NCF Nation: Tiquan Underwood

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Twenty-seven Big East products had their name called over the weekend in the NFL draft. Three league schools had their best drafts ever.

Cincinnati had six players taken, the most of any Big East team and the most in program history. The previous school record had been five, which happened in 1998, 1960 and 1947. The Bearcats were one of only nine schools to have six or more players drafted this year.

Connecticut had never had a player taken in the first two rounds of the draft before Saturday. Four Huskies went in the first two rounds this year, including the school's first-ever first-rounder, running back Donald Brown.

Rutgers had a record-setting five players drafted, including the Scarlet Knights' first-ever first-rounder, wide receiver Kenny Britt. The most Rutgers had ever previously had drafted in one year was three, in 2007.

Here's a rundown of all the league draft picks and some commentary:

Cincinnati

Player, Position, Round, Team

Connor Barwin, DE, 2, Houston Texans

• DeAngelo Smith, DB, 5, Dallas Cowboys

Brandon Underwood, DB, 6, Green Bay Packers

Mike Mickens, DB, 7, Dallas Cowboys

Trevor Canfield, OG, 7, Arizona Cardinals

Thoughts: Kind of surprising that Mickens went after Underwood and Smith, when he was generally regarded as the best pro prospect of the three for most of his career. The fifth round is lofty territory for a punter, but Huber is that good.

Connecticut

Player, Position, Round, Team

• Donald Brown, RB, 1, Indianapolis Colts

Darius Butler, DB, 2, New England Patriots

Will Beatty, OT, 2, New York Giants

Cody Brown, OLB, 2, Arizona Cardinals

Thoughts: We thought UConn would have a huge day, and the Huskies sure did.

Louisville

Player, Position, Round, Team

Eric Wood, C/OG, 1, Buffalo Bills

George Bussey, OT, 5, New England Patriots

Thoughts: Bussey didn't get much pre-draft buzz, but the Patriots must have liked the former walk-on who became a three-year starter and All-Big East performer. Wood will play guard for the Bills.

Pittsburgh

Player, Position, Round, Team

LeSean McCoy, RB, 2, Philadelphia Eagles

Scott McKillop, LB, 5, San Francisco 49ers

LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB, 7, Arizona Cardinals

Derek Kinder, WR, 7, Chicago Bears

Thoughts: OK, Pitt fans. How do you feel about McCoy going to Philly? Will you still root for him? Getting McKillop in the fifth round seems like a steal.

Rutgers

Player, Position, Round, Team

• Kenny Britt, WR, 1, Tennessee Titans

Mike Teel, QB, 6, Seattle Seahawks

Jason McCourty, DB, 6, Tennessee Titans

Courtney Greene, DB, 7, Seattle Seahawks

Tiquan Underwood, WR, 7, Jacksonville Jaguars

Thoughts: I didn't think Teel would get drafted, but good for him. The Titans and Seahawks must have liked Greg Schiano's program.

South Florida

Player, Position, Round, Team

Tyrone McKenzie, OLB, 3, New England Patriots

Thoughts: Despite all that Florida talent, the Bulls had the smallest draft class in the Big East.

Syracuse

Player, Position, Round, Team

Tony Fiammetta, FB, 4, Carolina Panthers

Ryan Durand, OG, 7, Tennessee Titans

Thoughts: Durand was another guy who wasn't on many mock draft boards. There were some good fullbacks in the Big East, including Pitt's Conredge Collins and Louisville's Brock Bolen. But Fiammetta was the only one drafted.

West Virginia

Player, Position, Round, Team

Pat White, QB/WR, 2, Miami Dolphins

Ellis Lankster, CB, 7, Buffalo
Bills

Pat McAfee, K, 7, Indianapolis

Thoughts: Can't wait to see how the Dolphins, who showed a lot of creativity on offense last year, use White.

Prominent players who went undrafted:

Hunter Cantwell, Louisville

Greg Isdaner and Mortty Ivy, West Virginia

Jamaal Westerman, Rutgers

• C.J. Davis, Pittsburgh

Julius Williams, UConn

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

The Papajohns.com Bowl was like Rutgers' season in a nutshell. Shaky start, tremendous finish.

 
 Marvin Gentry/US Presswire
 Mike Teel threw for 319 yards and two scores for the Scarlet Knights.

The Scarlet Knights (8-5) outscored NC State 23-6 in the second half to win the game 29-23 at Birmingham's Legion Field. They ended the season with seven straight victories after a 1-5 start.

