Howard Smith/US PRESSWIRETemple's Montel Harris rushed for 351 yards and seven touchdowns against Army.
With one game left in Temple's season, Harris' five-year career will come to a close Saturday. His historic effort against Army lifted him from fifth to first on the Big East's rushing list this season, with 948 yards and 12 touchdowns. Both his rushing yards and rushing scores against the Black Knights were Big East single-game records, and the day marked his 26th career 100-yard performance, the most among active FBS players.

Not bad for a guy who didn't even practice last week because of a knee injury.

"It wasn't too much of a doubt," Harris said of playing. "It was just trying to get all the way back to 100 percent, trying to keep my legs fresh. It was just how effective I was going to be, how many reps I was going to get. But I was feeling pretty good toward the end of the week."

Then Matt Brown, who has been bothered by an ankle injury for more than a month, hurt his hamstring and had to exit after scoring two touchdowns.

"Montel had to carry the load, and he was just phenomenal," coach Steve Addazio said. "He just played with such toughness and passion for the game. I said, 'You've got to go the distance on this thing.' And he said, 'There's no question I'm going the distance.' And he had a career day, a Big East career day, a personal career day, a Temple University career day. But I think the offensive line and tight ends and fullbacks are all a big part of that."

Harris went out of his way to credit his line as well, saying that he was able to go untouched on several long touchdown runs, including a 60-yarder and two separate 37-yarders.

His total yardage was good for 15th-best in FBS history, and Addazio called it the most dominant performance he'd ever seen from a running back.

Harris, who came to Temple this summer after leaving BC because of an undisclosed violation of team rules, had a 264-yard, five-touchdown day with the Eagles in 2009.

He thought that contest would take the cake.

"I definitely never envisioned this," Harris said. "Back at Boston College when I had the five touchdowns and 200 yards, I didn't think it would get any better than that. Then coming to Temple and putting this performance together, I didn't see it coming."

Big East predictions: Week 13

November, 21, 2012
Because of Thanksgiving, we are moving our usual Thursday coverage up one day. So you get your picks early.

I got cute last week with my picks, and it backfired on me as I went 2-2. Tuna did, too, missing Syracuse and Rutgers.

AA season record: 43-17.


Syracuse at Temple, 11 a.m., ESPN2/WatchESPN. So what does Montel Harris do for an encore? It is going to be hard for Harris to run for another 351 yards against Syracuse, which has made strides in run defense. Clinton Granger played well at quarterback for the Owls as well, but that game against Army last week was just a reprieve. Temple has lost four straight Big East games by an average score of 43-14. Syracuse has won four of its past five games and could get another huge game from receiver Alec Lemon against a very shaky Temple secondary. Syracuse 37, Temple 21.

Matt's pick: Syracuse 28, Temple 13.

USF at Cincinnati, ESPN/WatchESPN, 7 p.m. When the Big East released its schedule, this one looked like it would have Big East race ramifications. Now it is just another game. The Bearcats are bowl eligible but out of the BCS hunt; USF is simply down and out. It is hard to say just how much success USF will have on offense with Matt Floyd, given what we saw last week against Miami, one of the worst defenses in the nation. The Bearcats could take advantage of a weak USF secondary and open up its pass game a little more. Cincinnati 30, USF 10.

Matt's pick: Cincinnati 35, USF 7.


UConn at No. 20 Louisville, noon, Big East Network/ESPN3. Both teams enter this game off a bye -- UConn beat Pitt the last time out, and Louisville lost to Syracuse. The Cardinals must win to keep their Big East and BCS hopes alive and are going to have to play better defense after their performance against the Orange. That may not be too difficult in this game, considering UConn barely plays any offense and has not scored a fourth-quarter point in six straight games. Louisville 31, UConn 14.

Matt's pick: Louisville 28, UConn 6

No. 18 Rutgers at Pitt, noon, ESPN2/WatchESPN. Believe it or not, Pitt is a slight favorite. It must be the home-field advantage. Hey, stop laughing out there. Pitt comes into this game off a bye following a loss to UConn, while Rutgers had a very strong win over Cincinnati. Rutgers needs to win to clinch at least a share of its first Big East title. The last time the Scarlet Knights were in that situation, they lost to UConn last year. I don't think history repeats itself. Rutgers is too strong on defense to lose this game. Rutgers 24, Pitt 13.

