The Big East may have a degree of smug satisfaction in watching Pittsburgh and Syracuse struggle in their final season in the league before bolting for the ACC.
Certainly, the feeling is warranted. Pitt lost to FCS Youngstown State on Saturday, while Syracuse squandered a four-touchdown second-half comeback to lose at home to Northwestern. Not so fast, though. Future Big East members had embarrassing losses, too, with Memphis losing to UT Martin and Houston losing to Texas State.
For 2012, though, Louisville still has bragging rights after a dominant performance against Kentucky. For the rest of the league, most teams must still refine some wrinkles on offense.
Post-Week 1 Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville -As expected, Bridgewater showed major improvement from the start of his freshman season to the start of his sophomore year. He was remarkably efficient in the victory of Kentucky, completing 19 of 21 passes for 232 yards. From the start, Bridgewater was responsible for three long scoring drives to take an insurmountable lead over Kentucky. Now that he appears to have a strong run game behind him, Bridgewater could be a breakout player on a national level.
2. Ryan Nassib, Syracuse - Nassib was on the verge of his eighth fourth-quarter comeback when Northwestern dodged those hopes in the final minute. Even with the Syracuse offense at less than full strength, Nassib set school records with 44 completions, 65 attempts and 470 yards while passing for four touchdowns -- all in a new no-huddle offense.
3. Matt Brown, Temple - Brown has been overlooked at Temple, first by backing up Bernard Pierce and then by the arrival of Montel Harris. When Harris left Friday’s game against Villanova with a sore hamstring, Brown finished with 145 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
Post-Week 1 Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Khaseem Greene, Rutgers - The Co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year picked up where he left off last season with 14 tackles, a sack and a pass break up in the win over Tulane. Rutgers held Tulane to 262 total yards.
2. Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut - The Huskies sophomore linebacker led a stifling effort against UMass with 3.5 tackles for a loss, seven total tackles and a pass break up. He led a group of three returning starters at linebacker who prevented UMass from crossing midfield all game.
3. Vaughn Carraway, Temple - The Owls safety returned an interception 57 yards for a touchdown and recovered a fumble in Temple’s 41-10 rout of Villanova.
Post-Week 1 Coach of the Year Standings
1. Charlie Strong, Louisville - When other Big East teams sputtered at times against inferior competition (or lost, in the case of Pittsburgh), Louisville dominated rival Kentucky, jumping to a 22-7 halftime lead that never let up. The Cardinals did little to change the assumption they could dominate the Big East.
2. Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut - After a year away from the postseason, UConn may be poised to rebound. The defense has shown signs of returning to form and junior college transfer Chandler Whitmer should stabilize the Huskies’ quarterback situation.
3. Skip Holtz, USF - The Bulls’ had an uneven game on offense, but we’re still optimistic about USF’s chances to contend in the Big East. A road trip against Mountain West contender Nevada this week will be a major measuring stick for the Bulls.
Post-Week 1 Power Rankings
1. Louisville (1-0)
Preseason rank: 1
Week 1 result: Beat Kentucky 32-14
Louisville was the only team to receive preseason fanfare in the Big East, ranked 23rd in the preseason by Athlon. The Cardinals looked the part of a top-25 team by making easy work of Kentucky. Louisville jumped to a 22-7 lead thanks to scoring drives of 99, 85 and 93 yards. The Cardinals started the season with questions at running back, but both Senorise Perry and Jeremy Wright topped 100 rushing yards with Dominique Jones out of the game. Wright finished with three touchdowns, and Perry finished with one.
This week: Missouri State (0-1)
2. USF (1-0)
Preseason rank: 2
Week 1 result: Beat Chattanooga 34-13
The Bulls turned in a dominant defensive performance, holding Chattanooga to 151 total yards (49 rushing, 151 passing). USF also amassed six sacks. However, the offense sputtered at times with quarterback B.J. Daniels accounting for two turnovers (an interception and a sack on a fumble). Still, Daniels completed 17 of 26 passes for 225 yards with three touchdowns and rushed 20 yards for a fourth score. After this warmup, the Bulls go to Reno to face a Nevada team that upset Cal 31-24 on the road on Saturday.