The biggest key to this in-game turnaround was an NC State injury. Freshman quarterback Russell Wilson had the Scarlet Knights' defense on its heels in the first half with his mobility and deft passing. The kid is really, really good and is going to be something special over the next couple of years. But Wilson injured his knee late in the first half and was not able to play after guiding his team to a 17-6 halftime lead.

No longer having to worry about the quarterback scramble, Rutgers brought pressure against replacement Harrison Beck in the third quarter, and the Wolfpack (6-7) barely moved the ball. Third-stringer Daniel Evans came in for the fourth quarter and led a touchdown drive, but Greg Schiano dialed up a change to a three-man front and zone coverage on a key third down. Evans didn't read it and threw an interception. Wilson was picked off only once all season; Beck and Evans combined to toss three interceptions in this game.

Mike Teel had 319 yards and two touchdowns for Rutgers, and like he did during the season, played much better in the second half. The senior quarterback was a touch off early in the game, thanks in large part to the pressure NC State's defense managed to apply. Teel's offensive line did a better job of giving him time in the second half, and the results were much the same as they were for the last several weeks.

Receiver Kenny Britt, playing perhaps his final game before declaring for the NFL draft, became the Big East's career leader in receiving yards with six catches for 119 yards. He caught the game-winning score from 42 yards out, less than a minute after NC State took its last lead.

Rutgers has now won three straight bowl games, which is really something since before this stretch the program had never won a single one in its 139-year history. The Scarlet Knights should be one of the favorites in the Big East next year, though they must fill huge voids that will be left by Teel, Tiquan Underwood, Britt (if he leaves) and others.

The Big East is now 3-0 in bowl play and 2-0 against the ACC (and the state of North Carolina). Cincinnati will try to give the league a clean sweep over the ACC in the FedEx Orange Bowl against Virginia Tech.

Should Rutgers be in the final Top 25? I think so. Few teams played better in the last two months.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

West Virginia senior kicker Pat McAfee has had an interesting relationship with Mountaineers fans during his career. He famously received death threats after missing two field goals in last year's loss to Pittsburgh. While McAfee generally loved his time at the school, he gave some interesting parting shots to the Charleston Gazette's Dave Hickman.

"I think West Virginia fans are so fair-weather every once in a while it's ridiculous. I know that from personal experience," McAfee said. "We have some great fans. I just wish all of them were like that.

"I guess every city has that, but it's pretty sad because we've got a good thing going here and I think in the future it's going to be a really good thing. I wish they'd stick by our side instead of falling off and coming back on. I think this year showed ... I mean, we couldn't even sell out this place on senior night. And fans leaving at halftime? I really wish they were more dedicated."

Defensive lineman Chris Neild is recovered from a nagging toe injury and will be full speed for the Meineke Car Care Bowl, Mike Casazza writes in the Charleston Daily Mail.

• Louisville defensive coordinator Ron English accepted the Eastern Michigan head coaching job, and linebackers coach Bill Miller has been elevated to replace him, C.L. Brown writes in The Courier-Journal.

• South Florida defensive end George Selvie has a decision to make on his future following the Bulls' bowl win, Gregg Becnel writes in the Tampa Tribune.

• Rutgers wide receiver Tiquan Underwood's early struggles and eventual turnaround mirrored his team, Keith Sargeant writes in the Home News Tribune. The Scarlet Knights' offensive line got better and better as the year went on, and the good news for Rutgers is they'll all be back in 2009.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Since our What to Watch posts usually run on Friday, I thought I'd drop a few keys to tonight's Rutgers-Louisville game (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET), which has major bowl implications for the league as a whole:

 

1. Pressure on the quarterback: When Rutgers scored its monumental win over Louisville in Piscataway two years ago, it did so by repeatedly knocking down quarterback Brian Brohm. Coach Greg Schiano is known for his creative and aggressive blitzing schemes, and the Scarlet Knights have turned up the heat on defense in the past several weeks. They have 16 sacks during their five-game winning streak, and several opposing quarterbacks -- including Bill Stull and Zach Frazer (concussions), Matt Grothe (ankle) and Pat White (head) -- haven't been able to finish the game after getting battered around. That's bad news for Hunter Cantwell and the Louisville offensive line, which has sprung far too many leaks this season.

