If you watched the slate of Big East football games this past week, you know it didn't go well for the conference after starting off 8-0 in Week One of the 2011 season. Granted, there was tougher competition in Week Two, but 4-4 was not good enough, especially when we expected to win 6-7 games. We weren't the only ones with high expectations. Football Study Hall had seven out of eight (sorry Rutgers) Big East teams favored in Week Two.
The results are in from Football Study Hall. The only Big East team to exceed expectations in Week Two was Rutgers. South Florida met expectations and Cincinnati, Connecticut and Louisville all underachieved. Pitt, Syracuse and West Virginia all played FCS teams so they were excluded from the strict expectations, but only West Virginia played well (and even in the Mountaineers' case, they started too slow).
Here's my breakdown of this week's disappointment:
- Cincinnati at Tennessee: Butch Jones looks to be overmatched as a coach at this level of football. The onside kick from Derek Dooley after Tennessee's first touchdown completely caught the Bearcats flatfooted. I didn't mind Cincinnati attempting the fourth down conversions, but they were awful in their conception. The Bearcats and teams that spread the ball out in general have no good plays for short yardage power situations. Fix it. Now. It's not that difficult. Speaking of running the ball, this game needed more plays for Isaiah Pead. The Bearcats had the ball for a measly 22:37 but rushed for 6.4 yards per carry when they did try to run. We all knew the secondary was an issue after the first 200 passing yards by Tyler Bray, why not try to keep it away before he threw for 200 more?
- Connecticut at Vanderbilt: Perhaps it is just my SEC background talking here but, you do not lose to Vandy. It isn't even conceivable. We know the Huskies don't have a quarterback or a receiver UConn, but even that shouldn't have been an issue. You don't need to pass to beat Vanderbilt. Unfortunately, UConn tried to pass and threw three interceptions and barely cracked 100 yards passing. Predictably, the 'Dores gave you three turnovers, but Connecticut's insistence on trying to pass gave them three as well, two of which resulted in 14 of Vandy's 24 points. Jordan Todman is gone but Lyle McCombs was doing a decent job in the role of the everything back. He just needed more carries.
- Louisville vs. FIU: T.Y. Hilton...you know he makes defenses look stupid, so why not find out who stopped him and try that? Rutgers and Pittsburgh stopped him last year. He had 80 combined receiving yards in those games, but 201 (a school record) against the Cardinals on seven catches. Hilton had 83 yards on his second touchdown reception against Louisville. Why not try bumping him at the line or double covering him? None of the other receivers did anything for FIU. The offensive line for the Cards is a mess, six sacks and 2 yards per carry won't get it done against anybody.
- Pittsburgh vs. Maine: The final score makes it look closer than it was because of garbage time scores by Maine. However, letting Tino Sunseri get sacked 7 times and rushing for 2.6 yards per carry against an FCS team...well see the Louisville comment. Thank goodness for Ray Graham who rushed for 121 yards and 3 touchdowns for the Panthers. Despite the win, we had to drop Pitt out of our Top 25 for this performance which had to do with poor pass defense more than a misfiring offense.
- Rutgers at North Carolina: We didn't expect Rutgers to win and they didn't. However, they kept it close and had a chance to win so we're all good with the effort right? NO. Rutgers won the turnover battle 5 to nothing. The first turnover was a pick returned to the UNC 2. Four plays later, the Scarlet Knights gained one yard and turned the ball over on downs. This was a bad sign. Rutgers finished the game with 1 yard rushing on 25 attempts. I hate kicking short field goals and I even know that Rutgers shouldn't have tried to go for it on fourth down there. Chasing points with a two-point conversion attempt on the first touchdown was not a good idea either.
- South Florida vs. Ball State: The Bulls cruised to a 37-7 win. This was the only satisfying Big East game of the week. South Florida played a complete game and did what they were supposed to. No real complaints here, keep it up.
- Syracuse vs. Rhode Island: The Orange defeated Rhode Island 21-14. Ryan Nassib threw for 300+ yards, Syracuse couldn't run the ball against an FCS team and this game was way too close for comfort. Luckily for the Cuse, Rhode Island missed a field goal and didn't hand the ball off enough to running back Travis Hurd who gashed the defense for 7.1 yards per carry and a touchdown on his 8 attempts.
- West Virginia vs. Norfolk State: Being down 12-10 at halftime to an FCS team is unacceptable. Outscoring that same team 45-0 in the second half is A-OK, but why didn't it happen in the first half like it was supposed to? One reason is that the rushing attack is simply not good enough. West Virginia only managed 2.6 yards per carry in the first two quarters and 3.1 yards per carry for the game. The talent level separated in the second half but the slow starts can't happen against quality opponents if the Mountaineers are going to win the Big East as we projected.
Overall, this was worse than a mediocre week of football. The main issue is that for the most part, the Big East can't run the football against anyone. Quarterback play has actually improved from last year. However, top to bottom, every team needs a lot of work or else we are looking at another year like 2010. I don't want that and I don't think you do either.