By Steven Lassan
Post-Week 1 Big East Power Rankings
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1. West Virginia (1-0) –Dana Holgorsen’s debut will certainly be a memorable one. Mother Nature wrecked havoc on Sunday’s matchup, forcing the game to be cancelled with a quarter to go. Although it wasn’t a complete game, the Mountaineers posted 34 points and quarterback Geno Smith threw for 248 yards and two scores. A concern was the play of the offensive line, which struggled with pass protection at times and didn’t open many holes for the rushing attack. Holgorsen’s offense is a work in progress and there will be a few growing pains the rest of the way. The Mountaineers take on Norfolk State this Saturday.
2. South Florida (1-0) – Skip Holtz reminded his team all week that the trip to South Bend was all about business, not a sight-seeing opportunity. Mission accomplished. The Bulls were helped by five Notre Dame turnovers, but held on to win 23-20. Even though the Bulls didn’t have much success on offense, not turning the ball over and getting steady play from quarterback B.J. Daniels was huge. South Florida appears to be the biggest challenger to West Virginia in the Big East conference race, but likely won’t be tested until Sept. 29, when the Bulls travel to take on Pittsburgh.
3. Pittsburgh (1-0) – Todd Graham promised a high-octane offense at Pittsburgh, but that wasn’t exactly the case in the opener. The Panthers had their share of struggles against Buffalo, but running back Ray Graham turned in an excellent performance, rushing for 201 yards and three touchdowns. Quarterback Tino Sunseri did not have his best game, completing 16 of 28 throws for 179 yards and one touchdown. As expected, it will take a game or two for Sunseri to get comfortable within this offense. The defense has room to improve as well, after allowing Buffalo running back Branden Oliver to rush for 114 yards and one score. With Maine visiting Heinz Field this Saturday, the Panthers have another tune-up before the schedule gets tougher.
4. Syracuse (1-0) – For three quarters, it was a very lethargic effort for Syracuse. However, the Orange staged a furious rally and prevailed in overtime over Wake Forest. Although Syracuse got the win, coach Doug Marrone has plenty to work on this week in practice. Despite four returning starters, the offensive line struggled to generate a push. Also, the secondary was torched by Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price. With Rhode Island up next, Syracuse should be 2-0 going into a tough road date against USC on Sept. 17.
5. Cincinnati (1-0) –It’s hard to gather much from Cincinnati’s opener. The Bearcats took on an overmatched Austin Peay squad – and one that recently reinstated scholarship football. Quarterback Zach Collaros was on fire, completing 12 of 19 throws for 134 yards and four scores. Running back Isaiah Pead took only seven carries, but managed 87 yards and two touchdowns. The good news for Cincinnati fans? Zero turnovers. With a trip to Tennessee up next, the Big East will get a better idea of where Cincinnati stands after this Saturday.
6. Connecticut (1-0) – Paul Pasqualoni’s debut was a success. After the game was pushed back two days due to Hurricane Irene, the Huskies easily handled Fordham, while showing some signs of life on offense. The quarterback situation is still an ongoing battle, with Michael Nebrich, Scott McCummings and Johnny McEntee each getting snaps. With D.J. Shoemate sidelined with an injury, Lyle McCombs filled in admirably on the ground, posting 141 yards and four scores. The Huskies also delivered on defense, allowing only 169 total yards and three points. Connecticut travels to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt in Week 2.
7. Rutgers (1-0) – Thursday night’s win was a step in the right direction for the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers dominated North Carolina Central, winning 48-0. True freshman running back Savon Huggins rushed for two scores in the opener, while quarterback Chas Dodd had a solid performance, completing 9 of 17 passes for 113 yards and one touchdown. The Scarlet Knight defense also got into the act, registering two touchdowns. The offensive line also performed better, not allowing a sack and averaging 3.3 yards per carry. The Big East should get a better idea of how far Rutgers has come since last year, when they take on North Carolina next Saturday in Chapel Hill.
8. Louisville (1-0) – The Cardinals showed a lot of good and bad against Murray State, which is to be expected with a young roster. The defense held up well against the Racers, especially with concerns at cornerback and a few bodies missing up front. The offensive line needs some work, but will get a boost whenever center Mario Benavides returns to the lineup. With five new starters stepping in, the Cardinals got very little push up front. Quarterback Will Stein had a solid effort, completing 17 of 32 passes. Stein easily outplayed talented true freshman Teddy Bridgewater, who threw an interception on his only pass of the night.
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