February 22, 2019

The Big Least is Turrrrable!

Can we all agree that the Big East heading into this NCAA tourney was overrated? The NCAA Committee should finally understand that there are other teams that can ball and can make waves in the tournament besides the Big East. Even Charles Barkley acknowledged at the beginning of the tournament that the Big East would not do well. He continued to trash the Big East right in front of his studio partner Rick Pitino after Louisville was bounced by Morehead State.

Out of the eleven teams from the Big Least that made the Big Dance UConn and Marquette are the only two left.  All the big names including Pitt, Notre Dame, and Syracuse have all gone fishing. VCU is a team that almost everyone had a problem making the tournament and all they have done is blow out USC, Georgetown and Purdue on their way to the Sweet Sixteen. In the future let more teams like Harvard, Wichita State and Colorado in the tournament because they have just as could a chance of producing some March magic.

Big East Football Blows

In case you haven’t noticed football in the Big East this year is abysmal. Week five in college football is in the books and the Big East has a total of two wins against BCS Conference teams. The conference power rankings provided by CBS has the “Big Easy” below the Mountain West and even the WAC which has to be embarrassing for the former powerhouse. The main reason for this fall from grace is due to the recent coaching turnover.

Several sharp coaches have moved on to other programs and due to these departures their former teams have suffered. Bobby Petrino left Louisville after coaching the Cardinals to a 12-1 record in 2006 and an Orange Bowl victory. Since his departure Louisville has gone 6-6, 5-7 and 4-8.

Cincinnati has lost two solid coaches in Mark Dantonio (Michigan State) and Brian Kelly (Notre Dame) over the last five years. Last year Cincy was 12-0 before meeting their demise in the Sugar Bowl against Florida. This year the Bearcats have yet to beat a FBS team.

Rich Rod bolted from West Virginia in 2007 after leading the Mountaineers to two BCS bowl wins and three years in a row of winning 11 games. The Mountaineers haven’t fallen quite as hard as Louisville or Cincy, but they aren’t even close to the Rodriguez led teams. West Virginia has lost eight games in just the last two years.

Three coaches that were in the Big East in 2006 have their new teams in the Top 20 yet not a single team currently in the league can say the same thing.

Is the Big East Underrated?

The Big East went through a tough season last year to say the least, but let’s not forget this conference won consecutive BCS games the three previous years. The glaring issue right now is West Virginia isn’t the annual national title contender they were for so many years under Rich Rodriguez and no other Big East team seems ready to step up. That being said, almost every team in the conference this year truly feels they have a chance to win the Big East and cash in on the large BCS payout.

Cincinnati would love to repeat as champions, but they lost a crippling 10 defensive starters from last year’s Orange Bowl team. Quarterback Tony Pike leads a high profile offense under head coach Brian Kelly, but I’m not so sure they can recover from their defensive issues. Rutgers has had great success under coach Schiano in recent years even if they haven’t made the most impressive bowl games. Rutgers has a workable schedule with Pittsburgh, South Florida and West Virginia coming to town so keep an eye on the Scarlet Knights.

South Florida has made big strides in recent years and in 2009 might be the year they put it all together. Star quarterback Matt Grothe is in his senior year and the defense is quite talented as usual. UConn under Randy Edsall continues to focus on getting the best quality of player they can sign and then coach them up to a whole new level. Four players were drafted on the first of the NFL Draft last year which is very impressive for a school that just a few years ago stunk up the football field. Connecticut will still be solid on the defensive side of the ball and you can rest assured they will continue to focus on the rushing game.

Pittsburgh has been picked by many to win the Big East this year based on a fantastic defense along with a good special teams. The big question is how do the Panthers recover from the loss of RB LeSean McCoy in order to generate some semblance of an offense. If they can score a reasonable amount of points then they can win the Big East.

Syracuse and Louisville are the two teams who aren’t in contention this year. There isn’t really much more to say about either team other than the fact Syracuse has former Duke basketball point guard vying for the starting position at quarterback.

Below is a short list of players to keep your eyes on this year in the Big East

LB Reed Williams, Sr. West Virginia
DE George Selvie, Sr. South Florida
WR Mardy Gilyard, Sr. Cincinnati
DE Greg Romeus, Jr. Pittsburgh
QB Matt Grothe, Sr. South Florida
DT Arthur Jones, Sr. Syracuse
RB Noel Devine, Jr. West Virginia
LB Scott Lutrus, Jr. Connecticut
RB Victor Anderson, Soph. Louisville
LB Ryan D’Imperio, Sr. Rutgers

Suprise Team

South Florida – The Bulls have become a more prominent team in recent years, but this could be the one when they get over the hump. A lot of the pressure will ride on the arm and legs of Matt Grothe because you can count on their defense being solid.

Disappointing Team

West Virginia – Mr. Everything quarterback Pat White is long gone and coach Bill Stewart pales in comparison to former head coach Rich Rodriguez. Take these two factors in conjunction with an offensive line overhaul and you have a recipe for disaster.

Game of the Year

South Florida at Pittsburgh. This year is really wide open in the Big East, but this game could be the deciding factor in who wins the conference crown. Look for this game to be a defensive brawl and don’t forget the 26-21 victory Pittsburgh pulled out last year in South Florida