Charlie Strong's team stands alone as undefeated in the Big East
Just two weeks ago, the Big East was basking in the glow of three teams undefeated in October.
That number is down to one. Barely.
Louisville edged Cincinnati 34-31 in overtime Friday to keep its record unblemished. Rutgers wasn’t so lucky against the Big East’s 2012 nemesis, the MAC. The Big East is 4-4 against the MAC this season, but two of the losses handed Rutgers and Cincinnati their first defeats of the season in a two-week span.
Offensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville -- If the debate needed to be settled, Bridgewater sealed his spot as the Big East’s top quarterback over Cincinnati’s Munchie Legaux. Bridgewater was 24 of 41 for 416 yards with two touchdowns and an interception against the Bearcats on Friday. Bridgewater is completing 67.4 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and a pick in three conference wins this season.
2. Ryan Nassib, Syracuse -- Nassib completed the eighth fourth-quarter comeback of his career thanks to four second-half touchdown passes against USF. In the second half and overtime this season, Nassib is completing 70.7 percent of his passes with 15 touchdowns and four interceptions.
3. Jawan Jamison, Rutgers -- The game was all but taken out of Jamison’s capable hands when the Scarlet Knights turned to the pass to catch up against Kent State. Jamison rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown and caught eight passes for a career-high 88 yards.
Defensive Player of the Year Standings
1. Khaseem Greene, Rutgers -- The collapse against Kent State notwithstanding, Greene remains the top defensive player in the Big East. He finished seven tackles and a forced fumble against the Golden Flashes.
2. Jason Hendricks, Pittsburgh -- Pitt’s opponent last week, Temple, isn’t built to test many secondaries, but Hendricks finished with six tackles against the Owls.
3. Calvin Pryor, Louisville -- This spot was held last week by Pryor’s teammate, defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin, who left the Cincinnati win with an injury. While the Cardinals await word on their newfound pass rusher, let’s take a look at Pryor, who has four forced fumbles and two interceptions this season, including one in the win over the Bearcats.
Coach of the Year Standings
1. Charlie Strong, Louisville -- Louisville doesn’t always make it look easy, but the Cardinals remain the class of the Big East. Five of Louisville’s last six wins were by a touchdown or less. Despite the close calls, Louisville is finding ways to close out games, which is something Strong couldn’t say a year ago.
2. Kyle Flood, Rutgers -- Rutgers surprise story came crashing down as the Scarlet Knights lost 35-23 to Kent State (7-1). Rutgers still has a chance to win the Big East, but they’ll have to find more consistency on offense before resume conference play on Nov. 17 against Cincinnati.
3. Butch Jones, Cincinnati -- Sure, it’s odd to have the coach of a team that lost back-to-back games on this list, but who else should be considered? The Bearcats bounced back from the loss to Toledo to take Louisville to overtime on the road. A major test will be this week against a Syracuse team that suddenly has momentum.
Big East Post-Week 9 Power Rankings
1. Louisville (8-0, 3-0)
Last week’s rank: 1
Week 9 result: Beat Cincinnati 34-31 in overtime
Cincinnati tested Louisville on both sides of the ball, but the Cardinals eventually adjusted, even if it took overtime to do so. Louisville caught the final break of the game when John Wallace got a second chance at a game-winning a field goal after the first attempt -- and a bad snap -- was erased on a Cincinnati time out. Teddy Bridgewater struggled early in the game but bounced back to to lead the Cardinals to their fourth fourth-quarter comeback of the season. If there’s any concern, it’s the Louisville defense giving up 197 rushing yards to USF and 196 rushing yards and three touchdowns to Cincinnati in the last two weeks. That trend will be worth watching as the Cardinals face run-heavy Temple this week.
This week: Temple
2. Rutgers (7-1, 4-0)
Last week’s rank: 2
Week 9 result: Lost to Kent State 35-25
Rutgers’ slow starts and good fortune caught up to them in a spectacular way against Kent State. Trailing 21-10 to Kent State, the Scarlet Knights struggled in the first half against the Golden Flashes the same as they had against Syracuse and Temple. Unlike the other two games, turnovers sabotaged the comeback bid against Kent State as quarterback Gary Nova threw six interceptions when the Scarlet Knights had to put the game on his shoulders to pull out of a two-score deficit. Nova will remain the starting quarterback as Rutgers has two weeks (an off week and a non-conference game against Army) to find out what went wrong before returning to Big East play.
