The View From Here: The Homes Stretch | Syracusefan.com

The View From Here: The Homes Stretch

SWC75

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Saturday November 5th Time TBA at Connecticut No TV or TBA

Randy Edsall, who had built this program up from the small college level, shockingly left for Maryland. The school then turned to two native Connecticut men, former SU head coach Paul Pasqualoni and his best coaching buddy, George DeLeone, who now re-enter college ball and the Big East from the pros. At Syracuse that team went 107-59-1, which looked pretty good after his successor went 10-37. P-D had exactly one losing season in 14 years, so we know they can coach. There did seem to be a ceiling on what they could accomplish. They always seemed to lose to somebody we never should have lost to and get blown out by someone we should have been competitive with. In four years with Donovan McNabb, they went 35-14. In two years with Michael Vick, Virginia Tech went 22-2, beat us 62-0 and played for the national championship. P-D’s supporters attribute this to the lack of up-to-date facilities at SU. There will be no such problem at Connecticut, who’s football plant may be the best in the conference. I think they will at least continue Edsall’s level of success, ((a very P-Desque 9, 8, 8 and 8 wins in the last four years), It will be interesting to see if they can exceed it.

They will certainly want to beat Syracuse, which hasn’t beaten Connecticut in five years. In fact, we’ve been out-scored 58-148 in that time. Ironically, Edsall was a former Syracuse guy himself who was mad that Pasqualoni got the job instead of him. So the UCONN game will continue to be a grudge match.

The Huskies were another one of those teams that ground us up with a power running game last year. Jordan Todman, the nation’s second leading rusher with 1695 yards, jumped to the pros a year early. Then his back-up, Robbie Frey, also lefty. But they have DJ Shoemate, a transfer from USC and most of that big, punishing line is back along with all their receivers. They need to find a new quarterback.

All four of their defensive line starters come back including NFL prospect Kendall Reyes. All four starters in the secondary are back, too. Linebacker Sio Moore was second in the country with 110 tackles. They had a huge +12 difference in turnovers.

They have excellent kickers in Dave Teggart and punter Cole Wagoner but need to kind some kick returners.

This will be a good team and tough road opponent.

Their stats from last year:
Offense- rushing 174.7 (35th ) passing 151.1 (110th), total 325.8 (96th) scoring 26.4 (63rd)
Defense- rushing 143.2 (51st) passing 223.5 (67th) total 366.8 (58th) scoring 22.0 (35th)
Turnover margin: +12 (11th)
 

SWC75

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Friday November 11th 8PM in the Dome vs. South Florida TV: ESPN2

South Florida is the potential giant of the conference. They are situated in the heart of some of the best recruiting country in America. With Miami imploding and Florida going though a coaching changes, they are in great position to further upgrade an already successful football program. They are 48-29 since they joined the Big East and abused Syracuse (0-5, 53-174) prior to last year’s 13-9 shocker. But they haven’t been able to get above the 8-9 win ceiling yet. Their coach is Skip Holtz, Lou’s son and he plans to make a name for himself at this school and will have a great opportunity to do so.

He has a talented veteran quarterback, BJ Daniels, who has yet to perform consistently. He’s a great athlete but has trouble functioning as a pocket passer. He had 11TD passes and 13 interceptions last year. They are looking for big things from Darrell Scott, a 6-1 230 pound running back who was the nation’s #1 recruit in 2007 and transferred in from Colorado. The leading returning rusher is Demetris Murray with 542 yards. Last year their receiving corps was decimated by in jury. That leaves them with a lot of options but no established stars this season, (not unlike Syracuse), Evan Landi, who had 28 catches for 390 yards and 2 scores is the leading returning pass catcher. They lose three starters from their offensive line.

The Bulls always seem to have plenty of speed and several pro prospects on defense. They have only one starting lineman back but 5 of the back 7 return. End Ryne Giddens, linebacker DeDe Lattimore and safety Jerrell Young will be the stars this year.

This is another team we beat on the road last year and have a chance to beat again in the Dome this year but will be tough to beat two years in a row.

Their stats from last year:791st) passing 164.5 (101st), total 309.4 (105th) scoring 24.1 (85th)
Defense- rushing 125.6 (22nd) passing 192.3 (24th) total 317.9 (17th) scoring 20.0 (22nd )
Turnover margin: -2 (67th)
 

SWC75

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We get another week off, just before Thanksgiving. We could have used one alst eyar.

