Football: Big East Breakdown 9/24

By Donnie Tasser

Welcome back ladies and gents, to another edition of my favorite column, the Big East Breakdown…. Welcome back ladies and gents, to another edition of my favorite column, the Big East Breakdown. Today, I’ll discuss important stuff — mainly, the Big East’s spectacular ability not to live up to expectations.

Last week, the Big East once again served up a stinker on national television, and if it weren’t for West Virginia, the conference would be a complete laughing stock.

This week is truly the put-up-or-shut-up week for the Big Least. Four high-profile games are on tap, and one is about as close to a guaranteed loss as you can get. But there is still hope, and if several conference teams perform, the Big East might gain back a smidgeon of credibility.

Now, for this week’s power rankings.

West Virginia — WVU continues to impress, this time dismantling Maryland 31-17. The final score is somewhat misleading, however, as the Mountaineers jumped out to a 28-0 lead behind Geno Smith’s four touchdown passes. It kills me to say this, but WVU is the most complete team in the conference right now and will get to test its mettle with a trip to Death Valley to take on LSU tomorrow.

Pittsburgh — This week is very important. Yes, I know the game was last night and you already know the outcome, but the Panthers cannot afford to fall to 1-2 (neither can the Hurricanes, for that matter). Coming off a bye week which saw another Panther in legal trouble— this time it was reserve offensive lineman Keith Coleman, who was charged with aggravated assault, disorderly conduct and harassment after an altercation in which two men allegedly called him a racial slur— the preseason conference favorites were looking to jump back into the Top 25 with a victory.

Rutgers — The Scarlet Knights jump up several spots from last week because time after time, other teams show they cannot handle the responsibility of being high up in my glorious rankings. Seriously though, their defense has been terrific and they will need it when they take on North Carolina.

South Florida — Another team that moved up while on a bye week, largely due to collective bad play of the other teams (I’m talking to you, Cincy and UConn), the Bulls last played in a tough loss to Florida two weeks ago.

Cincinnati — Oh where art thou, Brian Kelly? The Bearcats were ravaged by North Carolina State on a national stage, losing 30-19 in a game that was not close at all. Cincy’s defense gave up almost 500 yards and their offensive line was atrocious. QB Zach Collaros led the team with 32 rushing yards and was sacked five times.

Connecticut — Embarrassing. Losing to Temple by two touchdowns? Running back Jordan Todman had a spectacular game for the Huskies with 192 yards rushing, but was stripped of the ball by defensive end Adrian Robinson who rumbled 24 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 8:24 to play.

Syracuse — Quarterback Ryan Nassib threw for a school record five touchdowns as the Orange dismantled FCS opponent Maine, but they were up by only three points at halftime. They need to find more consistency.

Louisville — The Cards gave a valiant effort in a seven-point loss to a ranked Oregon State team. They showed a lot of heart, as they have all season, but just not the talent. The game was in reach until quarterback Adam Froman, who tallied 334 yards and three total touchdowns, was picked off by cornerback James Dockery with just over a minute to play.

The schedule is chock full of big games for this week. I will get on to the previews and no longer bore you with trivial banter.

West Virginia at Louisiana State — This will be a great game. The Mountaineers bring a very balanced offensive attack into Baton Rouge, La. LSU has one of the best home-field advantages in the whole country, as well as a very tough defense. The inconsistent West Virginia secondary will get a boost if Brandon Hogan, who was suspended for a DUI, returns to action. Geno Smith must stay as poised and cool as he has been all season — which won’t be easy — in order to procure a WVU win. I’m calling a Mountaineer upset which will launch them to a top-15 ranking.

Oklahoma at Cincinnati — The Sooners bring a very balanced offense, led by receiver Ryan Broyles and running back DeMarco Murray, to take on a thus-far very disappointing Cincy team. The Bearcats defense has been bad, and their offensive line has been worse, and these things will not change during this pounding at the hands of the Sooners.

North Carolina at Rutgers — This week we get to see how good Rutgers really is. Their defense — led by strong safety Joe Lefeged — has been lights-out, but they will be put to the test by a Tar Heels offense which ranks 11th in the country in passing. UNC is hungry for a win, and Scarlet Knights’ quarterback Tom Savage better get his offense together if Rutgers wants to pull this one out. I’m saying they will.

Buffalo at Connecticut — UConn, following a loss to Temple, is underachieving, and unless it wants to sink alongside Cincinnati, it better shape up. The Huskies should win this easily, but if they don’t, coach Randy Edsall’s seat might start feeling a little warm.

Colgate at Syracuse — The Orange will open up 3-1 with this victory. Who woulda’ thunk it?

Western Kentucky at South Florida — Western Kentucky has lost 23 in a row. The Bulls will make it 24 in a rout.

The players of the week seem to have a somewhat country feel this week.

Offensive Player of the Week: Geno Smith, WVU quarterback

Smith wins it for the second straight week with a brilliant performance against the Terps. He finished 19 for 29 with 268 yards and four touchdowns.

Defensive Player of the Week: Bruce Irvin, WVU defensive end

Irvin recorded three sacks against the Terps and also forced a fumble.

Play of the Week: Geno Smith’s 26-yard touchdown pass to Stedman Bailey. This beauty put the Mountaineers up 28-0 and sealed the deal on Maryland.

That is all for this week, folks. As cynical as I was last week, I am very optimistic for this coming one. But if the Big East lets me down again I might — uh, probably nothing. I’m pretty much used to this by now.