On the flip side, the Cardinals and their patchwork secondary have absolutely no chance of slowing down receivers Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood if they don't get to quarterback Mike Teel. If Teel has time, the game will get ugly. The problem is that the Louisville defensive front, while very solid against the run, lacks speed to put on a heavy pass rush. Defensive coordinator Ron English will have to dial up some blitzes from his linebackers and safeties to keep Teel from feeling comfortable in the pocket.

2. Louisville's ability to sustain drives: The Cardinals' best chance to pull off the upset is by pounding the ball on the ground, both to slow down the Rutgers pass rush and to control the clock with Britt on the sidelines. They have the players to do it, led by 1,000-yard freshman back Victor Anderson. Rutgers ranks just seventh in the Big East in rushing defense, allowing 147.3 yards per game on the ground. For Louisville to succeed with this strategy, though, it will have to cut way down on the silly penalties and costly turnovers that have plagued the team much of the season.

3. The kicking game: The last two games between these teams have been thrillers that have come down to field goals. Jeremy Ito hit a cluck kick to clinch Rutgers' comeback in 2006 (after an offsides penalty negated his previous miss). Art Carmody made the only game-winner of his fantastic career in last year's finale, as Louisville rallied from 18 points down.

If such a scenario repeats itself this season, then it's advantage: Rutgers. San San Te has been very solid after a shaky opening game, going 9-for-11 since then. The Cardinals' kicker is ... well, we're not sure who it is at the moment. They've used three there this year and keep switching the job around in a desperate attempt to find someone reliable. The three kickers have combined to make just 5 of 10 attempts all season, and none from longer than 36 yards. Steve Kragthorpe usually eschews a field goal attempt from anywhere outside the 20 and just goes for it on fourth down.

Still, the way this game shapes up on paper, Kragthorpe would probably welcome the idea of it coming down to a field goal tonight.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

1. Pittsburgh can win -- and win big -- without LeSean McCoy: At one point in the third quarter Saturday versus Louisville, Pitt's star tailback had 10 carries for minus-2 yards. He finished with a career-low 39. Yet, the game was never in doubt as the Panthers cruised 41-7. Teams figured they could take away McCoy and stop the Pittsburgh offense, but this group has a lot more options and a lot more creativity than it did at the beginning of the season. And that's why the Panthers are a serious threat to win the Big East.

2. Cincinnati is the most resilient team in the Big East: The Bearcats showed their fortitude earlier this season by withstanding a withering spate of quarterback injuries. Saturday night, they were even more impressive, staying strong after a potentially-devastating collapse in the final 71 seconds at West Virginia. The team calmly went about its business and took down the Mountaineers in the first overtime. There's something to be said for having 19 seniors. The next two games, at Louisville and at home against Pittsburgh, are no layups. But we know these Bearcats won't fold under pressure.

3. Rutgers' resurgence is legit: OK, so the Scarlet Knights only beat Syracuse on Saturday, and they struggled in the first half. But the Orange were as confident as they've been all season, coming off a win over Louisville and taking a quick 14-point lead. The early-season version of Rutgers might have packed it in at that point. Instead, the defense held Syracuse to 72 total yards of offense after Doug Hogue's first-quarter 82-yard touchdown run. Mike Teel rebounded from a couple of early picks to throw three touchdown passes, Tiquan Underwood re-emerged from hiding to catch two of those scores and Kordell Young ran for 143 yards. This team is starting to click now in all phases, and don't be surprised if it wins out.

4. Louisville is in crisis mode: Few teams have gone into a faster nosedive than the Cardinals the past two weeks. They were riding high after a win over South Florida got them to 5-2. Then they suffered an embarrassing upset at Syracuse and laid a beach-ball sized egg at Pitt. The low point might have come in the second half Saturday, as Louisville players stood around and looked at a muffed backward pass instead of going after the live ball. Pittsburgh picked it up and walked into the end zone. The game also featured multiple fumbled punt returns and Steve Kragthorpe pulling quarterback Hunter Cantwell in the first half. With no easy games left, the Cardinals are in danger of sinking from pleasant surprise to second-half disaster.

5. The end is near for Greg Robinson: The Syracuse coach didn't like questions about his job security after the Rutgers loss, saying things like, "we're going to quit talking about all this," and "get off of it." Athletic director Daryl Gross did not speak to reporters -- again. But with the Orange officially sealing a losing season and looking completely punchless after their biggest win of the season, it's clear that Robinson can't hang on much longer. At least he made it longer than Tommy Bowden, Tyrone Willingham, Ron Prince and Phil Fulmer.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

With only four games this week, the Big East offered more of a community-college summer course than a graduate-level seminar. But we still have some higher education. Let's get our learn on.

