State Of The Big East: Week Two

Russell's right...that St. John's logo is atrocious.

Russell's right...that St. John's logo is atrocious.

Wherein we take a look at the football conference that’s electrifying crowds from the northern Mid-Atlantic to southern New England. Also Tampa.

Howdy, y'all, and welcome to the belated second installment of State Of The Big East. Heading into the second weekend of play, we kinda sorta know some things about the eight teams who strive for BCS glory (note: glory may include a 7-5 loss to Boston College in the Orange Bowl.)

And while little of the analysis from Week One will end up being very useful 10, five or even one week from now, I will never give up a chance to mock Rutgers.

So this week in SoBE, we'll find out:

  • That, dear lord, it's going to be Cincinnati in the Orange Bowl again, isn't it?
  • How UConn had the second-most important only other win over a D-I team last week, and yet mired in 5th they stay.
  • Who embarrassed themselves the most against a cadre of I-AA teams; and
  • Whether I can properly describe Rutgers' 32-point loss to Cincinnati as "nectar" or "ambrosia".

All that and more after the jump.

In Case You Forgot: Week one results

In a fitting moment, Greg Paulus' first snap as Syracuse quarterback flew over his head, with the Golden Gophers recovering. That's comedy gold, right there.

Things settled down and Paulus showed a downright stunning level of non-incompetence in his first game as a starting QB in four years...until a pretty awful second half led to zero Syracuse points, and a horrid interception in the end zone in overtime set up Minnesota's winning field goal.

I'm seeing Minnesota projected to be among the worst teams in the Big 10, so this was probably the 'Cuse's best chance to get over .500 at any point this season. While the program is already in better shape than it was at the end of last season, these things take time. Luckily, it's not as if SU's best quarterback is a point guard with 12 weeks of eligibility left.

All the stats lined up well in the Mountaineers' favor, as you'd expect (140-yard advantage on offense; Jarrett Brown 19-for-26, 243 yards and a 22-yard rushing TD), but still this was a two-score game until midway through the fourth quarter. Liberty acquitted themselves well, but there's no way this game should've been this close. The Mountaineers drove into Liberty territory a whole bunch, but had to settle for field goals four times. Could be something to watch once the 'Eers start playing teams with a pulse.

On the plus side, Noel Devine is still awesome (17 rush, 112 yds, TD).

Pitt rolled, as it should. Dion Lewis looks OK as a replacement for Shady McCoy (20-129, 3 TD), although QB Bill Stull was booed by the Heinz Field faithful and finished with just 123 yards.

Still, there's not a whole lot of point in recapping I-AA blowouts.

Eh, I've said enough about this game. Frazer was bad. Offense was mostly bad. It was also one game in 12/13-game sample. We move on.

Although I guess I should note, in the interest of self-promotion, a Google search for "UConn 23, Ohio 16" turns up me(!) as two of the top five hits. Go me.

Much like West Virginia, Wofford kept it close for a while, but eventually the Bulls were too much. Matt Groethe is 88 yards away from Pat White's Big East total offense record, and USF prepares for two more cream puffs before a big game at Florida State.

My, oh my, oh my. If you believe in the transitive property, then you believe Southeast Missouri State would have beaten Indiana State (which lost to Quincy in OT the week prior) by 75 points. Louisville beat Indiana State by 20 points. And they were trailing in the second quarter.

And I thought UConn struggling to beat a MAC team was a 'bad win.'

As always, small-sample and "first-day jitters" caveats, but unless QB Justin Burke (17-31, 223, 2 INT) and company shape up, this season could get really ugly for UofL.

On the plus side, the relative closeness of the game allowed the Indiana State student newspaper columnist to use the word "truculent." As all columnists know, a penny for your thoughts + a 10-cent word = profit!

Any time Rutgers loses, it's cause for cackling at TheUConnBlog. As made clear in the past, we don't much care for Rutgers. Their coach has the look of a used-car salesman, many of their fans have delusions of grandeur, and the media loves them. Much like the Red Sox, actually. (Now I've alienated everybody that might read this!)

