Where Does The Big East Lie?

We're one-third of the way into the 2004 season. Big East teams have surprised in some instances, disappointed in others, and met expectations in one particular case. However, the majority of the conference lies in a muddled state making any future prognostication of their developing seasons and where they may lie in a month or two little more robust than a simple roll of the dice.

BOSTON COLLEGE

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The Eagles will have to dramatically shift gears this week in a battle with run-based Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Boston College showed it could defend a pass-oriented attack by holding Connecticut to seven points last Friday, but the Demon Deacons should provide an entirely different look.
"After playing a team that moves the ball through the air, we have to play a team that runs the ball for 275 yards a game," Eagles coach Tom O'Brien said. "They're also 60 percent on third downs, which is extremely rare."
It seems, however, that Boston College finally has a steady quarterback in place. Senior Paul Peterson, who threw for 193 yards and two touchdowns in the 27-7 victory over Connecticut, has a full understanding of the Eagles' offense and has proven more than efficient (29-77, 527 yards, 6 TDs). He is 6-0 as a starter dating to last season, and is making many Eagle fans ecstatic as he jogs their memories to another similar type of QB that brought fame to the northeastern school
Though redshirt freshman running back Andre Callender burned the Huskies for 98 rushing yards and a touchdown, O'Brien still labeled his backfield situation "precarious." The coach will feel considerably more comfortable when redshirt freshman L.V. Whitworth returns from a knee injury in about two weeks.
Boston College, which has earned five consecutive postseason appearances and is currently enjoying one of the longest winning streaks in the nation, looks to start 4-0 for the first time since 1999.

NOTES, QUOTES   
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Boston College is averaging 22.3 points and 334 yards per game. QB Paul Peterson has completed 29 of 77 pass attempts, thrown two interceptions and six touchdowns. RB Andre Callender is averaging 106 rushing yards, while Grant Adams is the team's top receiver (11 receptions, 2 TDs).
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Boston College owns the Big East's top scoring defense (8.3 ppg.). The Eagles are also rank second in total defense (276.3 yards per game). In 12 quarters, the Eagles have surrendered just three touchdowns.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Next year or the future have nothing to do with this game Saturday." -- Boston College coach Tom O'Brien, on the upcoming match with future ACC foe Wake Forest. The Eagles are playing their final season in the Big East.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL   
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Boston College and Wake Forest, Sept. 25 -- The teams will face off for the 12th time. In the teams' meeting last season, Boston College lost 32-28 despite Derrick Knight's 144-yard rushing performance. ... Wake Forest defeated North Carolina A&T, 42-3, last Saturday. Micah Andrews rushed for 125 yards and three touchdowns.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Paul Peterson -- The oldest Eagle (24) was named Big East Co-Offensive Player of the Week for his 193-yard, two-touchdown performance against Connecticut. Peterson is the first quarterback in Boston College history to go 6-0 as a starter.
DE Mathias Kiwanuka -- The 6-7, 261-pound junior is a preseason All-American and on the Bronko Nagurski Award watch list. He led the conference in sacks last season (11.5) and is doing so again (3).
ROSTER REPORT: RB L.V. Whitworth (knee) is expected to return in two weeks. WR Larry Lester (knee) is questionable for the Wake Forest game. True freshman LB Brian Toal, one of the nation's top recruits from Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) High, is behind junior Jon Misiewicz on the two-deep but figures to see significant time.



CONNECTICUT

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Mistakes plagued the Huskies in their first game as Big East members, a 27-7 loss at Boston College. The excitement of their first conference game lead to some quick mental miscues that put Uconn in an early hole they were unable to climb out of.  Things should be easier this week against Army, which has the nation's longest losing streak -- 17 games.  Last week, the miscues started when return man Allan Barnes fumbled away the opening kickoff, which gave Boston College possession on the Connecticut 13-yard line.  Two plays later, Eagles quarterback Paul Peterson found receiver Joel Hazard for a 12-yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 advantage. The Huskies (2-1) also committed seven penalties for 94 yards in the loss.
"I thought our kids did a good job of competing for the entire 60 minutes; the thing that was disappointing was we didn't play error-free football," Connecticut coach Randy Edsall said.
"You can't give up 40 yards of field position on special teams and fumble a kickoff."
Senior quarterback Dan Orlovsky hasn't thrown a touchdown pass since the Huskies' season-opening win over Murray State, but Edsall isn't concerned. Orlovsky still leads the Big East in total offense (287 yards per game) and ranks second in passing efficiency behind West Virginia's Rasheed Marshall.
In his first start of the season, running back Cornell Brockington managed 105 yards on 24 carries and a 7-yard touchdown.