1. South Florida has more offensive weapons than ever before.

In years past, the Bulls would have had a hard time keeping up with Kansas on a night when Matt Grothe's running threat was stymied and their top two tailbacks, Ben Williams and Mike Ford, contributed nothing. But Grothe has matured as a pocket passer, and he's got top-flight targets like Taurus Johnson, Jessie Hester and A.J. Love at wideout and Cedric Hill at tight end. And on Friday night, freshman Jamar Taylor stepped in at running back and had 72 yards on 11 carries, including a 13-yard touchdown rumble.

"We've got so many great backs, it's unbelievable," Taylor said.

2. Connecticut has more flavors than just vanilla.
The knock on the Huskies was that they were a boring, ball control team that didn't have enough offensive firepower to beat the truly elite outfits. Saturday's 45-10 win over Virginia may have ended such talk. UConn got another outstanding performance from running back Donald Brown, who had 206 yards on 20 carries and scored three times in three quarters. But more importantly, quarterback Tyler Lorenzen finally looked comfortable, going 13-for-15 for 124 yards and his first passing touchdown of the year. Safety Darius Butler got involved on offense in a few new creative wrinkles, and freshman Jordan Todman added a spark in his debut. UConn was nearly as impressive in pounding Virginia as USC was in Week 1. Its defense and running game will always be there. If the Huskies add in more explosive elements on offense, they just might win the Big East.

3. Rutgers is suffering from an identity crisis.
Are the Scarlet Knights a running team like they were with Ray Rice, or should they go to a wide-open passing game and use the talents of Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood, their best two players? They've been somewhere in between in the first two games, doing neither very well, and the results have been ugly to watch. Mike Teel has played horribly at quarterback, and some fans are even wondering whether he should be lifted for the more athletic Jabu Lovelace. Rutgers needs to figure out what it does best and exploit that, or else it's going to be a long season in Piscataway.

4. Syracuse had better beat Northeastern.
Speaking of long seasons. Sadly, there was absolutely nothing in Syracuse's 55-13 loss to Penn State that came as a surprise to anyone. Akron, which beat the Orange at home a week earlier, followed that up by losing at home to Ball State by 17. Syracuse just plain stinks, and if it doesn't dispatch Division I-AA Northeastern this week, it may well go 0-12.

5. The Big East isn't all bad.
OK, so Syracuse and Rutgers contributed to the league's embarrassing losses. But South Florida took out a good Kansas team in an exciting game, and UConn clicked on all cylinders against an ACC team (granted, a bad ACC team, but still). If West Virginia can rebound this week at Colorado, the top tier of the Big East might be worth watching after all.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Rutgers senior wideout Tiquan Underwood was an All-Big East first team selection in 2007 after he caught 65 balls for 1,100 yards and seven touchdowns. That would have set the school record, but teammate Kenny Britt had 1,232 yards receiving. I caught up with Underwood by phone after practice this week as the Scarlet Knights get ready for North Carolina on Thursday night.

 
 Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
 Tiquan Underwood caught 65 balls for 1,100 yards and seven touchdowns a year ago.

What's the team's mindset now after losing the opener to Fresno State, 24-7?

Tiquan Underwood: It's a new week, it's a new game. We got that first game out of our system. We've been watching a lot of film on North Carolina and getting ready to go.

What happened to the offense in the Fresno State game? It seemed like you guys moved the ball, but you couldn't finish drives.

TU: I would just say on offense, you need 11 guys to execute a play to be successful. We just didn't execute the plays fully, all 11 guys every time, and you need that. You've got to be very, very precise to be successful.

You have a chance to be part of the first class in school history to go to four straight bowls. How important is that milestone?

TU: It's very important. It would be a really nice achievement to set. But it's only going to happen if we take care of business during the regular season, and that's what we intend to do.

Do you see a big difference in the program from the time you got here in 2005 to now?

TU: Absolutely. Our fan base is growing. We're adding on to the stadium. Better and better players are starting to commit to Rutgers University. It's just great to see this program grow year after year. It just goes to show that hard work does pay off.

What have you tried to improve upon after your big junior year?

