Posts Tagged 'big east'

Heisman Dark Horse Part 2: Noel Devine

It’s only July, but major universities and college football programs are already launching Heisman campaigns to generate the much-needed media exposure for select candidates.  Anyone who follows college football knows about Washington’s Jake Locker, Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor and last year’s Heisman-winner, Alabama running back Mark Ingram.

WVU running back Noel Devine has his sights set on a Big East Title and a trip to New York in 2010 (google images)

If you just take a look at his numbers, it’s amazing that the explosive running back is not on everyone’s watch list, but surprisingly, many of the so-called experts do not have Devine listed as a threat to take home the coveted trophy. 

Devine burst on the scene as a true freshman, when he took carries away from All-American running back Steve Slaton.  After Slaton was injured in the Fiesta Bowl, which meant Devine would have to carry the load for the Mountaineers, and he delivered, rushing for 105 on just 12 carries with two touchdowns.

His numbers increased his sophomore season, as he rushed for 1,289, and despite being hampered by minor injuries for much of last season, the talented back still managed to rush for 1,465 yards and 13 TDs.  If this trend continues, and more importantly, if Devine can avoid injury this season, there is every reason to believe that he could break 1,800 yards this season.  That sounds like a high number, but it is more attainable than you may think.

Since his arrival in Morgantown, the electric running back from Fort Myers, FL has averaged 6.5 yards per carry.  If he can stay healthy, there is every reason in the world to believe that he will get more carries than last season.  If he gets just 44 more carries than last season, that would put him at 285, putting him over 1,800 yards, given his career yards/carry average.

College FootBlog takes a look at the two things must happen for Devine to get serious consideration from the media and ultimately, the voters. 

West Virginia must win the Big East:  Six out of the last seven Heisman Trophy winners played on conference champion teams.  This could be a tall order for Devine and the Mountaineers, and given the emergence of the Big East as a formidable BCS conference in the last couple of years, it is.  But despite the success of WVU, Cincinnati, Pitt and others from the conference, the Big East is still unfairly viewed as a little brother to the other conferences by most writers.

In order for the national media to take notice of a Heisman candidate from this conference, they will have to win, and they’ll have to hope that others in the conference like Pitt and Cincy win as well.  This would set the stage for a national TV audience for the “Backyard Brawl” rivalry game on Nov. 26, when WVU travels to Pitt to take on the Panthers.

Will it happen?  They should be in the hunt, but the Pitt game will likely determine who wins the Big East.  West Virginia hosts Cincinnati, South Florida and Syracuse before the Pitt game, and they travel to UConn and Louisville.  Unless something unforeseen happens, the Mountaineers will be favored in all of these games.  If they take down Pitt, the conference title will be theirs, and they will lock up a BCS game, and the media will notice.

Devine must avoid injury:  At 5’8″ and just 176 lbs., Devine is far from a bruising back.  The only thing preventing him from eclipsing 1,500 yards last season was the fact that he played much of the season banged up.  He still managed to put up some very impressive numbers last fall, but his relatively small frame showed signs of fatigue last year, particularly in the middle of the season.

Devine needs at least 300 touches (rushing, receiving and returning) if he is going to put up the kind of numbers that will trump the other candidates.  If he gets that many touches, that means he made it through the year without a significant injury, and with his explosiveness and elusiveness, that means bigtime production.

Will it happen?  It should.  Despite traveling to Death Valley to take on LSU in September, the non-conference schedule is not that tough for the Mountaineers.  And despite his small frame, Devine has proven to be an extremely durable back.  In addition, new quarterback Geno Smith is more of a passer than a runner, which means that unlike in past years, Devine will not be splitting carries with his QB.  His strength and durability will be tested, but he has carried 447 times in his two years as the featured running back at WVU.  Look for that durability to continue in 2010 because it will be his last season, and Devine will have his chance to ease the concerns of NFL scouts that his body can handle the punishment of a 280-plus carry season.

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Mega-Conferences: Be Careful What You Wish For

The fate of the Big 12 Conference was in the hands of the Texas Longhorns, and earlier this week, the conference was finally able to exhale.  After more guaranteed revenue, the University of Texas agreed to keep the conference intact, and they were soon followed by Oklahoma.  And despite the departures of Nebraska next fall and Colorado in 2012, the threat of the mega-conferences is on the back burner.  Now the question is how long the current situation will last.

