Big East Report: TCU Is Now Part of the League's Big Picture
The Big East certainly has a thing for, well, big. News arrived this week that the hodgepodge conference will get a little bigger in 2012 with the addition of latter-day football power TCU. That ups the conference rolls to an expansive 17 schools, nine of them participating in FBS football. "We're the largest family in intercollegiate athletics," was the understatement of the year by Big East Commissioner John Marinatto.
Meanwhile, the current structure of the Big East merrily marches on with unranked Connecticut its most likely BCS bowl participant.
The conference has taken a beating all year, but things may have turned around with South Florida's overtime win last weekend over Miami. It was a significant non-conference road victory.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh defensive end Jabaal Sheard (above) was named to the AFCA All American team. Connecticut back Jordan Todman merits consideration on someone's All-America team before the awards circuit is through. Louisville is making a late push as well for its star tailback, Bilal Powell.
It hasn't been the most rosy season overall, but there are signs of hope for 2011 and as one of the panelists on ESPN's 'The Experts' show noted the other day, this year is a bit unusual as the Big East usually has at least one school in BCS championship contention fairly late in the year be it West Virginia a few years ago, or the brief rise of Rutgers and South Florida or Cincinnati the last two years. This speaks well to the depth of the conference and it will be interesting to see with several new coaches and young quarterbacks which teams emerge in the coming two to three seasons.
Many anticipate TCU to simply steamroll this league, but I wouldn't bet on it just yet. What the Horned Frogs will undoubtedly do is provide a competitive shot in the arm that hopefully sharpens focus and eradicates some of the sloppy outcomes that plagued the conference through most of 2010.
A Different Look at Things
The prevailing wisdom has been that Louisville has a terrible run defense this year. As a result, perhaps passing numbers weren't quite up to par against its with opponents free to run wild against the Cardinals' undersized line. But, maybe there's more to it. If you look at the game-to-game performances for two of the Big East's best quarterbacks, Geno Smith of West Virginia and Tino Sunseri of Pittsburgh. Both had their worst games against the Cardinals. It wasn't just low passing yards, but a low completion rate that is a sign of a capable secondary getting in the way of easy passes.
The defensive backs have arguably also been aided by the league's top sack unit. Last weekend against Rutgers, the Cardinals pulled down quarterback Chas Dodd nine times, a season high that was one better than their eight-sack afternoon against Eastern Kentucky in September. Only Cincinnati and Pittsburgh have been able to keep their quarterbacks clean against Charlie Strong's Cardinal defense.
"On paper it doesn't match up well." – Rutgers coach Greg Schiano assessing his team's chances against West Virginia on Saturday
"When you turn the ball over four times, three in your own zone, you've got no chance to win." – Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt on last weekend's Backyard Brawl loss to West Virginia. Notre Dame committed the same turnover feat against rival USC last week, but somehow captured a victory.
"Its video-game like." – USF coach Skip Holtz on Connecticut kick returner Nick Williams' average of 42 yards per return
"The big thing is we're not turning the ball over on offense." – Connecticut coach Randy Edsall on his team's late-season surge
How Big East programs shake out, in our view, after 12 weeks of play (Sagarin Predictor national ranking in parentheses)
1. Connecticut (55) win and in
2. West Virginia (21) beat ...
3. Pittsburgh (36) who beat ...
4. South Florida (51) who beat ...
5. Louisville (43) who beat ...
6. Syracuse (63) who beat ...
7. Cincinnati (67) who beat ...
8.Rutgers (93) woe