Rutgers' Khaseem Greene stakes claim for Big East's top defensive player
The Big East is three weeks away from its conference season beginning in earnest, but the league is already starting to sort out its contenders. A week after Cincinnati dismantled Pittsburgh in the first Big East game of the season, Rutgers used a second-half burst to defeat USF on the road.
Despite a scare with North Carolina, Louisville still looks like the team to beat in the Big East. Unless, of course, Pitt treats the rest of its opponents the same way it treated Virginia Tech.
Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville -- Louisville scored on its first six possessions against North Carolina (five touchdowns, one field goal) as Bridgewater completed 23 of 28 passes for 279 yards with three touchdowns. Bridgewater is completing 81.8 percent of his passes this season and hasn’t thrown an interception.
2. Jawan Jamison, Rutgers -- The Scarlet Knights running back set a school record with 41 carries against USF, no rush bigger than a 41-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Jamison has topped 100 yards in each game this season and has run for 731 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in his last six games dating back to last season.
3. Ryan Nassib, Syracuse -- Nassib heated up in the second half against Stony Brook to complete 22 of 35 passes for 335 yards and three interceptions. Nassib has passed for 300 yards and accounted for at least three passing or rushing touchdowns in every game this season.
Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut -- The sophomore linebacker had 14 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks and a forced fumble in a 24-21 win over Maryland. He leads the Big East in tackles and is second in sacks.
2. Walter Stewart, Cincinnati -- Stewart had a quiet day against Delaware State (two tackles, one pass break up), but he still had one of the best defensive performances in the Big East in the Bearcats’ opener against Pittsburgh a week ago.
3. Khaseem Greene, Rutgers -- The Scarlet Knights linebacker continues to rack up tackles with 10 against USF. He’s had at least 10 stops in each game this season. Against USF, he added two tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Coach of the Year Standings
1. Charlie Strong, Louisville -- North Carolina’s late surge against the Cardinals is a bit of a concern. Still, Louisville has topped 32 points in all three games this season matching the Cardinals’ total of 30-point games from all of last season.
2. Butch Jones, Cincinnati -- Pitt made Cincinnati’s win over the Panthers in Week 2 look a little more impressive by upsetting Virginia Tech. The Bearcats can give the Big East two wins over the Hokies themselves in two weeks.
3. Kyle Flood, Rutgers -- Is it safe yet to get on the Rutgers/Kyle Flood bandwagon? While the win over USF was far from perfect, Rutgers should brag about a 10-point conference win on the road thanks to a balanced effort on both sides of the ball.
Post-Week 3 Power Rankings
1. Louisville (3-0, 0-0 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 1
Week 3 result: Beat North Carolina 39-34
Louisville rolled over North Carolina for three quarters before having to sweat out the final moments. It was the most vulnerable Louisville looked all season. The Cardinals led 36-7 at halftime, but North Carolina in the second half had scoring drives of 79, 65 and 93 yards plus a blocked punt that led to a five-yard touchdown. The Cardinals defense eventually clamped down with a deflected pass in the end zone, but it was a scare nonetheless.
This week: at FIU
2. Rutgers (3-0, 1-0 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 3
Week 3 result: Beat USF 23-13
After two inconsistent performances to start the season against Tulane and Howard, Rutgers looked like a team that could contend for a Big East title with its road win over USF. Quarterback Gary Nova had a breakthrough game, completed 23 of 42 passes for 277 yards with a touchdown as the Scarlet Knights picked USF apart on third downs (8 of 19). The opportunistic defense picked up four turnovers and held USF to 3.3 yards per carry. One worrisome number: Rutgers has the second-most penalties in the country with 31 in three games.
This week: at Arkansas
3. USF (2-1, 0-1 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 2
Week 3 result: Lost to Rutgers 23-13
Another game close in the fourth quarter and another USF loss. The Bulls were tied at 13 with Rutgers until the Scarlet Knights broke the game open in the final three minutes. In the Bulls’ last six Big East losses, USF led or tied in the fourth quarter of each game. On Thursday, the USF defense surrendered two plays of 30 yards or more in the fourth quarter, and B.J. Daniels went 0-for-7 on his final two possessions. Though two of Daniels’ three interceptions against Rutgers were off deflections, turnovers in conference games continue to be troubling. In his career, Daniels as 17 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in Big East games compared to 27 TDs and 12 INTs in non-conference games.
This week: at Ball State
4. Cincinnati (2-0, 1-0 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 4
Week 3 result: Beat Delaware State 23-7
Good thing Cincinnati was playing Delaware State when the Bearcats decided to become careless. The Bearcats turned the ball over six times with two interceptions and two fumbles from quarterback Munchie Legaux, and a fumble each from wide receiver Anthony McClung and tight end Travis Kelce. The Bearcats still took a 20-0 lead at halftime as George Winn rushed for 147 yards. The Bearcats’ odd early season schedule continues with a second off week before Cincinnati faces Virginia Tech on Sept. 29.
This week: Off
5. Connecticut (1-2, 0-0 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 5
Week 3 result: Beat Maryland 24-21
The Huskies’ defense was stifling again in the win over Maryland and former Huskies coach Randy Edsall. UConn held its third consecutive opponent to fewer than 100 yards rushing. The Huskies are second in the nation in yards allowed per play at 2.9 behind only Florida State (1.9). The big difference against Maryland was a sound offense that turned the ball over once after losing seven in the first two games. The Huskies also got a 58-yard punt return for a touchdown from Nick Williams.
This week: at Western Michigan
6. Syracuse (1-2, 0-0 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 6
Week 3 result: Beat Stony Brook 28-17
The win over Stony Brook was probably a little closer than Syracuse would have liked -- the Orange led 17-14 at halftime. Syracuse held Stony Brook, ranked 16th in the FCS coaches poll, to 4 of 19 passing and two interceptions as quarterback Ryan Nassib led two long scoring drives in the second half to break the game open.
This week: at Minnesota
7. Pittsburgh (1-2, 0-1 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 8
Week 3 result: Beat Virginia Tech 35-17
Where was this Pittsburgh team the first two weeks of the season? The Panthers had two productive backs with Ray Graham rushing for 94 yards and two touchdowns and Rushel Shell running for 157 yards. Tino Sunseri was almost mistake-free with three touchdown passes and one pick. The protection was also an encouraging development. He was sacked only once after being sacked six times in the first two games and 63 times all last season. The Pitt defense helped put Virginia Tech away with three interceptions and allowing 59 rushing yards. Was this a fluke or a sign that Pitt is starting to put its season back together?
This week: Gardner-Webb
8. Temple (1-1, 0-0 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 7
Week 3 result: Off
Temple could emerge from the off week with running back Montel Harris ready to play. The Boston College transfer hasn’t been ruled out for the game against Penn State after sustaining a hamstring injury in the opener. Running back Matt Brown is also trying to recover from an ankle injury. Temple has not defeated Penn State since 1941, giving the Owls an 0-36-1 record against the Nittany Lions since their last win.
This week: at Penn State
By David Fox
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