Friday, October 30, 2009

Big East Power Rankings Week 9


1. Cincinnati Bearcats 7-0, (3-0): Last week: Win vs. Louisville 41-10 - Instead of taking the conservative route, like most offenses would do with their back-up quarterback starting, Cincinnati played aggressive with Zach Collaros under center and took advantage of his running ability. He rushed for 52 yards on 11 carries last week, which helped opened the running game. On shotgun formations the Louisville defense was conscious of Collaros and had to account for his legs, so on handoffs the Cardinals were a little slower to react to when a running back got the carry. It’s a different look Cincinnati can bring when their back up is playing. Sophomore Isaiah Pead ran for two touchdowns including a 67-yard run on a draw play. But Collaros was also impressive through the air completing 15-of-17 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns. The receiving core also had a fantastic game led by Marshwan Gilyard who caught four balls for 82 yards and a touchdown. Junior Armon Binns continues to step up as the team’s number two wide out and as scoring threat, he made a tremendous touchdown catch in the back of the end zone and finished the game 75 yards. Binns has reeled in 12 catches and four touchdowns in the last three games and has made a handful of tough catches look easy. His development is an important component for the offense to take the next step and take some heat of Gilyard who’s constantly seeing double-teams.

Up next: At Syracuse -
Another game without Tony Pike shouldn’t be a problem...the offense hasn’t missed a beat so far and it won’t be the Orange defense that takes them out of rhythm. It’s important for the Bearcat defense to have another big game. The defensive line has been playing well and did a lot of disrupting in their previous two games versus Louisville and South Florida, expect more of the same against a banged up offensive line. Andre Revels is playing like an all-conference linebacker; he will be a key to shut down the Syracuse running game.

Prediction: Cincinnati 30, Syracuse 14

2. Pittsburgh 7-1, (4-0): Last week: Win vs. South Florida 41-14 -
Why have the Panthers moved up a spot? Their route of USF is part of it, but in terms of the big picture the answer is quarterback Bill Stull. Talks have to start for Stull as conference player of the year–he’s thrown for 1, 654 yards, 16 touchdowns and four interceptions and against South Florida he starting out completing his first 11 passes and completed 72 percent of his passes. He’s no longer a liability; Stull is playing like a star. When their quarterback is on top of his game this offense is dangerous. With his 111 yards from this weekend freshman running back Dion Lewis eclipsed the century mark once again, bringing his season total to 1,029. He ranks second in the nation in rushing, Lewis isn’t just the freshman of the year in the conference, he’s the most dynamic newcomer in the country. Against the Bulls they played a perfect game–was it a one time thing or just the start to an incredible run?

Up Next: Idle

3. West Virginia 6-1, (2-0): Last week: Win vs. Connecticut 28-24 -
The 56-yard touchdown run that saved the day by Noel Devine is all you need to see to know what an amazing running back he is. When he burst down the sideline it looked as if he would be pushed out of bounds at around the 30-yard line, but remarkably he kept his balance and his feet from touching the sideline, and eventually took it to the house for a score. Playing a close game at home against the Huskies isn’t something to panic about; they’re a gritty football team. But overall Pittsburgh has been playing better football, close calls aren’t a problem-but getting quarterback Jarrett Brown in sync is.

Up next: At South Florida - This is certainly a game West Virginia has to be eerie of. First of all, recent history. The Bulls have taken two of the last three from the Mountaineers and are one of the only defensive units that thrive at stopping mobile quarterbacks and lateral runners. If Brown doesn’t play a crisp game, it will be another close call for West Virginia. There will be a lot of pressure on the defense to stop South Florida’s duel-threat quarterback, B.J. Daniels–they may force him to throw a little bit more then he would like but he’s got the arm for big plays.

Prediction: West Virginia 27, South Florida 23

4. South Florida Bulls 5-2, (1-2): Last week: Lost at Pittsburgh 41-10 - The Bulls are sputtering. The last two years this football team has collapsed down the stretch and after back-to-back losses including a spanking in Heinz Field there’s panic. There is a lot of worry when this defense, what is supposed to be the backbone of the team, is dominated for 486 yards, 214 on which came on the ground. At this point they can’t recruit a giant nose-tackle to solve their woes, it’s time for the staff to make adjustments and utilize their athleticism in a different way. Offensively, this team is expected to struggle a little bit. With a freshman quarterback and inconsistent receivers it was bound to happen, however they can’t let up or it’s going to be three mid-season collapses in a row.

Up Next: West Virginia - This is perfect timing. With the team moral low, what better way to boost it back up again than with a big home win? And the West Virginia is a good match-up for them. Even though they struggle against the run, they have the hard nose tacklers to limit Devine from running over people and the speed to contain him on the outside. A lot of pressure for senior George Selvie to step up, he hasn’t been himself lately. But the Bulls won’t win this game unless a receiver steps up, the quarterback can’t just run the offense alone. Will this be the game Carlton Mitchell or Sterling Griffin breaks out?