TU: Just being more consistent as a player. Catching everything I can and being a leader. I was voted captain this year along with Mike Teel, so I'm trying to lead not only by example but by speaking up.

You've played with Teel your whole career. What's the chemistry like between you two?

TU: The chemistry we have is unbelievable. Me and Mike Teel and Kenny Britt, we work together so much, and we hang out together outside of football. We just know each other in and out.

What's your relationship like with Kenny Britt? Did you take him under your wing when he came to Rutgers a year after you did?

TU: We're very close. We're always doing stuff together. We sit next to each other in the meeting rooms, and we're always hanging out, goofing off or whatever. There's just a bond there, because we're trying to push each other, trying to be the best we can be.

When he came in, I tried to show him the ropes. But since then, his career has just blasted off and he's been doing great things. I now actually learn things from Kenny, and he does from me also.

Did you guys set goals this year, like both going over 1,000 yards again?

TU: Coming into it, we didn't really speak about numbers much. We're trying to get more completions, but you can't really put a number on the yards because you don't know how a game is going to play out. So we're just trying to have more completions than last year and just do our jobs and do what we have to do to help our team win ball games.

Do you have a favorite pass route?

TU: I really don't have a favorite one. Any pass play in the playbook, I like it.

Especially when it comes to you, right?

TU: Oh, absolutely. With this offense, you never know where the ball is going to go, so you've always got to run your routes full speed, which is good.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Stay frosty, people. Our long summer of waiting ends tomorrow night. While we'd all gladly take any college football right now, here are the 25 things I'm most excited about seeing this year in the Big East.

 
 Brett Hansbauer\US PRESSWIRE
 Pat White can beat opponents on the ground and through the air.

1. One more year of West Virginia's Pat White.
We've been incredibly lucky to watch this rare talent for the past 2 1/2 years. He only needs 784 yards -- a little more than half a season's worth for him -- to become the all-time leading rushing quarterback in Division I-A history. And this year he's supposed to show off his improved passing skills. Appreciate White while he's still around.

2. A full workload for Noel Devine.
The West Virginia sophomore might be the shiftiest, most elusive running back in college football. He averaged 8.6 yards per carry in a limited role last year and needed only two carries to rush for 100 yards against Maryland. He carved up Oklahoma for 108 yards on just 11 carries in the Fiesta Bowl. What can he do with the ball in his hands 20-25 times a game? I can't wait to find out.

3. LeSean McCoy's encore.
The Pittsburgh tailback tallied 1,328 yards and 14 touchdowns as a freshman, and he made only nine starts. Can he approach 2,000 yards as a sophomore?

4. Matt Grothe on the run.
The South Florida quarterback says he wants to think more and make better decisions this year. But it's so much fun watching Grothe improvise out of the pocket and make plays that few other QBs would even try.

5. Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood on the fly.
The two Rutgers wideouts each had at least 1,100 yards receiving last year -- and that was with Ray Rice around. Without a proven running game to rely on, Britt and Underwood could put up even more staggering numbers this year.

6. Mike Mickens and DeAngelo Smith breaking on the ball.
The two Cincinnati cornerbacks were sensational last year, combining for 14 interceptions. That's more than half the Division I-A teams had last year. Smith may play a little more at safety this season, but both will still view every pass as a potential turnover.

7. George Selvie on the attack.
The South Florida defensive end is a joy to watch because of his relentless effort -- unless you happen to play for the opposing offense. He has set 20 sacks as his goal this year, and I wouldn't bet against him.

8. Hunter Cantwell under center.
The Louisville quarterback has patiently waited his turn for three years behind Brian Brohm, occasionally and admirably filling in whenever Brohm got hurt. Now, the former walk-on and avid outdoorsman finally gets his chance to run the team full-time. You can't not root for a guy like Cantwell if you like college football.

9. The Plains meets The Hills.
I find the endless "Which conference is better?" arguments tiresome, especially since they usually involve nothing but speculation. That's why I'm excited about one of the SEC's best, Auburn, coming to reigning Big East champion West Virginia's home turf on Oct. 23. It should be a great game, and at least something will be proven on the field this time.

10. Connecticut's response to the naysayers.
Few teams can legitimately play the "No Respect" card like Connecticut. The Huskies won a share of the Big East title last year and bring almost everybody back. But they've been consistently ignored, or worse, picked to finish at the bottom of the league this season. Will they prove doubters wrong or right?