This week: Off
3. Cincinnati (5-2, 1-1)
Last week’s rank: 3
Week 9 result: Lost to Louisville 34-31 in overtime
Cincinnati emerged from its two-game road swing with two losses by a combined nine points and may have trouble getting back into the Big East race, barring a collapse by Louisville. Even without defensive end Walter Stewart, the Bearcats were able to get pressure on Teddy Bridgewater at times (three sacks), but they were burned for three pass plays of 50 yards or more, including a 64-yard touchdown catch by DeVante Parker. Munchie Legaux threw three interceptions, giving him five interceptions in the last two games. He also failed to complete half of his passes for the second consecutive week.
This week: Syracuse
4. Syracuse (4-4, 3-1)
Last week’s rank: 4
Week 9 result: Beat USF 37-36
Syracuse won consecutive Big East games for the first time since Oct. 23-30, 2010 with a back-and-forth game against USF. Syracuse spotted the Bulls a 20-point halftime lead before crawling back in the second half, culminating with a 1-yard touchdown pass to win the game in the final six seconds. With back-to-back games coming up against Cincinnati and Louisville, Syracuse has a chance to stay in the Big East title hunt. Although the Orange completed the comeback, coach Doug Marrone has to be concerned with a run defense that allowed 369 yards to USF, the highest total of the season by 111 yards. Syracuse had been holding Big East opponents to 1.2 yards per carry. USF averaged 8.2 yards.
This week: at Cincinnati
5. Pittsburgh (4-4, 1-3)
Last week’s rank: 5
Week 9 result: Beat Temple 47-17
The good version of Pittsburgh showed up for the second consecutive week, something that’s been a rarity for the Panthers over the last few years. Wins over Buffalo and Temple marked the first time Pitt had defeated consecutive FBS teams since defeating Cincinnati and Kentucky to end the 2010 season. The Panthers’ running back tandem of Ray Graham and Rushel Shell was once again productive (259 yards from scrimmage, four touchdowns), but the play of quarterback Tino Sunseri has been excellent. Sunseri has completed 70 percent of his passes in four of the last five games and hasn’t thrown an interception since Week 3 against Virginia Tech. More of this will be needed in South Bend this week.
This week: at Notre Dame
6. Temple (3-4, 2-2)
Last week’s rank: 6
Week 9 result: Lost 47-17 to Pittsburgh
After starting 2-0 in the Big East, Temple has fallen back to Earth over the last six quarters of conference play. Since leading Rutgers 10-0 at halftime two weeks ago, Temple has been outscored 82-17 in the last game and half. Along the way, Pittsburgh gashed Temple for 528 yards. The lack of a passing game (ranked 118th nationally) has cut into the production of the run game as the Owls averaged 2.8 yards per carry against Rutgers and 3.2 yards per carry against Pitt, two of their three lowest averages of the season.
This week: at Louisville
7. USF (2-6, 0-4)
Last week’s rank: 7
Week 9 result: Lost to Syracuse 37-36
USF looked as good as it has all season when it took a 23-3 lead on Syracuse. Alas, there was still the second half to play. Syracuse answered with three consecutive scoring drives to open the third quarter, but USF answered, too. Still, the final seconds of the fourth quarter brought the same ending as Ryan Nassib completed the game-winning 1-yard touchdown pass with six seconds remaining. Since October last season, the Bulls have lost eight games in which they led in the fourth quarter, plus two others when they started the fourth quarter tied. USF’s best chance to pick up its second Big East win since the start of 2011 will be this week against Connecticut in Tampa.
This week: Connecticut
8. Connecticut (3-5, 0-3)
Last week’s rank: 8
Week 9 result: Off
Connecticut will hope the off week helped the Huskies fix their ailing run game, which has become the worst in the Big East by a wide margin. UConn is averaging a conference-low 1.55 yards per carry in league games. The next worst (Pitt, 3.11 yards per carry) is averaging twice that. The Huskies have not rushed for a touchdown in three Big East games, the next worst is Rutgers (two). If there’s a cure to the UConn run game, it might be USF, which is last in the league in run defense.
This week: at USF
By David Fox
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