Matt's pick: Rutgers 20, Pitt 14.

Big East weekend rewind: Week 12

November, 19, 2012
Here's one last look back at another fun Saturday in the Big East.

[+] EnlargeMontel Harris
Danny Wild/US PresswireRunning back Montel Harris set Big East records with his historic performance against Army.
The good: Rutgers remains in control of the Big East race after winning at Cincinnati. Temple snapped a four-game losing streak behind a historic effort from Montel Harris. And Syracuse is going bowling for the second time in three years after a last-second win at Missouri.

The bad: Cincinnati was facing a great defense, but putting up three points at home is underwhelming. And what else can we really say about South Florida that hasn't been said already?

The ugly: OK, only two Big East teams lost Saturday, so the worst of the bunch goes here. USF lost 40-9 to Miami, meaning the Bulls will stay home for the second-straight bowl season. What's more, they burned Bobby Eveld's redshirt in the 10th game of the season … and he got knocked out of the game in the first quarter with a sprained shoulder. Bad times in Tampa right now.

The carousel continues: One of the better wins in Rutgers' recent history got overshadowed after another wave of conference realignment chatter made the rounds, this time pegging the Scarlet Knights as potentially Big Ten-bound. Just another Saturday in college athletics.

The workhorse: Kyle Flood has said he doesn't look at clocks; the job is over when it's complete. His players have taken on that mentality this season, perhaps none more than Savon Huggins two days ago. Stepping in for a limited Jawan Jamison, the sophomore carried the ball 41 times for 179 yards. The 41 carries matched Jamison's school record from Week 3 this season. Not bad for a "backup."

We talkin' bout practice: Harris did not practice last week because of a knee injury. He has accomplished quite a bit in his five years of college ball, but never had he rushed for 351 yards and seven touchdowns in a game -- and never had anyone in the Big East, either. Coach Steve Addazio said last week that he challenged his seniors to make the most of their final two weeks of college ball. Not a bad answer from Harris.

Four in postseason, more to come? The Orange's dramatic win at Missouri made them the fourth Big East team to clinch bowl-eligibility, saving the conference from the possible embarrassment of having just three bowl-eligible teams. UConn and Pitt have chances too, if they win out, but the odds are stacked against them with Louisville and Rutgers awaiting each this week, respectively.
What did we learn in the Big East in Week 12? Glad you asked.

1. Stability? What? Just when you thought it was safe to dream (and/or incorrectly speculate) about stability in college football … wham! Realignment became a hot topic once again on another college football Saturday. Sources told ESPN that Maryland is in talks with the Big Ten about jumping from the ACC. If that happens, Rutgers is expected to follow. And where would the ACC look to fill its opening? You can guess. Nothing official has been announced. But if something does happen, Rutgers would be the ninth Big East school to leave the conference since 2004. Stay tuned. This should be an interesting week.

2. Big East title should be settled in New Jersey. Rutgers had quite the impressive defensive performance in a 10-3 win over Cincinnati, all but assuring us of a de facto Big East championship game in Piscataway on Thursday, Nov. 29. This is precisely why the Big East made the schedule this way. No. 22 Rutgers remains the only unbeaten team in Big East play at 5-0. Even if the Scarlet Knights lose at Pitt next week, they would still have a winner-take-BCS matchup on their hands against Louisville -- provided the Cardinals come off their bye and beat UConn. Even if both Rutgers and Louisville go into the regular-season finale with matching 5-1 league marks, the winner goes to the BCS.