NOTES, QUOTES   
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: QB Dan Orlovsky (288.3 passing yards per game) and RB Cornell Brockington (68 rushing yards per game) comprise a formidable one-two punch. Even though the Huskies haven't produced a passing touchdown in two games, they will likely do so against Army's suspect secondary. Keron Henry is Connecticut's top deep threat (15 receptions, 1 TD).
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Connecticut leads the Big East in total defense and pass defense. The Huskies also feature the league's third-best run defense. Opponents are averaging 20.3 points and 248.7 yards per game. LB Maurice Lloyd leads the team in tackles (28).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We knew it was going to be very different to compete in this conference. For instance, this was the best Boston College team we've played in the four times we've played them. They're a very underrated football team." -- Connecticut coach Randy Edsall on his team's rough introduction to the Big East.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL   
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Army at Connecticut, Sept. 25 -- The teams will meet for the third time. The Huskies defeated the Black Knights 48-21 last season, and was in control all the way, taking a 34-0 halftime advantage. New Army coach Bobby Ross has inherited quite a rebuilding job, but his team competed well in a 35-21 loss at Houston last week.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Dan Orlovsky -- The 6-5, 236-pound senior is the focal point of Connecticut's offense. He passed for 317 yards and a school-record five touchdowns in the Huskies win over Army last season. Orlovsky hasn't thrown for a score in two games, so expect a breakout performance.
CB Justin Perkins -- The 5-11, 187-pound senior has already picked off two passes this season. Perkins returned one interception 27 yards for a touchdown against Duke.
ROSTER REPORT: RB Terry Caulley (knee) will redshirt this season. OL Ryan Krug (ankle), DB Ernest Cole (ankle), and WR Keron Henry (hamstring) are also nursing injuries.  RB Cornell Brockington, who made his first start this season against Boston College, has settled into the featured back role. Matt Lawrence, who started the Huskies' first two games, didn't get a single carry against the Eagles.


 

PITTSBURGH

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Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris has learned from the recent mistakes of his Division I-A brethren. Unlike Rutgers and Mississippi State, which lost to Atlantic 10 representatives New Hampshire and Maine in successive weeks, Pittsburgh won't underestimate its I-AA opponent Furman (3-0).
"We're playing a top-ranked I-AA team in Furman," Harris said.
"We've got to get ourselves ready to go. Our biggest challenge is to take care of the football, but hopefully our guys will be excited about playing a game at home."
Furman's offense features quarterback Ingle Martin, who transferred from Florida.  He opened last season as the Gators' starter but was eventually replaced by freshman standout Chris Leak. The Paladins have averaged 37.3 points and 545.5 yards with Martin at the helm.
But Harris is more concerned with Pittsburgh's problems.
The Panthers (1-1) turned the ball over four times with junior quarterback Tyler Palko running the show last Saturday. He managed 228 passing yards and one touchdown in a 24-17 loss to Nebraska, but was intercepted three times in the first half.  In fairness to Palko, lineman Rob Petitti is the only returning offensive starter. The inexperienced Panthers showed they could play under pressure, but can they guard against a letdown?
NOTES, QUOTES   
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: QB Tyler Palko has taken over for All-Big East performer Rod Rutherford, but he still has much to prove. He completed 22 of 45 pass attempts for 228 yards and one touchdown, but was intercepted three times against Nebraska. Pittsburgh's running game has been nonexistent. The Panthers rushed for 30 yards last weekend.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Coach Walt Harris is hoping the offense can score enough points to win games before he looks for the defense to seal the deal. Pittsburgh owns the Big East's second-best scoring defense and third-best total defense.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Every game is dangerous. ... They played Clemson real tough a year ago. This is their bowl game and we know we'll get their best shot." -- Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris on his team's upcoming game against I-AA Furman.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL       
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Furman at Pittsburgh, Sept. 25 -- This will mark the first meeting between Pittsburgh and Furman. The Paladins, led by ex-Florida quarterback Ingle Martin, are coming off a 38-6 win over Gardner-Webb last weekend and won't be pushovers for a young Panthers squad.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Tyler Palko -- Despite throwing three first-half interceptions, he managed 228 passing yards and a touchdown against Nebraska. He had a chance to tie the game with five seconds left, but came up short.
P Adam Graessle -- The Big East Special Teams Player of the Week averaged a career-best 47.8 yards on five punts in the loss to Nebraska. The sophomore had 239 punt yards and placed three kicks inside the 20-yard line.
ROSTER REPORT: DE Azzie Beagnyam left the Nebraska game (ankle) and didn't return. WR Princell Brockenbrough is also sidelined indefinitely. Coach Walt Harris actually replaced starting quarterback Tyler Palko with sophomore Joe Flacco for one series against Nebraska, but Palko will start against Furman.


