Big East Report Card: Through Week 7

It’s time to look at the second quarter of the season report card for Big East teams, now seven weeks into the season. The report card will factor in each team’s success (or lack thereof) offensively and defensively, while keeping their win-loss record in mind. I’ll also provide a few games to look at over the next three games for each team.

Cincinnati – Projected Record: (5-1); Actual Record: (5-1)

Total Offense: 421.67 yards/game; 44th.

Run Offense: 213.67 yards/game; 18th. Pass Offense: 208.00 yards/game; 81st.

Total Defense: 348.60 yards/game; 40th.

Run Defense: 70.50 yards/game; 4th. Pass Defense: 278.00 yards/game; 104th.

Notes: In a conference dominated by defense, Cincinnati is one of a few teams (South Florida and West Virginia being the others) that has an offense. The Bearcats have already exceeded last year’s win total, when they went 4-8 in Butch Jones’s first year. Led by QB Zach Collaros (1187 passing yards, 64.2% completion, and 11 passing TDs) and RB Isaiah Pead (624 rushing yards, 6.8/carry, and 8 rushing TDs), Cincinnati has their eyes set on returning to their second BCS bowl in three seasons. Over the next three games, the Bearcats face a slew of Big East contenders, with matchups at South Florida, at Pittsburgh, and home to West Virginia.

Wins: Austin Peay (72-10); Akron (59-14); NC State (44-14); @ Miami (OH) (27-0); Louisville* (25-16)

Losses: @ Tennessee (23-45)

Current Grade: B.

Connecticut – Projected Record: (5-2); Actual Record: (3-4)

Total Offense: 320.29 yards/game; 103rd.

Run Offense: 119.71 yards/game; 93rd. Pass Offense: 200.60 yards/game; 85th.

Total Defense: 353.17 yards/game; 45th.

Run Defense: 89.00 yards/game; 11th. Pass Defense: 278.50 yards/game; 105th.

Notes: The Huskies enter as defending Big East champs. While they still carry that title, they are a shell of their former selves, under new Coach Paul Pasqualoni. They did show glimpses of their 2010 edition this past weekend, beating Big East favorite South Florida in Storrs. Outside of the West Virginia game, they have had three losses by a combined 14 points. In order to turn the corner, Connecticut is going to need better QB play from Johnny McEntee (1209 passing yards, 52.4% completion, and 6 passing TDs, but 4 INTs) as well as a more consistent run game from RB Lyle McCombs (705 rushing yards, 4.0/carry, and 4 rushing TDs). Despite the slow start to the season, and the sluggish offense, Connecticut can still become bowl eligible by winning three of their last five games. Should the Huskies win two of their next three – at Pittsburgh, home to Syracuse, and home to Louisville – they would put themselves in good shape for a 5th straight bowl appearance.

Wins: Fordham (35-3); @ Buffalo (17-3); South Florida* (16-10)

Losses: @ Vanderbilt (21-24); Iowa State (20-24); Western Michigan (31-38); @ West Virginia* (16-43)

Current Grade: D+.

Louisville – Projected Record: (3-3); Actual Record: (2-4)

Total Offense: 330.50 yards/game; 100th.

Run Offense: 108.83 yards/game; 102nd. Pass Offense: 221.70 yards/game; 70th.

Total Defense: 298.20 yards/game; 16th.

Run Defense: 100.67 yards/game; 20th. Pass Defense: 213.00 yards/game; 50th.

Notes: 2006 was the last year that Louisville beat Kentucky, en route to a 12-1 season, capped off with an Orange Bowl victory over Wake Forest. Louisville won’t replicate that success this year, but still could exceed their win total from last season (7-6). Louisville is 13th in the country in scoring defense, only allowing 16.20 points per game, on average, but the offense hasn’t done what they need to, scoring only 16.33 per game on average. Freshman QB Teddy Bridgewater (709 passing yards, 63.0% completion, 4 passing TDs, but 5 INTs) needs to cut down on the mistakes. Bridgewater would be much better off if he had some help from his wide receivers, WR Josh Chichester (261 receiving yards, 14.5/catch, and 0 receiving TDs) and freshman WR Michaelee Harris (222 receiving yards, 11.1/catch, and 1 receiving TD). Louisville has a little work to do to return to their second straight bowl game, but wins over Rutgers and Syracuse at home would go a long way to getting them back to 500, and two steps closer towards bowl eligibility.

