Big East Notebook

The Big East conference is on a football roll in the early going of 2007.


With its triumph at Auburn, USF was recognized as the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl National Team Week of the Week by the Football Writers Association of America. Nate Allen, the Bulls' sophomore safety, was named the Bronco Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week. Against Auburn, Allen intercepted a pass, recovered a fumble and forced a fumble. He also made seven tackles and broke up a pass.


When the Big East conference was struggling for respect, it was told my many observers that it needed to win games against good competition in order to gain it. After a fine 2006, the BIG EAST has turned it up a notch, going 14-2 against outside competition through the first two weeks of the season. BIG EAST teams have also won 28 of their last 30 non-conference games. It would be tough to do much better than that.


Rutgers RB Ray Rice became the Scarlet Knights' career rushing leader (3,273 yards) in the win against Navy on Sept. 7. He passed former RU standout Terrell Willis who totaled 3,114 yards. Among the conference leaders, Rice ranks seventh in career rushing yards. Up next on the list is SU's Walter Reyes, who amassed 3,424 career rushing yards. WVU's Avon Cobourne tops the league list with 5,039 yards.


Cincinnati's defense recovered four fumbles and had two interceptions in the win against Southeast Missouri State. The Bearcats had seven takeaways in Thursday's win against Oregon State. The vast majority of UC's points have been scored or set up by their defensive unit, whose contributions have made the Bearcats number one in the nation in turnover margin at +4.5


Despite beating Auburn on the Tigers' home field and holding an unblemished record, South Florida remained behind the putative SEC power in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll. Either the coaches aren't watching (quite likely), or the sports information directors and graduate assistants who actually do much of the voting aren't paying attention.


The BIG EAST again is featured on the ESPN Thursday Night package when the fourth-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers travel to Maryland. Last Saturday, WVU got its offense rolling in the second half while winning at Marshall 48-23. Running back Steve Slaton leads all active Division I players with 43 career touchdowns. ESPN also will carry Pittsburgh at Michigan State Saturday at noon, ET. Louisville at Kentucky will be on ESPN Classic at 7:30 p.m.

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