RUTGERS

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Rutgers' bye week has arrived at the perfect time because the coaching staff has several problems to address. Coach Greg Schiano has given priority to the Scarlet Knights' questionable run blocking and beleaguered secondary.  The latter, a known problem coming into the season, the former, was thought to be a strength of the team coming into year four of the Greg Schiano era, but has not met expectations thus far.
After opening the season with a program-defining win over Michigan State (19-14), Rutgers suffered a mind-numbing setback to I-AA New Hampshire (35-24), yet another in the a string of letdown performances against supposedly weaker competition by Greg Schiano's squad.  The Scarlet Knights closed the first part of their schedule with a tenuous victory over Kent State (29-21).
"Our win (over Kent State) was much needed," Schiano said. "We didn't play particularly well in the second half, but we found a way to win, which was important in our development."
Rutgers' secondary ranks 112th out of 117 Division I-A teams (322 passing yards allowed per game) and was picked apart by both New Hampshire and Kent State. Big East opponents are undoubtedly licking their chops.
The Scarlet Knights' well-regarded running game has also struggled of late. Fullback Brian Leonard opened with a 150-yard-plus rushing performance against Michigan State, but hasn't cracked the century mark since. Rutgers (2-1) was held to 50 and 88 rushing yards against New Hampshire and Kent State, respectively.
The Scarlet Knights have two weeks to prepare for their next opponent, Syracuse (Oct. 2).

NOTES, QUOTES   
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Quarterback Ryan Hart is averaging 262 passing yards per game, second in the Big East behind Connecticut's Dan Orlovsky. The Scarlet Knights, however, have struggled to put points on the board in the second half. They have been outscored 21-13 in third quarters and 42-19 in second halves.  This is a tale spun early in Greg Schiano's career when when his depleted teams did not have the requisite depth to hang around with most D I-A opponents - the reason for this current trend is something the Rutgers staff needs to find out if they are to salvage the season.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The biggest concern is the secondary, which ranks 112th our of 117 Division I-A teams. Opponents are averaging 322 passing yards per game. Rutgers did, however, record eight sacks against Kent State on Saturday.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm sure people are thinking twice about that." -- Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, on the benefit of scheduling I-AA teams. The Scarlet Knights dropped a 35-24 decision to New Hampshire on Sept. 11. 

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL   
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Rutgers has drawn a bye this week and will return to action at Syracuse on Oct. 2. The Scarlet Knights handed the visiting Orange a 24-7 defeat last season, a thought-to-be program defining win that ended Rutgers season on a positive note.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: DE Ryan Neill -- The 6-3, 250-pound senior has returned from a severe knee injury and leads the Scarlet Knights with 5.5 tackles for loss. He has recorded 14 total tackles, 2.5 sacks and returned an interception for a touchdown in Rutgers' win over Michigan State.
PK Jeremy Ito -- The true freshman leads the Big East in field goal attempts (11) and has already tied the Rutgers Stadium record with a 48-yard make against New Hampshire. Ito accounted for Rutgers' second-half output against Kent State by hitting field goals of 22 and 24 yards.  Ito is also among the conference leaders in scoring and although only a true freshman, has had a tremendous impact on the Scarlet Knights young season.  Ito will be relied upon heavily for the remainder of the season, and appears to be the solution to Rutgers kicking woes of years gone by.
ROSTER REPORT: WR Shawn Tucker (groin) and LB Quintero Frierson (ankle) are recovering from injuries and aren't expected to practice this week.