Prediction: West Virginia 27, South Florida 23

5.Connecticut 4-3, (1-2): Last week: Lose at West Virginia 24-28 -
No shame in losing the way they did to West Virginia last week...a tough loss for an emotionally charged unit. Right before Devine made his legendary run, Connecticut had a magical touchdown score of their own. After a fumble recovered on an interception return allowed the Huskies to retain possession, quarterback Cody Endres hit Marcus Easley from his own 12-yard linea cross midfield that the wide out took the rest of the way for the score. It was a magical moment in a game that had a lot more meaning than just a win or a loss. The Huskies remain at the same spot despite a loss.

Up Next: Rutgers - It will be another emotional scene in Storrs as the football team returns to play their first home game since the death of teammate Jasper Howard. This very big game for Connecticut. A loss would put them in a position where they will have to fight for bowl-eligibility but a win could propel them to have a shot for a better bowl game. The offense has looked more and more balanced each week, and against Rutgers, expect plenty of deep balls again. What gives the Huskies the edge is their defense. Other than stellar backs Lewis and Devine, Connecticut hasn’t had trouble stopping anybody and they will be geared up to stop the run and make the freshman quarterback beat them.

Prediction: Connecticut 25, Rutgers 17

6. Rutgers 5-2, (0-2): Last week: Win at Army 27-10: A win is a win; even if comes against one of the worst teams in college football. Rutgers dominated this contest, more than the score will even tell you. The triple-option was no problem to defend and any time Army had an opportunity to take advantage, the Cadets would shoot themselves in the foot with a fumble or a dropped pass. There’s not a whole lot to learn about Rutgers from this game. Joe Martinek rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns.

Up Next: At Connecticut - This is a chance for Rutgers to prove themselves. They have no signature wins, unless you count the victory at Maryland (you shouldn’t) and this is a big game. It’s a big game because they come in as heavy underdogs to a team that’s not that much more talented then they are. But all the things that Rutgers does to hurt themselves like committing too many penalties, sloppy quarterback play or inconsistent tackling...Connecticut does well. Both teams run the ball pretty well and can defend it too, so the key to the game is who is a better through the air. Does Tom Savage finally break out in a conference game?

Prediction: Connecticut 25, Rutgers 17

7. Syracuse 3-4, (0-2): Last week: Win vs. Akron 28-14 - Finally this team blocks for their talented tailback. Delone Carter broke free for 170 yard rushing and three touchdowns and was given the opportunity to do what he does best. He’s one of the toughest backs to take down on first contact; the problem is that contact usually comes behind the line of scrimmage. It’s great for Carter and Syracuse fans to see what the former Mr. Ohio can do when he has the chance. Mike Williams was suspended for violating team rules, but sophomore receiver Marcus Sales stepped up with six catches for 61 yards and a touchdown. Senior linebacker Derrell Smith continues to have a tremendous season. Against Akron he recorded three tackles for a loss including two sacks, and was in on forcing a fumble. He leads the team 64 tackles and 10 for a loss; he’s been one of the most improved players on this defense over the last two years. Special note in the game, Dashan Miller of Akron who set a school record of 191 kickoff return yards, on four returns.

Up Next: Cincinnati - The Biletnikoff semifinalist, Williams, will be back for the game versus Cincinnati and boy do they need him. The only way Syracuse pulls off the upset is if quarterback Greg Paulus limits his turnovers and gets Williams the ball. The secondary has been spotty to say the least, so they catch a break not facing Pike. The defensive line has been playing well and they might give Collaros a challenge. Defensive tackle Arthur Jones has been hungry for a big win on a big stage.

Prediction: Cincinnati 30, Syracuse 14

8. Louisville 2-5, (0-3): Last week: Lost at Cincinnati 10-41 - No surprise that this team was spanked on the road. There’s a lot to be concerned about. The secondary has been horrific all season, the offensive line is in shambles and the running game has all but vanished.

Up Next: Arkansas State - This game is the season. Coming into the year it was expected the Cardinals would finish at or near the bottom of the division and loss here would be truly rock bottom. They already manhandled Indiana State in their opener and took care of Southern Miss, but they cannot lose to the 2-4 Red Wolves out of the Sun Belt. Running back Victor Anderson will likely get the ball a lot in this game, and versus a poor run defense it should mean good things for Louisville.

Prediction: Louisville 36, Arkansas State 20

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Photos Courtesy of University of Pittsburgh, USF Athletics Communications, Tom Ciszak Rutgers Athletics