This week: at Nevada (1-0)
3. Rutgers (1-0)
Preseason rank: 4
Week 1 result: Beat Tulane 24-12
Rutgers got off to a slow start against Tulane until cornerback Brandon Jones broke a 7-3 game open a 14-yard interception returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Tulane passed for 254 yards, but the Green Wave all but abandoned the run without injured Orleans Darkwa, the leading rusher in 2011. Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova was uneven after being named the starter, completing 11 of 20 passes for 158 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The Scarlet Knights have a game against Howard to smooth the rough edges before back-to-back road trips to USF and Arkansas.
This week: Howard (1-0)
4. Cincinnati (0-0)
Preseason rank: 5
Week 1 result: DNP
Cincinnati was one of seven teams FBS teams that did not play the opening weekend, giving the Bearcats a leg up on Week 2 opponent Pittsburgh, at least as far as scouting is concerned. The Bearcats were one of the last teams to name a starting quarterback, though Munchie Legaux was considered the favorite since the end of last season. In addition to Legaux taking over for Zach Collaros, the Bearcats replace senior running back Isaiah Pead with George Winn. Cincinnati has won three of the last four meetings but dropped the last game at Nippert Stadium 28-10 in 2010.
This week: Pittsburgh (0-1) (Thursday)
5. Connecticut (1-0)
Preseason rank: 7
Week 1 result: Beat Massachusetts 37-0
The Huskies had an uneventful opener against UMass, a team that joined FBS this season as a member of the MAC. The Minutemen were outclassed, particularly on offense. UConn was dominant on defense, holding UMass to three rushing yards on 24 attempts and 59 yards of total offense. Never mind midfield, UMass didn’t even cross its own 40-yard line. Huskies junior college transfer quarterback Chandler Whitmer had an uneven debut, completing 15 of 29 passes for 219 yards. A major concern was three turnovers out of the backfield with two Whitmer interceptions and a Lyle McCombs fumble.
This week: NC State (0-1)
6. Syracuse (0-1)
Preseason rank: 6
Week 1 result: Lost to Northwestern 42-41
Syracuse played the first week of the season without Athlon All-Big East offensive tackle Justin Pugh and wide receiver Alec Lemon, but the Orange still managed to roll up 596 yards, 41 points and four consecutive second-half touchdowns on Northwestern (perhaps with some help from the Wildcats’ pass defense). Syracuse may have won the stats, but the Orange lost on key plays, which included two big punt returns by Venric Mark (one for an 82-yard touchdown), an interception returned for a touchdown after bouncing off a Syracuse receiver and a fumble returned for a touchdown when Syracuse mistook a lateral for a forward pass.
This week: USC (1-0)
7. Temple (1-0)
Preseason rank: 8
Week 1 result: Beat Villanova 41-10
Temple dominated crosstown rival Villanova, a team that sought entry into the Big East, in the final Mayor’s Cup game. Even with limited contributions for Boston College transfer Montel Harris, Temple rushed for 301 yards and 6.4 yards per carry. Matt Brown rushed for 145 yards, and quarterback Chris Coyer added 80. Harris, who entered the game with a sore hamstring, left after five carries. He’s expected to return against Maryland this week. Temple was outgained 365-362, but scored a defensive touchdown on a 57-yard interception return from safety Vaughn Carraway.
This week: Maryland (1-0)
8. Pittsburgh (0-1)
Preseason rank: 3
Week 1 result: Lost to Youngstown State 31-17
Coach Paul Chryst started his first game day has head coach by suspending six players, including starting defensive tackle Tyrone Ezell and touted running back Rushel Shell. Pitt then went out and lost convincingly to Youngstown State of the FCS. Pitt allowed the Penguins to put up long sustained drives in a game the Panthers never led and trailed by double figures for most of the second half. Ray Graham returned from his season-ending injury last season to rush for 71 yards on 14 carries, but he lost a fumble in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Tino Sunseri continued to struggle, completing 19 of 30 passes but missing a handful of open receivers. The Panthers have little time to recover, starting conference play next week on the road.
This week: at Cincinnati (0-0) (Thursday)
by David Fox
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