[+] EnlargeTemple's Montel Harris
AP Photo/Mike GrollTemple's Montel Harris rushed for 351 yards and seven touchdowns on 36 carries in a win over Army.
3. Stats leaders. It was a banner day in the stats column for two Big East players. First, Temple running back Montel Harris set Big East records with 351 yards rushing and seven rushing touchdowns in a 63-32 win over Army. He had the highest rushing total of any player in Week 12, despite missing practice all week with a minor knee injury. Temple also tied or set eight different school records, including rushing yards (534) and touchdowns in a game (nine). Later in the evening, Syracuse's Alec Lemon posted the highest receiving total of anybody in Week 12, when he set a career-high with 244 yards receiving in a 31-27 win over Missouri. Lemon caught the 17-yard game-winning touchdown pass with 20 seconds left in the game. His receiving total ranks No. 3 in Big East history. Quarterback Ryan Nassib also had his sixth 300-yard passing day and set the school career passing record with 8,845 yards.

4. Big East > SEC? Made you look! The Big East may not have half its teams ranked in the top 10 of the BCS standings, but it does own a 3-0 record against the SEC this season, after Syracuse pulled the upset on the Missouri Tigers. The Orange joined Louisville (over Kentucky) and Rutgers (over Arkansas) with wins over the top conference in the land, making the Big East a perfect 3-0 against the SEC this season. The last time the Big East went unbeaten versus the SEC was back in 2006, when Louisville beat Kentucky and West Virginia beat Mississippi State. While it is true none of these SEC teams have winning records, it is also true that only Louisville was expected to win its game this year. When you are a league like the Big East, you take any opportunity to beat a team from the SEC, no matter who they are. Both Rutgers and Syracuse booked their SEC road games late, and many thought that could be trouble. But both pulled them out. And now Syracuse is going bowling again.

5. USF may not win another game this year. That is my blunt assessment off a really bad 40-9 loss to Miami. Look, I realize that the Bulls ended up really getting hurt when Bobby Eveld went down with a shoulder injury -- only a quarter after burning his redshirt. But here is the thing. Matt Floyd was the backup behind B.J. Daniels all season. He played in several games this year. And Miami has one of the worst defenses in the nation. And yet, USF could not score a single touchdown on this team for the second straight year. Skip Holtz did his team no favors with poor clock management at the end of the first half, and his decision to settle for field goals in the fourth quarter. Injuries have piled up everywhere on offense, and it showed Saturday. Remaining on the schedule: at Cincinnati; Pitt.

Big East helmet stickers: Week 12

November, 18, 2012
Here's who stood out the most during Week 12 of the Big East

Montel Harris, RB, Temple: Uh, wow. Harris set school and conference records in rushing for 351 yards and seven touchdowns. Not much else to say but "wow," once more. (And to think he didn't even practice this week because of a knee injury.)

Savon Huggins, RB, Rutgers: With Jawan Jamison limited by an ankle injury, Huggins slid into the No. 1 role and filled the shoes more than capably, carrying the ball 41 times for 179 yards. Seriously, what other No. 2 running back could handle that kind of workload? It matches Jamison's 41-carry effort from earlier this season, at USF.

Alec Lemon, WR, Syracuse: Lemon caught 12 passes for a career-high 244 yards, including the game-winner with 20 seconds left. He had four catches for 81 yards on the Orange's final drive. Lemon's 244 yards topped all receivers in Week 12, and it marked the third-highest single-game total in Big East history.

Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse: Nassib led the Orange to another last-second road win. He completed 26 of 40 passes for 385 yards with two touchdowns and one pick, and he has lifted Syracuse to four wins in its last five games, bowl-eligible once again.

Montel Harris runs wild in Temple win

November, 17, 2012
Back on Monday, Temple coach Steve Addazio was asked about the health of injured tailback Montel Harris.

Addazio said, "I feel good about Montel."

You don't say!

Harris gave Addazio and Owls fans plenty to feel good about Saturday, with a historic performance in a 63-32 win against Army. No hint of the sprained ankle he suffered last week against Cincinnati, either. Harris set school and Big East records with 351 yards rushing and seven rushing touchdowns -- a one-man force of destruction against a team known for its ability to run the ball.

But Harris stole all the headlines -- and had the most yards rushing ever against an Army opponent. The record he broke belonged to Tony Dorsett (268). That huge performance overshadowed two other major developments: Matt Brown actually had the first two rushing touchdowns on the day before leaving with a strained left hamstring early in the second quarter. The Owls were clearly all right without him.