Mack Brown and his Texas Longhorns are staying with the Big 12....at least for now (google images)

It appears that this is a band-aid on an issue that could require plastic surgery.  Had Texas and Oklahoma left for the Pac 10 and Texas A&M bolted for the SEC, it would have had a domino effect in the rest of the college football world.  All conferences must learn from what could have happened and they need to prepare themselves for the same situation 3-5 years down the road.   College FootBlog takes a look at what might have been had the Longhorns set the mega-conferences into motion and weighs two potential impacts it would have had.

1.  The ACC and Big East would have been dead in the water.  The ACC thought they were going to challenge the SEC when they on-boarded Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College a few years ago.  Instead, Miami and Florida State have struggled to live up to their prestige from the 80’s and 90’s, and with huge losses in out of conference and bowl games, they have been little more than an automatic bid to a BCS Bowl because the BCS has to have a representative from their conference.

The Big East has come a long way since losing their coveted teams to the ACC.  But it hasn’t been easy.  Despite having three teams finish in the Top 25 last season, the Big East is still trying to prove they belong with the big boys.  The emergence of Pitt, Cincinnati and Rutgers has helped give them some respectability, but they are still largely considered a second-tier league.  With the depth they had last season, that is somewhat unfair, but that is still the general consensus. 

The Big Ten flirted with Pitt when they originally wanted to have 14-16 teams in their league, and much like when the ACC raided them a few years ago, the conference seemed ready to take their lumps and move on.  There is talk that if and when the SEC comes calling, they will go after Virginia Tech, but even if the mega-conferences leave the ACC and Big East alone, each conference could easily become a footnote in the BCS title hunt if the big conferences get bigger and deeper.  That would result in far less revenue and could effectively make each conference a new-aged mid-major. 

If they don’t want that to happen, representatives from each conference need to take advantage of the new three-year window and fight for stability and/or growth.  Otherwise, FSU, Miami and Virginia Tech could easily look to jump ship before it goes down.

2.  The Mid-Majors would have dropped further into obscurity.  Even with Boise State making the move to the Mountain West, they simply will not be able to compete in terms of revenue and overall respectability vs a 16-team Pac 10.  Add to it that Utah is likely jumping ship from the MWC to become the Pac 10’s 12th team, and they will continue to fight for some well-deserved attention in college football.  Should the Pac 10 increase to a 16-team league in the future, all hope of having a representative in the BCS National Championship will be gone.

The conference already had an uphill battle due to the lack of television coverage and the perception that they, along with the other mid-majors are the little brother of the bigger, more traditional BCS conferences, but one or two mega-conferences would effectively shut the door on their chances for a title.

That would be a shame, considering what Boise State and Utah have more than represented themselves and their conferences on the big stage of a BCS bowl game.  A one-loss or even a two-loss team from a mega-conference could easily get the nod from voters to play in a title game over an undefeated mid-major team.  Considering the strength of schedule from a 16-team SEC and/or Pac 10, it would be very difficult to keep a conference champion from a dominant conference out of the National Championship.

The other major issue facing the non-BCS Conferences would be their ability to schedule decent out of conference games.  Boise State and TCU are already teams that present a no-win situation for a major program.  If the larger program wins, they were supposed to win.  If they lose, the upset becomes an instant classic.  A 16-team conference would provide more than enough competition and national recognition without scheduling a couple tough out of conference games, leaving the cupboard bare for the mid-majors to challenge the big boys.

College FootBlog wants your input.  Let us know your thoughts on the Mega-Conferences and the pros and cons if they become a reality.

2009 BCS Conference Power Rankings Part 3

In our first two pieces, College FootBlog ranked the third through the sixth ranked BCS conferences from the 2009 season (see link).  In this three-part breakdown, we analyze the results from each conference from the 2009 college football season, and we also give an outlook for the upcoming 2010 season.

Without further adieu, here are our top two BCS conferences from our Power Rankings.

