Tasser: Plenty of parity in Big East so far this season

By Donnie Tasser

Holy upset, Batman! In the third week in a row that the nation’s No. 1 team was upset — this… Holy upset, Batman! In the third week in a row that the nation’s No. 1 team was upset — this time it was Oklahoma losing to No. 11 Missouri — the Big East was also shaken up by things that I, for one, did not foresee in my crystal ball.

Syracuse goes into Morgantown and knocks off No. 20 West Virginia, the only ranked team in the conference, and now everything is all topsy-turvy.

Anyway, here are my current power rankings, which reflect the madness that happened last weekend.

Power Rankings

Pittsburgh — Two weeks ago, I — and the rest of the country, for that matter — had given up on the Panthers and dismissed them as one of the most disappointing teams in the nation. Two games and 46 points later, the Panthers are in the driver’s seat of the Big East. The offense and defense have both played extremely well in blowout wins over Syracuse and Rutgers, and it seems that quarterback Tino Sunseri and receiver Jon Baldwin have finally found a groove. Also, the win over Syracuse looks all the more impressive after the Orange beat West Virginia. As the only undefeated team left in conference play, Pitt controls its own destiny.

Syracuse — The Orange have actually been sighted in the “Others receiving (Top-25) votes” category this week.

Syracuse, knocking on the door to the Top 25? Wow. That’s all I can say. They stuffed WVU’s offense in allowing zero points after the first quarter, and effectively turned the conference upside down with the upset. Quiet the turnaround following a big loss to Pitt.

West Virginia — The Mountaineers, far and away the conference’s strongest all-around team all season, were completely shut down by Syracuse. Quarterback Geno Smith was intercepted three times and now the conference is once again without a Top-25 team. It is uncharacteristic for a WVU team to have trouble scoring points, but they have averaged only 17 points during two conference contests.

Louisville — The Cardinals, led by running back Bilal Powell, blew out a reeling Connecticut team and find themselves inching toward a bowl game. Powell took the Big East rushing lead over UConn’s Jordan Todman by outperforming the Husky this past week. The Cards are now 1-1 in conference play and could turn heads with a road upset of Pittsburgh this week.

South Florida — B.J. Daniels finally woke up. The underachieving QB woke up and ran all over Cincinnati in another Big East upset. South Florida’s defense gave up a whopping 590 yards against the Bearcats, but the offense had more than enough points to make up for it.

Cincinnati — The Bearcats gave up 38 points to a team that hadn’t scored a touchdown in its previous two games. Cincinnati’s 13-game conference win streak — the third longest of all time — was snapped and their dramatic turnaround from a dreary start was stalled in their loss to South Florida. Not even Zach Collaros’ 463-yard, three-touchdown day could overcome the defensive lapses.

Rutgers — The Scarlet Knights are physically and emotionally spent after the last several games, and their bye week couldn’t have come at a better time. They had just played two overtime games in a row and then got blown out by Pitt, all with the Eric LeGrand tragedy hanging over their heads. Quarterback Chas Dodd was sacked 14 times between the Army and Pitt games, and they displayed zero offense against the Panthers, going into halftime tied 14-14 and leaving Heinz Field a 41-21 loser.

Connecticut — The Huskies are in shambles. Their starting quarterback, Cody Endres, was suspended from the team last week, starting guard Erik Kuraczea left, their new quarterback was ineffective and their star running back underperformed. Randy Edsall’s team is in the midst of a straight nose dive, and their 26-0 loss at the hands of Louisville represents rock bottom.

Last, but certainly not least, I generously hand out my hardware.

Offensive Player of the Week: B.J. Daniels, QB, South Florida

The multitalented quarterback has been under fire all season, but he silenced critics with a huge game — 13 of 16 for 286 yards and two touchdowns passing and 35 yards and two scores on the ground — helping the Bulls notch their first conference win in an upset over Cincinnati.

Defensive Player of the Week: Brandon Lindsey, DE, Pittsburgh

Lindsey has filled in well for the injured Greg Romeus. He led a Pitt defense that terrorized Rutgers’ quarterback Chas Dodd and stifled receiver Mohamed Sanu, gathering five tackles, four for a loss, three sacks, and a forced fumble.

Play of the Week: Jon Baldwin’s one-handed catch at the Rutgers 1-yard line.