Saturday November 25th Time TBA in the Dome vs. Cincinnati NO TV or TBA

The Bearcats are another formerly irrelevant football program who rose sharply in the Miracle Grow soil of the Big East, (thanks to the “BCS” rating and plenty of expenditures). The went from 4-7 to 8-5 to 10-3 to 11-3 and 12-1, winning the conference in the final two years. If Texas had not gotten a second-chance field goal vs. Nebraska in the 2009 Big 12 title game, Cincy would have actually played for the national championship. They lost their coach, Brian Kelly, to Notre Dame and then got crushed by Florida in the Sugar Bowl. But, like South Florida they are in prime recruiting territory in Ohio and they hired Butch Jones, the guy who had replaced Kelly at Central Michigan after he left there for Cincinnati, hoping for a seamless transition.

But Jones’ first year was a frustrating one, full of injuries. Zach Collaros was the Big East’s most productive quarterback with 225/383 (.587) 2902 yards, 26RDs but 14 interceptions. He missed the SU game and the Bearcats drown in a sea of turnovers, (31-7). Isaiah Pead ran for 1029 yards but missed two games. His back-up Darrin Williams missed virtually the whole season with an ankle injury. They have a star receiver in DJ Woods, who caught 57 for 898 yards and 8 scores and two fine prospects in Kenbell Thompkins and Shaq Washington. They are doing some heavy rebuilding on the line but if they get good blocking, they have plenty of playmakers.

They were very young on defense last year but return all 11 starters so they could hardly avoid getting a lot better The best player is probably linebacker JK Schaffer. They have a good punter in Pat O’Donnell but are looking for a new placekicker and better returners. They had a horrendous turnover margin last year, -15, the reverse of what we had in 2001. It’s the biggest reason they went from 12-1 to 4-8.

This is still another good team we beat on the road last year and get in the Dome this year: Can we do it again?

Their stats from last year:
Offense- rushing 156.7 (55th ) passing 260.7 (28th), total 417.3 (32nd) scoring 27.1 (57th)
Defense- rushing 135.4 (39th) passing 234.0 (88th) total 369.4 (63rd) scoring 28.0 (68th)
Turnover margin: -15 (119th)
 

SWC75

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Saturday, December 3rd Noon at Pittsburgh TV: ABC or ESPN or ESPN 2

Pittsburgh was the conference favorite last year and looked it in blowing SU out of it’s own Dome, 45-14. But they couldn’t maintain that level of play and finished 8-5. Coach Dave Wannstedt, an alum who had done some powerful recruiting for Pitt. But Wannstedt has a long history of getting off to promising starts and then frustrating his employers with underachievement: he’d been fired by the Bears and then the Dolphins for the same reason. A lack of offensive imagination has been the culprit and the Panthers more than made up for that by hiring Todd Graham, who had set some offensive records at Tulsa. Scoring as much as 661 points in a season. Graham will be inheriting a lot of talent but how well will Wannstedt’s recruits acclimate to Graham’s very different system?

Graham inherits a good quarterback in Tino Sunseri, (223/346 .645 2572 16TDS 9 int. He has some good receivers in Mike Shanahan, (no relation to the Redskin’s coach and good for him), and Devin Street. They lost star tailback Dion Lewis but his back-up, Ray Graham, was actually better last year, gaining 277 yards rushing in one game. He also caught 24 passes, which he’ll have to do in Graham’s offense. There’s some rebuilding in the offensive line, which lost three starters. The question is are they ready to get a play off every 15 seconds, as Graham’s Tulsa team did last year?

The Panther defense was one of the best in the country last year. They were among the country’s leaders in sacks and tackles for a loss despite the fact that Wannstedt rarely blitzed. Graham has a totally different concept, a 3-4 instead of a 4-3. “The objective is to attack from all angles with the best eleven athletes on the field.” The entire defensive line is back- but will be contracted, as well as three linebackers- but there will now be four of them. They have one starting defensive back returning. End Brandon Lindsley will go for Pitt’s third straight Big East defensive player of the year award.

It will be interesting to see how the Panthers adjust to having a totally different type of coach. They will go from being the tortoise to being the hare. If they make the adjustment, they can be very good.

Their stats from last year:
Offense- rushing 165.7 (45th) passing 201.2 (73rd), total 366.9 (72nd) scoring 26.3 (67th)
Defense- rushing 120.0 (101st) passing 185.1 (19th) total 305.1 (19th) scoring 19.0 (15th)
Turnover margin: 0 (55th)

Last year the Big East was down and the conference’s poor performance in games against other BCS conferences was much commented on. It was actually a fairly tough conference because there were no bad teams in it but there were no really strong teams in it, either- nobody to carry the flag nationally. It had a similar year in the first year after the ACC raid in 2004. But it came back pretty strong in subsequent years. I think it will be stronger at the top this year and continue to be very competitive throughout the conference. It won’t be easy to get a much better record than last year’s 8-5 in this conference yet it will be easy to do worse. We are unlikely to win four conference road games again. We’ve got to play much better at home and we’ve got to get off to another strong start. We have a good chance to be 5-1 though the first half of the schedule and we may need to have the kind of season we need to keep our momentum going.
 

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