11. Syracuse rolling out the orange carpet.
On Sept. 12, a movie about legendary running back Ernie Davis called "The Express" will premiere in downtown Syracuse. Orange legends like Jim Brown and Floyd Little will be in attendance, along with Dennis Quaid and other stars of the movie. It will be a weekend-long celebration of the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy, and perhaps Syracuse will find enough inspiration to knock off Penn State on Sept. 13 at the Carrier Dome.

12. Kevin Huber getting his kicks.
Punts are normally a time to run to the refrigerator, but don't miss Cincinnati's fourth downs. Huber was a first-team All-American last year who averaged 46.9 yards per punt, including three 62-yarders.

13. The Big East's big finish.
There's no conference title game, but the league has done a great job of scheduling marquee games late in the year. The South Florida-West Virginia season finale on Dec. 6 looks like a classic waiting to happen.

14. Trent Guy leading Louisville onto the field.
Guy was shot in the back as he left a nightclub in the early-morning hours of July 5. In an amazing recovery, he'll be in uniform Sunday against Kentucky -- and may even play. By all accounts, Guy is a terrific student and campus leader who's among the most popular players on the team.

15. "Take Me Home, Country Roads" at Milan Puskar Stadium
So maybe John Denver didn't actually have West Virginia in mind when he wrote the song (legend has it that he was inspired while driving in Maryland). There's still something magical about hearing it at Mountaineers games, where it's been played since 1972. And when the voices swell during the chorus -- "Where I belong, West Virginia ..." -- well, I dare you not to sing along.

16. Bon Jovi sing-alongs at Rutgers Stadium.
I'll never forget the night two years ago when Rutgers upset undefeated Louisville on a Thursday night in Piscataway. Fans stormed the field and stayed there for what seemed like hours. The loudspeakers played "Livin' on a Prayer," and you could hear the crowd sing "WHOA-OH" part of the chorus all the way up in the press box. It's not exactly "Hail to the Victors," but it's entertaining.

17. The Cathedral of Learning bathed in gold.
OK, so there aren't a lot of traditions in the Big East, where it seems nearly half the teams just started playing
yesterday. But Pittsburgh's been around a while and has a neat one: after every Panthers win, the Cathedral of Learning -- which is the second tallest educational building in the world -- is illuminated in the team's home gold colors. That hasn't happened too frequently in the past three years, but the improved Panthers should run up the electricity bill in 2008.

18. Weeknight football
Who needs Saturdays? The Big East has long been at the forefront of the nontraditional game day. This year brings two games on a Sunday, one each on a Monday and Wednesday, eight on a Thursday and seven on a Friday. You can argue the merits of such scheduling -- especially what Friday night games do to the local high school scene -- but in the end it means more college football for you to see. And it sure beats watching singing and dancing competitions.

19. The South Florida Sun Dolls.
'Nuff said.

20. A full house at Nippert Stadium.
Before last year, that phrase would have been an oxymoron. But second-year coach Brian Kelly has brought excitement to Cincinnati and the crowds to charming Nippert, which the school claims is the fourth-oldest stadium in college football. Sunk right into the middle of campus, the 35,000-seat bandbox offers one of the most intimate game day experiences you can find anywhere.

21. The return of Louisville's running game.
People often described Bobby Petrino's offense as "wide open" or "high flying," but the real secret to his success at Louisville was his dedication to the power running game. The Cardinals went away from that last year, but new offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm pledges to reinstall that toughness. With Brock Bolen, Bilal Powell and newcomer Victor Anderson, Louisville could have one of the more underrated backfields in the Big East.

22. A pitcher and a slice at Varsity Pizza.
A campus-area institution, the walls here are covered with Orange memorabilia and the opponent's flag is turned upside down after every Syracuse football victory. The pizza is $1.35 a slice and the beer is cold (make mine a veggie and a Sam Adams seasonal, please). There's no better spot for tailgating or just to escape the snow if it's, you know, like mid-September.

23. Bill Stewart's news conferences.
This man makes Bobby Bowden look mean-spirited. The exceedingly friendly new West Virginia coach is a treat to interview as he spins his straight-from-the-hills pearls of wisdom.

24. Jonathan XIII.
He might not be as famous as Uga or Ralphie or Bevo, but I'm a sucker for live mascots, and Connecticut's all-white Siberian Husky is the Big East's best animal option. Good dog.

25. The International Bowl.
Just kidding. Is it kickoff time yet?

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