Wins: Murray State (21-9); @ Kentucky (24-17);

Losses: Florida International (17-24); Marshall (13-17); @ North Carolina (7-14); @ Cincinnati* (16-25)

Current Grade: D+.

Pittsburgh – Projected Record: (4-3); Actual Record: (3-4)

Total Offense: 342.14 yards/game; 90th.

Run Offense: 158.00 yards/game; 57th. Pass Offense: 183.30 yards/game; 96th.

Total Defense: 390.50 yards/game; 68th.

Run Defense: 120.71 yards/game; 37th. Pass Defense: 270.33 yards/game; 102nd.

Notes: Looking at the history of teams transitioning from a pro style offense to a spread offense or vice versa, history will tell you not to expect instant results, just ask Michigan (2008) and Florida (2011). Pittsburgh falls in that same category, as Coach Todd Graham is transitioning the program from a pro style offense under alum and Coach Dave Wannstedt to a pro style, like the one he used at Tulsa. As expected, the passing game under pro style QB Tino Sunseri (1204 passing yards, 61.6% completion, 5 passing TDs, but 7 INTs) has struggled, with Sunseri going 18-39 for 165 passing yards and 3 INTs in the last two games. RB Ray Graham (945 rushing yards, 5.8/carry, and 9 rushing TDs) has been a bright spot for the Panthers, thus far. Pitt will need to get the offense going, as the remaining 5 opponents have a combined record of 19-12, facing good offenses in Cincinnati and West Virginia. Games against Connecticut, Cincinnati, and at Louisville will give an idea as to whether this team will be bowl eligible, come December.

Wins: Buffalo (35-16); Maine (35-29); South Florida* (44-17)

Losses: @ Iowa (27-31); Notre Dame (12-15); @ Rutgers* (10-34); Utah (14-26)

Current Grade: C-.

Rutgers – Projected Record: (4-2); Actual Record: (5-1)

Total Offense: 332.83 yards/game; 97th.

Run Offense: 91.83 yards/game; 111th. Pass Offense: 241.00 yards/game; 47th.

Total Defense: 306.00 yards/game; 20th.

Run Defense: 110.33 yards/game; 28th. Pass Defense: 204.80 yards/game; 36th.

Notes: The Scarlet Knights could very well be 6-0, absent the 2 point loss to North Carolina. Regardless, Coach Greg Schiano has the Scarlet Knights playing well, and poised to make a bowl game, if not contend for the Big East title. The run game, led by RB Jawan Jamison (344 rushing yards, 3.0/carry, and 1 rushing TD) is going to need some work, as he has only 1 100 yard game this season, against a porous Navy defense. QB Chas Dodd (754 passing yards, 54.3% completion, 6 passing TDs, but 3 INTs) has seemingly been replaced by freshman QB Gary Nova (683 passing yards, 55.6% completion, 6 passing TDs, but 2 INTs); however, WR Mohamed Sanu (555 receiving yards, 10.1/catch, and 5 receiving TDs) still remains the main target, regardless of who is under center. Rutgers plays at Louisville on Friday night, facing a tough defense. Other tests will come in the form of both West Virginia and South Florida visiting New Brunswick with their high-powered offenses. If Rutgers can make it through those three games, they control their own destiny.

Wins: NC Central (48-0); Ohio University (38-26); @ Syracuse* (19-16 2OT); Pittsburgh* (34-10); Navy (21-20)

Losses: @ North Carolina (22-24)

Current Grade: B+.

South Florida – Projected Record: (4-2); Actual Record: (4-2)

Total Offense: 476.17 yards/game; 18th.

Run Offense: 215.17 yards/game; 17th. Pass Offense: 261.00 yards/game; 33rd.

Total Defense: 355.20 yards/game; 47th.

Run Defense: 125.50 yards/game; 43rd. Pass Defense: 228.20 yards/game; 73rd.

Notes: After a 4-0 start, being ranked as high as #16, and outscoring opponents at a 182-68 clip, South Florida finds themselves unranked, having been outscored 60-27 in the past two games. It shouldn’t be surprising, really, as the Bulls are 52-31 since 2005, but only 20-24 in Big East play. Remember the 2007 Bulls? They were ranked as high as #2, at 6-0, before losing three in a row to finish the season 9-4, and unranked. QB BJ Daniels (1458 passing yards, 61.5% completion, and 8 passing TDs, but 3 INTs) is now a junior, but has still been plagued by turnover problems. Lucky for him, the Bulls’s ground game has been good, led by Colorado transfer RB Darrell Scott (482 rushing yards, 6.2/carry, and 5 rushing TDs) and QB BJ Daniels (322 rushing yards, 5.2/carry, and 4 rushing TDs). Unless they knock off West Virginia at the end of the year, run the table, and the Mountaineers lose another contest, the favorite to win the Big East will again disappoint. Games against Cincinnati and at Rutgers and Syracuse will go a long way to determining whether Coach Skip Holtz can motivate his players to bounce back from two road conference losses.

