August 26, 2010 by
By Mark Chisholm
That audible exhalation coming from the direction of Providence, RI is that of Big East commissioner John Marinatto. No word of how advisor Paul Tagliabue helped to keep the Big East ship intact in the face of Hurricane Re-alignment, but intact it is. For now.
The Big East can now focus on what happens on the field. A conference flush with potential star QB’s, they can ill afford to take a step backwards after the gains made in the last couple of seasons. The mother of all basketball conferences must win meaningful games in the non-conference battles and during bowl season. Likewise, with their ESPN national television contract they must make Thursday and Friday night games a “must-see” event. Even then, the likelihood of losing at least one of the football schools next year when the mad poaching begins again is very great.
To QB or not QB or How I learned to stop worrying and love the spread
1) B.J. Daniels South Florida – A slick and slippery sort that throws the ball much better than he is given credit for. The redshirt sophomore will continue to make better decisions and pay for play scouts will start adding an inch and a half to his height. He will thrive under new Coach Skip Holtz scheme even though the cupboard is bare at receiver. Some unheralded Bull WR will owe his jump in Twitter followers to Mr. Daniels.
2) Zach Collaros Cincinnati – The little QB that would be king. Word is that Zach hasn’t lost a game as the starting QB since they started putting chili on pasta. He introduced himself to the world by spanking a USF defense that sent 6 players to the pros last year before a national TV audience. Like Daniels, the elusive Collaros throws the ball better than average, but unlike Daniels, he has weapons galore.
3) Tom Savage Rutgers – Savage set a Big East record for passing yards for a true freshman last year. Do everything WR/RB/QB/ <(ok, I just wanted to put another slash) Mohamed Sanu will try to relieve some of the pressure, but a young OL, a ravaged WR corp, and a lack of an explosive running game will test the more traditional drop back passer.
4) Geno Smith West Virginia – Is Smith going to heal from a twice occurred broken foot? If he is 100% healthy, he has to show that he has been mentally practicing despite not physically participating. More Jarrett Bell than Pat White, sophomore Smith can lead the Mountaineers to the title with the help of an experienced OL and of course, Noel Devine.
QB with the most to prove?
Pittsburgh’s native son Tino Sunseri. Expectations are sky high for Pitt. Opening at Utah won’t help. Will the Steel City faithful be kinder to Sunseri than they were to Bill Stull?
Biggest Non-Conference Game: Miami FL at Pittsburgh (Thur. Sept. 23 ESPN) Both schools face a big boys non-con schedule that culminates with this battle. If ESPN hasn’t sold all of their ad spots for this game by now, they need a government bailout.
Surprise Team: Rutgers. It’s not a good surprise. Just like realizing that Miles Austin was picked four rounds ago after writing his name on your fantasy draft board, Rutgers fans will be aghast when the Scarlet Knights limp home with a losing conference record.
Fantasy Studs: Noel Devine, Dion Lewis, Jonathan Baldwin, Mohamed Sanu, Armon Binns, Zach Collaros, Isaiah Pead, Jacob Rogers, Jordan Todman, Pitt’s defense
Fantasy Sleepers: Geno Smith, Ray Graham, Marcus Sales, Dontavia Bogan, Tavon Austin, Brad Starks
Best Insurance Policy: Pitt RB Ray Graham. Dion Lewis is the darling of fantasy geeks everywhere, but Graham is a more explosive runner.
Most Undervalued Player: Pitt LT Jason Pinkston. All he does is lock down #1 pass rushers and execute multiple run blocking assignments on the same play. That’s all.
True Freshmen to Make Biggest Impact: USF CB Terrence Mitchell (aka T-Rex) and Rutgers WR Jeremy Deering. Both from Tampa, they will use their speed, athleticism, and desire to force their way onto the field and make a difference.
Coach on the Hot Seat: None. I would say Bill Stewart’s seat might be warm, but any head coach that’s ever been in Morgantown will tell you that the locals think they could do a better job.
Best Conference Game: West Virginia at Pittsburgh (Fri. Nov. 26) The Backyard Brawl will determine the Big East Champion. The Mountaineers will be rolling by the time they hit Heinz Field. Smith, Devine and that nasty offensive line will bowl over Pitt. The smell of another crushing defeat with the Big East title on the line for Pitt fans. It could be even worse for the Pitt band if they don’t assign someone to guard their area from rank WVU fans.
Predicted Conference Standings:
1) West Virginia – An iron man offensive line returns to protect Geno Smith and allow speed demons Devine and Austin to run wild. An under-rated defense led by DT Chris Neild and S Robert Sands will get the job done.
2) Pittsburgh – Sunseri must manage the game and not lose it. The defense must play to their potential every game Wannstadt has yet to win the big one.
3) Cincinnati – An inexperienced defense will allow more points than the high octane offense can score in a couple of conference games.
4) South Florida – Coach Holtz and defensive coordinator Mark Snyder has some tricks up their sleeves. The Bulls will reverse their recent trend: no splashy non-conference wins but finally they record a solid conference slate.
5) Connecticut – Teams will load up eight-man fronts, and force Zach Frazer to beat them. He won’t.
6) Rutgers – The shine might be starting to fade from Greg Schiano’s star. Savage and Sanu will have to be the offense. Defense will be over-worked. Will they win even one conference road game?
7) Louisville – Charlie Strong has Cardinals faithful in full throat again. It will take time, but he will recruit Florida. Louisville will have success…just not this year.
8) Syracuse – Wounded. The Orange are depleted by injuries on both lines, and Doug Marrone will have to get creative. Syracuse does sport its best LB corp in years, led by Derrell Smith. They will keep them surprisingly close in a few games.
Did you know?
Syracuse once sported pink uniforms….ESPN analyst Lee Corso is former head coach at Louisville….South Florida kicker Maikon Bonani has recovered from back surgery after falling from a theme park ride….Cincinnati’s defense recorded 11 sacks at Syracuse in 2007….The Big East boasted ten of the first 97 players taken in the 2009 NFL Draft….Two Big East schools play home games in NFL stadiums (USF, Pitt)