So for RU to lay an enormous egg on Labor Day is just delicious. Watching Cincinnati score 24 unanswered points in the second quarter put cavities in my teeth. When the lead extended to 45-7 and the sea of red at Rutgers Stadium turned into a sea of gray metal bleachers, the taste was like the first bite of a juicy steak. It's a taste you want to savor for hours. But enough food metaphors. I don't want to be infringing on the work of better blogs.

Anyway, back to reality: Cincinnati's offense (especially Tony Pike) is really quite good. Or Rutgers' defense is terrible. Or Greg Schiano is a terrible coach until mid-October kicks in. Or all three. This is the problem with Week One analysis, as mentioned earlier. No one has any context, and we all just overreact to the impressive performance du jour. So congratulations Cincinnati, you're in the spotlight...until your inevitable misstep, when you shall be replaced on a whim.

Week Two Power Poll / Schedule

  • 1. Pittsburgh (1-0, 0-0)
  • This week: at Buffalo (1-0); Saturday, noon (Big East Network, check local listings)

This is a trickier game than you might expect. Buffalo went on the road last week to UTEP and won, and thanks to CBS College Sports having no other programming, I've seen parts of that game seven or eight times this week. The Bulls seem not to have lost too much of a step from graduating four-year starting QB Drew Willy and, at home, who knows?

Oh, and Pittsburgh staying #1 is a reflection of how low I think of Rutgers, rather than how good Cincinnati was. Deal.

Prediction: Pitt 24, Buffalo 20

  • 2. Cincinnati (#23 AP; 1-0, 1-0)
  • This week: vs. SE Missouri State (1-0); Saturday, 7 p.m. (FSN Ohio)

Yay for two cupcakes in a row! The schedule gets considerably tougher, although if Cincy is 4-1 before they head to USF Oct. 15, I'd be willing to admit that Cincy is a legitimate BCS contender. I'm not all there quite yet.

Prediction: Cincinnati 44, SE Missouri State 10

  • 3. South Florida (1-0, 0-0)
  • This week: at Western Kentucky (0-1); Saturday, 7:30 p.m. (Big East Network; check local listings)

WKU's first home game as an official Division I-A team comes after a 56-point loss to a fairly mediocre Tennessee team. Anything less than another blowout will be shocking.

Prediction: South Florida 42, Western Kentucky 6

  • 4. West Virginia (1-0, 0-0)
  • This week: vs. East Carolina (1-0); Saturday, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN360.com)

East Carolina nearly lost to Appalachain State (minus Michigan killer Armanti Edwards) last week and the revenge factor from last year's 24-3 ECU victory should be enough to propel the 'Eers to a 2-0 start. Remember when everyone was freaking out over East Carolina being ranked 14th in the country? Yeah. That's why September polls are worthless.

Prediction: West Virginia 26, East Carolina 20

  • 5. UConn (1-0, 0-0)
  • This week: vs. #19 North Carolina (1-0); Saturday, noon (ESPNU)

This is the most high-profile (yet winnable) game in the Big East this week; a UConn victory would be a feather in the conference's cap (and another fork stuck in the ACC). No predictions here, as usual.

  • 6. Syracuse (0-1, 0-0)
  • This week: at #7 Penn State (1-0); Saturday, noon (Big 10 Network)

This used to be a great rivalry, back before I was alive. Syracuse is 3-22 against the Nittany Lions since 1967, and somehow I don't think Greg Paulus and the Carrier Crazies are going to change that.

And before you ask, yes, I will be repeating the words "Carrier Crazies" every time Syracuse is mentioned anywhere. Because it deserves to catch on.

Prediction: Penn State 38, Syracuse 14

  • 7. Rutgers (0-1, 0-1)
  • This week: vs. Howard (0-0); Saturday, 3:30 p.m. (no TV)

Man, am I anxious to see the attendance figures for this showdown. I expect that Rutgers will keep their goal of a MEAC championship alive and well.

Prediction: Rutgers 52, Howard 0

  • 8. Louisville (1-0, 0-0)
  • This week: BYE

Cardinals get two weeks to work out the kinks before they travel to Lexington for the Bluegrass State Bloodbath with UK.

And that'll do it. Until next week...

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