Wins: @ Notre Dame (23-20); Ball State (37-7); Florida A&M (70-17); UTEP (52-24)

Losses: @ Pittsburgh* (17-44); @ Connecticut* (10-16)

Current Grade: B-.

Syracuse – Projected Record: (4-2); Actual Record: (4-2)

Total Offense: 333.50 yards/game; 96th.

Run Offense: 113.17 yards/game; 99th. Pass Offense: 220.30 yards/game; 71st.

Total Defense: 397.33 yards/game; 75th.

Run Defense: 104.33 yards/game; 23rd. Pass Defense: 293.00 yards/game; 111th.

Notes: Show me an overachiever and I’ll show you Coach Doug Marrone. After a 4-8 start at Syracuse, Marrone took the Orange to a bowl game, and won, for the first time since 2001. So far, the Orange have held true to form, with losses to the more talented USC and Rutgers. But they have defeated upstart Toledo (controversial, nonetheless) and Wake Forest. The pass defense will need to get better, as they welcome in the number 4 passing offense in the country, in West Virginia. QB Ryan Nassib (1294 passing yards, 64.6% completion, and 11 passing TDs) and WRs Alec Lemon (322 receiving yards, 10.4/catch, and 3 receiving TDs) and Van Chew (299 receiving yards, 15.0/catch, and 3 receiving TDs) lead the Syracuse offense through the air. RB Antwon Bailey (553 rushing yards, 4.5/carry, and 5 rushing TDs) has been successful on the ground. Games at Louisville and Connecticut will help determine whether Syracuse can return to their second straight bowl game.

Wins: Wake Forest (36-29 OT); Rhode Island (21-14); Toledo (33-30 OT); @ Tulane (37-34)

Losses: @ USC (17-38); Rutgers* (16-19 2OT)

Current Grade: B.

West Virginia – Projected Record: (5-1); Actual Record: (5-1)

Total Offense: 503.50 yards/game; 11th.

Run Offense: 123.00 yards/game; 91st. Pass Offense: 380.50 yards/game; 4th.

Total Defense: 301.17 yards/game; 18th.

Run Defense: 119.83 yards/game; 36th. Pass Defense: 181.33 yards/game; 14th.

Notes: Before June, West Virginia was the odds-on-favorite to win the Big East. Then, on June 10th, then-Coach Bill Stewart was forced to resign as head coach, with coach-in-waiting, and current coach, Dana Holgorsen, taking over. Now six games into the season, and the only blemish against #1 LSU, West Virginia is proving why they still should be the odds-on-favorite to win the Big East. For a team built on defense the past few years, Holgorsen brings in an offensive mentality, having been offensive coordinator under-then Coach Mike Leech at Texas Tech (2005-2007; #4 in total offense in 2005,#8 in 2006, and #3 in 2007), Coach Kevin Sumlin at Houston (2008-2009; #3 in total offense in 2008 and #1 in 2009), and Coach Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State (2010; led nation in total offense). So the passing numbers WVU has put up shouldn’t be a surprise, led by Heisman contender QB Geno Smith (2159 passing yards, 63.95% completion, and 16 passing TDs). Smith has weapons such as WRs Stedmon Bailey (634 receiving yards, 18.6/catch, and 5 receiving TDs) and Tavon Austin (564 receiving yards, 13.4/catch, and 2 receiving TDs). RB Dustin Garrison (436 rushing yards, 6.9/carry, and 5 rushing TDs) has also contributed on the ground. WVU will be a bowl team for the 10th straight year, no question. Games at Syracuse and Rutgers and home to Louisville will be a starting point to determining whether that bowl game is a BCS bowl, their first since 2007.

Wins: Marshall (34-13); Norfolk State (55-12); @ Maryland (37-31); Bowling Green (55-10); Connecticut* (43-16)

Losses: LSU (21-47)

Current Grade: A-.

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