SYRACUSE

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If Syracuse (2-1) can find a way to utilize running backs Walter Reyes and Damien Rhodes together on Saturday, it might have a chance to beat No. 12 Virginia (3-0) on the road.  Probably not a very good chance, but any success the Orange will have on Saturday will be predicated on the success of the aforementioned players.
The equation was simple last week. Reyes rushed for 117 yards, while Rhodes added 82 on the ground and picked up another 86 via the pass. Syracuse rolled over Cincinnati 19-7.
After opening the season with a 51-0 defeat at Purdue, the Orange have won two straight.
"Those two backs weren't healthy together much last year," said Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, whose team will face Syracuse on Oct. 2. "When they're in together, it's a scary situation for a defensive football team. Both of those guys are great running backs with breakaway speed."
Defense sparked Syracuse's latest victory and was responsible for six takeaways, four by interceptions. Cincinnati quarterback Gino Guidugli, a preseason Davey O'Brien and Johnny Unitas Award candidate, struggled mightily and completed only 14 of 25 pass attempts for 155 yards and was picked off three times.
But the competition will dramatically improve this weekend in Charlottesville, Va. The Cavaliers handed Akron a 51-0 defeat last week and led 34-0 at halftime. Running back Wali Lundy rushed for three touchdowns for the third consecutive game, and the Cavaliers' offensive line could be the best Syracuse will see this season.  The Orange will be Virginia's first true test of this year as the Cavaliers have feasted on weak competition in the early going.

NOTES, QUOTES   
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Just when it appears as if Syracuse's offense might come together, Virginia pops up on the schedule. The Cavaliers have surrendered only 12.7 points per game and shut out Akron last Saturday 51-0. Running backs Walter Reyes (69.7 rushing ypg.) and Damien Rhodes (57.3 rushing ypg.) will have to deliver for the Orange -- against an excellent Virginia front seven -- to have any chance.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Orange are coming off a superb defensive performance against Cincinnati. They held the Bearcats to 293 yards and one touchdown. Syracuse managed six takeaways, including four interceptions. The Orange lead the Big East in picks with six.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Coming back I wanted to burn the film and never watch it again. We went out there and flat out laid an egg. But we did show it to the kids. They took it very positively and moved on, which is a credit to them." -- Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni on the aftermath of his team's 51-0 loss to Purdue in Week 1.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL   
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Syracuse at Virginia -- It's been a while since these teams played, but, for what it's worth, Syracuse won the previous two meetings, 6-3 in 1977 and 37-0 in 1975. The Cavs, who are off to a 3-0 start for the first time in six years, are particularly strong on both fronts and will test every ounce of the Orange's strength.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: FS Anthony Smith -- The Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Week recorded 11 tackles, one interception and blocked a punt against Cincinnati. Smith was named Big East Co-Special Teams Player of the Week on Sept. 13.
RB Walter Reyes -- The senior appears to have snapped out of a recent funk. He rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown against Cincinnati. Reyes moved into fourth place on Syracuse's all-time rushing list with 2,830 yards.
ROSTER REPORT: Coach Paul Pasqualoni named QB Perry Patterson the starter over freshman Joe Fields this week. Patterson completed 10 of 16 pass attempts for 156 yards and a touchdown against Cincinnati. ... WR Steve Gregory (thigh bruise) didn't play against Cincinnati.



TEMPLE

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Temple coach Bobby Wallace met his future quarterback on a cold Kansas day two Decembers ago. Wallace had traveled to Dodge City Community to recruit several players, but spent more than two hours speaking with Walter Washington. The extra time paid off.
Washington chose Temple over the likes of Nebraska (yes, that's right, Nebraska, who's new west coast style offense features former Big East commit Joe Dailey) and has since proven to be the lone bright spot in Wallace's struggling program. The junior compiled 341 yards of total offense and was responsible for three touchdowns in the Owls' 38-7 victory over I-AA Florida A&M on Saturday.
"I was supposed to talk to the other kids, but me and Walter hit it off and I stayed overtime," Wallace said. "We had a good relationship and he liked the offense we were running. He liked the chance of coming somewhere he could make a difference."
Temple has struggled of late, losing nine of its past 10 games, but the 6-2, 240-pound Washington always gives the team a chance to win. He is the team's returning leader in rushing, total offense and scoring.
The Owls will face Toledo (1-2) on the road on Saturday.
Washington helped Wallace record his 100th win last weekend as Temple scored its first victory at Lincoln Financial Field. The margin of victory was the largest for the Owls since a 49-point win over Connecticut on Nov. 24, 2001.

