Seven Games in the Books - Reflections on Week One in the Big East

2011-september-3-19-30-53_medium

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Four Big East teams played their opening games on Saturday and now every team but West Virginia has finished its opening week of football. Having had the opportunity to see each team in action, here are a handful of thoughts on each team and the conference as a whole.

Connecticut

  • I don't know how much I can really draw from a game against a really mediocre FCS team like Fordham, but, what I saw, I liked. DJ Shoemate did not play because he tweaked his ankle late in the week. His replacements played well. 
  • The offense looked a lot more like Randy Edsall's offense than the old George Deleone offense. However, that might reflect the coaching staff's desire not to show much against an inferior opponent. There was some wrinkles in the offense that reflect Deleone's love for option football. Inside the ten yard line and on short yardage downs, the Huskies employed a lot of full house backfield. They also ran some option with Scotty McCummings at quarterback from the I-formation which is classic Deleone.
  • Speaking of McCummings, Pasqualoni said after the game that he still hasn't chosen a single quarterback. Eventually that's got to change, especially as the conference schedule draws closer. I can see the value in injecting McCummings into the lineup as a change of pace, but, if the first game is any indicator, McEntee should be the starter and run with it. He didn't make mistakes, had command of the offense, and made several really nice throws. I like Nebrich's potential and his ability to make plays running the ball too, but, McEntee is the better quarterback right now. 
  • Jesse Joseph didn't play, but the UConn defensive line still played well. The offense is going to meet stiffer resistance against better competition and it will need a lot of help from that defense. They looked far more aggressive under Don Brown and that should help.
  • One major concern for UConn: the offensive tackles did not have a great game in pass protection. 

Cincinnati

  • I know it was Austin Peay, but, 500+ yards of total offense and 72 points is impressive. Especially when you consider that the Bearcats played an ever worse team, Indiana State, last year in week two and only put up 40 points. The team looked focused, executed well, and I think is going to be much improved in year number two under Butch Jones.
  • Jones clearly wants to establish more of a physical running game and more offensive balance and he got that last night. In fact, the Bearcats were unabalanced towards the run. They ran 71 offensive plays, 49 of which were running plays. 12 different guys carried the ball. They finished the night with a whopping 387 yards rushing and averaged just under 8 yards per carry. The future with Akise Teague and Jameel Poteat looks good.
  • I was really happy to see Kembrell Thompkins out there scoring touchdowns after last year's injury kept him off the field. 
  • I think Cincinnati will go toe to toe with Tennessee in Knoxville next week. With the Vols' secondary in flux, Collaros and his group of receivers should be able to move the ball. Can the defense slow down Tennessee?

Pittsburgh

  • Not the "high octane" start you know Todd Graham was hoping for. The Panthers only ran 66 plays when the stated goal was 80. Quarterback Tino Sunseri was just 16 of 28 passing and looked out of sorts throughout the game. To be fair, this is about as abrupt an offensive philosophy change as a college football team can undergo, and it was the Panthers' first live game attempt at it, so we'll have to wait and see another game to see if it will improve. 
  • This game was 21-16 with 13:27 left in the fourth quarter before Pitt finally put some distance between they and Buffalo. 
  • If you're a Pittsburgh fan, you have to be concerned about the offensive line. They didn't pass protect particularly well, and before the long 60 yard run, the running game was pretty pedestrian as well. 
  • The same goes for the defense. Buffalo is not a particularly good offensive football team and Pitt allowed over 400 yards of total offense for the game, 276 yards of it through the air. Not good news for a Pitt team that has Notre Dame, Cincinnati, and West Virginia on the schedule. 
  • While I've been a little negative, I think Pitt did settle into a nice rhythm in the second half and perhaps they will build on that next week.

South Florida

  • Detractors will fall back on some combination of Notre Dame being overrated and doing it to themselves, but, give South Florida credit for gutting out a win on the road against a good Notre Dame team despite being outgained nearly 2 to 1 in total yards and having to navigate two extended weather delays. 
  • Notre Dame certainly made some major blunders and was not careful with the football, but, South Florida forced some of those turnovers as well. Notre Dame deserves some blame and South Florida deserves some credit. It's both/and and not either/or. 
  • The Bulls offense didn't do a whole lot, but, much like the bowl game against Clemson, it didn't beat itself either. BJ Daniels was careful with the football and threw the ball well on the run. He made good decisions, didn't fumble or force passes, and moved the chains on third down consistently, especially in the third and fourth quarters when the Bulls were looking to extend drives and put the game away. 
  • The Bulls have to be somewhat concerned with the offensive line play. They struggled to run the ball with much consistency and Daniels was often rushed on passing downs. Part of that, to be fair, is that Notre Dame has a deep and talented front seven. Still, the Bulls will need more consistent play up front to navigate the Big East schedule. 
  • Is this a good place to #humblebrag that my preview had USF winning 21-20?

The Conference as a Whole

  • The Big East and Big XII are the only BCS-AQ conferences that did not have a team lose to a non-AQ team or to an FCS team in week 1. Sacramento State beat Oregon State, Houston beat UCLA, BYU beat Ole Miss, Boise State whipped Georgia, Richmond beat Duke, and more. 
  • The Big East recorded two wins against other AQ conference teams in week one as well. The conference only recorded six such wins in 2010. The competition gets tougher in week two, but so do the opportunities to make waves nationally. 
  • Looks like I'll probably have to move USF and Cincinnati up my rankings and probably move Louisville, Pitt, and Syracuse down some. 

Now, sit back, relax, and get ready for Holgomania at 3:30 as West Virginia hosts Marshall in the first game of the Dana Holgorsen era. 

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