Plus, Juice Granger made his first career start and played extremely well -- finishing with 85 yards of his own. With the way Harris played, the passing game was totally irrelevant -- he had four pass attempts all day. Incredibly enough, Army had more -- with seven attempts from Trent Steelman.

Army had Steelman and Larry Dixon finish with more than 100 yards, but the story of the day was the way Temple absolutely manhandled Army on the offensive line. Temple finished with 534 yards rushing and averaged 9.4 yards per attempt. It was simply a dominating -- and historic day -- at West Point.

Big East predictions: Week 12

November, 15, 2012
I saw the Pitt and Louisville losses coming from a mile away, but I was not woman enough to make the upset picks. So I went 2-2 last week, and so did Tuna.

Any upsets in store this week?

AA season record: 41-15.

No. 22 Rutgers (9-1, 4-0) at Cincinnati (7-2, 3-1), noon, Big East Network/ESPN3. #RUTGvsCINCY. I honestly thought Rutgers was going to be the favorite, considering it is ranked and the only team unbeaten in Big East play. Then I looked at the line and saw that I was wrong. So I guess this is not going to qualify as an upset special. Here is why I like Cincinnati to win: Rutgers has had difficulty scoring this season. That may be putting it mildly. While Cincinnati is not the Steel Curtain on defense, its front is pretty solid. If Jawan Jamison cannot play, Rutgers must make plays in the pass game to win. Will Gary Nova be allowed? Rutgers has a terrific defense, there is no question. Last season, the Scarlet Knights were much more physical and dominated up front. But they will be facing a Cincinnati offense with a clear identity on offense this time around, and the Bearcats will find a way to make a few plays and win. And by the way, Cincinnati has won nine straight at Nippert. Cincinnati 24, Rutgers 20.

Matt's pick: Cincinnati 20, Rutgers 12.

Temple (3-6) at Army (2-8), noon, CBS Sports Network. Temple has to stop this losing streak at some point, right? The Owls have lost four straight, but that should not come as a huge shock considering they have just finished up their toughest stretch of the season, playing the top three teams in the Big East in the past month. Now comes a nonconference game against an Army team that gave Rutgers all it could handle a week ago. The Owls have struggled with consistency because they are so young this season, and they may have a new starting quarterback under center. Montel Harris is banged up as well. Still, this is a game on paper that Temple should win. I'm just not sure if the Owls are playing well enough on defense right now to stop the Army rushing attack. Army 30, Temple 28.

Matt's pick: Temple 28, Army 21.

USF (3-6) at Miami (5-5), 3 p.m., GamePlan.#USFvsMIA. We have no idea whether Matt Floyd or Bobby Eveld will start at quarterback for USF. Compound that uncertainty with the loss of several other starters on offense, and the Bulls are going to have a MASH unit going to Miami. There is some reason for hope, though. Miami has one of the worst defenses in the country, and USF gets highly motivated for games like this. The Bulls have won in Miami, so they are not going to be intimidated. Here is where I think Miami has the huge advantage: freshman all-purpose player Duke Johnson. USF will have a hard time slowing him down. Miami 30, USF 17.

Matt's pick: Miami 28, USF 10.

Bonus pick! Heather Dinich from the ACC blog stops by: Miami 34, South Florida 20. The Canes become bowl eligible this week and win their final home game of the season. The Bulls’ defense won’t have an answer for Johnson, and Miami will still get its passing game going despite an injury-laden receiving corps. South Florida ranks No. 114 in the country in turnover margin, and that will be the difference in this game.

Syracuse (5-5) at Missouri (5-5), 7 p.m., ESPNU/WatchESPN. #CUSEvsMIZZ. Syracuse has been a radically different team on the road than it has been at home, and not in a good way. After beating West Virginia in 2011, it could not win another game the rest of the season. Two strikes against picking the Orange in this game. But I was in Syracuse last week and sensed a different vibe around this team. The players know they really only have themselves to blame for their record because they made some terrible mistakes to cost them chances at more wins. Missouri is part of the SEC in name only. This team has struggled all year. UPSET! Syracuse 28, Missouri 24.

Matt's pick: Missouri 24, Syracuse 21.