NOTES, QUOTES   
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Owls are 11-for-11 in the red zone this season, with 10 touchdowns and one field goal. Temple also features the Big East's second-best rushing attack (180.3 yards per game) and third-best passing attack (180.7 yards per game). That's balance.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Temple has been beat up by the likes of Virginia (504 yards) and Maryland (471 yards). The Owls own the Big East's worst run defense, scoring defense and total defense.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's nothing like winning. Obviously that helps things. But I still don't know where we are as a team." -- Temple coach Bobby Wallace on the state of his program.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL   
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Temple at Toledo, Sept. 25 -- Toledo topped Eastern Michigan, 42-32, last Saturday for its first win of the season as junior QB Bruce Gradkowski threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more scores. Toledo has a high-powered offense, but the defense has been atrocious. Gradkowski and Temple QB Walter Washington could each have huge days in what might turn into a shootout.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Walter Washington -- The transfer from Dodge City (Kansas) Community College amassed 341 yards of total offense and was responsible for three touchdowns in Saturday's win over Florida A&M. Washington leads the Big East in scoring, averaging 12.7 points per game.
LB Rian Wallace -- The 6-4, 245-pound junior is the Big East's top returning tackler (148). He currently ranks second on the team -- behind LB Troy Bennett -- with 27 stops.
ROSTER REPORT: If RB Tim Brown is healthy, he should get the start over Umar Ferguson. Brown complained of pain in both heals before the Florida A&M game. In his place, Ferguson rushed for a career-high 118 yards and two touchdowns. CB Ray Lamb returned for the first time since suffering a knee injury in Temple's Cherry & White game on April 24. Junior WR Brian Allbrooks also made his first career start.


WEST VIRGINIA

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West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez has one thing to worry about this Saturday -- a letdown. Seven days after they ended a four-game losing streak to Maryland, the Mountaineers must somehow get up for I-AA foe James Madison.  While this may seem like an easy task, don't mention it to any of the Rutgers faithful.  However, West Virginia is now an elite program and a letdown is not to be expected.
"Obviously the past weekend was a highly emotional game and we know Virginia Tech (Oct. 2) will be a highly emotional atmosphere," Rodriguez said.
"We originally planned the James Madison game for our opener next year, but with Miami and Tech leaving, everyone was scrambling for a 2004 opponent. Fortunately, James Madison was willing to move."
Sixth-ranked West Virginia is the only Big East team represented in the Associated Press Top 25 (save for Louisville, which will join the conference in 2005). The Mountaineers trailed Maryland 16-13 in overtime after Nick Novak drilled a 33-yard field goal, but quarterback Rasheed Marshall found receiver Chris Henry for a 7-yard game-winning score on the ensuing possession.
West Virginia running back Kay-Jay Harris, who injured his hamstring and saw limited action against Central Florida on Sept. 11, rushed for 142 yards on 33 carries and scored the game's first touchdown. The Mountaineers are 3-0 for the first time under Rodriguez.
Not coincidentally, James Madison (2-0) runs a spread offense similar to the one West Virginia uses. Dukes offensive coordinator Jeff Durden worked with Rodriguez when the former was at the Virginia Military Institute.

NOTES, QUOTES
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: RB Kay-Jay Harris leads the Big East in rushing (162.0), and QB Rasheed Marshall ranks ninth in the nation in passing efficiency with a 165.7 rating. West Virginia also leads the Big East in total offense (477 yards per game). The Mountaineers have scored on 11 of 12 possessions inside the red zone.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: West Virginia owns the league's third-best scoring defense (19.7 ppg.) and has surrendered 325 yards per game. CB Adam "Pac-Man" Jones leads the team in tackles with 22.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think it's a little crazy, all that kind of talk that all of the sudden because Miami and Virginia Tech are gone the league is wide open. There are a lot of great programs still in our league. Obviously you lose two great programs, but I think it's going to bear out through the season that there are a lot of good Big East schools left." -- West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez on the state of the Big East.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: James Madison at West Virginia, Sept. 25 -- I-AA James Madison is coming off a 17-0 win at Villanova, but, really, the only issue here for West Virginia is that it is an "emotional sandwich" game, falling between Maryland last week and Virginia Tech next week. Somehow, we think the Mountaineers will be just fine.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: RB Kay-Jay Harris -- After missing most of the Sept. 11 win over Central Florida with a hamstring injury (two carries for seven yards), Harris bounced back with 142 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries against Maryland. He also rushed for a Big East-record 337 yards on 25 carries in West Virginia's season-opening win over East Carolina.
DB Adam "Pac-Man" Jones -- The 5-11, 185-pound junior leads the team in tackles with 22. Jones returned a punt for a touchdown against East Carolina and might break another at any moment. He ranks second behind Shawn Terry on West Virginia's all-time punt return list.
ROSTER REPORT: When the West Virginia-James Madison match kicks off, the Mountaineers will have a total of 33 players with at least one game of starting experience. Leading that list are Jeff Berk (32), Rasheed Marshall (28) and Tim Brown (27). ... The Mountaineers have no significant injury problems.


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