2.  Big East

2009 Recap:  There was a time when analysts argued if the Big East should even have the right to an automatic BCS bid for its champion.  That is no longer the case.  Most people left the Big East for dead when Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College left for what was believed to be the greener pastures of the ACC.  While the ACC has fallen from respectability, the Big East has consistently raised the bar over the last three years.

Cincinnati's Mardy Gilyard was one of the most explosive players in all of college football in '09 (google images)

Dave Wannstedt has Pitt back on the national scene and they gave Cincinnati all they could handle in a stunning 45-44 loss that was one of the best (if not the best) college football games all season.  Overall, the Panthers finished with ten wins on the year, West Virginia and Rutgers racked up nine wins and USF and UConn each pulled in eight victories on the year. 

2010 Outlook:  Coaching changes could have a significant effect on the Big East next season.  The Departure of Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly for Notre Dame and the firing of South Florida coach Jim Leavitt will put a lot of pressure on new head coaches Butch Jones and Skip Holtz.

The good news is that each of those two programs will have a proven quarterback.  Cincy did not lose a beat when Tony Pike was lost temporarily due to injury because of the great play of Zach Collaros.  And USF will have leader Matt Grothe back next fall, but they now have a proven back up in BJ Daniels.

The issue for the Bulls is going to be replacing future NFL defensive ends George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul.  Pitt will have to replace quarterback Bill Stull, but running back Dion Lewis will take a lot of pressure off the new starter at QB.

Overall, it will be difficult to keep the #2 Power Ranking in 2010, but the coaching and talent will continue to gain well-deserved respect from college football.

1.  SEC

2009 Recap:  As much as some fans would like to see a changing of the guard, the SEC simply will not allow that to happen.  All the SEC did this season is send ten of their twelve teams to bowl games, and they won six, which included the Sugar Bowl and the BCS National Championship.

When the dust settled, the SEC combined for a whopping 97-59 record in ’09, making it by far the deepest conference in the country.  Led by Alabama’s national championship team and the Florida Gators, whose only loss came at the hands of the Crimson Tide, the SEC once again imposed its will on the rest of college football.

Mark Ingram's punishing running-style led the Tide to the BCS Title (google images)

2010 Outlook:  Look for much of the same with the SEC dominating college football.  Flordia will have a bit of a rebuilding year after the loss of Tim Tebow and likely NFL first rounders, LB Brandon Spikes, TE Aaron Hernandez and CB Joe Haden.

The scary part is that the other top teams could be and should be even better this fall.  That includes ‘Bama, who returns the running back tandem of Ingram and Richardson, but they also return WR Julio Jones and QB Greg McElroy.

Head coach Gene Chizik will look to build on the momentum he created at Auburn, and with Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett and Ole Miss QB Jevan Snead, the SEC could possibly have a pair of first round quarterbacks in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Just to recap, College FootBlog’s 2009 BCS Conference Power Rankings are as follows:

  1. SEC
  2. Big East
  3. Big Ten
  4. Big 12
  5. ACC
  6. Pac 10

Please feel free to post your own power rankings and give your feedback.  Also, look for College FootBlog’s analysis of the recruiting season in a couple of weeks.

Gator Bowl Prediction: West Virginia vs. Florida State

As the new year begins, an era in college football will conclude.  On January 1st, the Florida State Seminoles will take on the West Virginia Mountaineers in the Gator Bowl in Bobby Bowden’s final football game at FSU.  In this match up, West Virginia will look to gain even more respect for the Big East, but the ‘Noles will be playing for something bigger than themselves, as they will look to send their legendary coach off with a victory in his final game. 

College FootBlog will break down this New Year’s Day match up, analyze the strengths and key concerns of each team, and ultimately, make a prediction of this game. 

Noel Devine is one of the most electric RB's in all of college football (google images)

 

West Virginia 

 
Strengths:  The Mounaineers have a solid running game, led by junior running back, Noel Devine.  Despite being hampered by nagging injuries in the middle of the season, Devine has still managed to rack up 1,297 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. 
Quarterback, Jarrett Brown compliments Devine in the running game as well and has rushed for 423 yards himself.  They will look to have a big day against FSU’s struggling defense.
 
Key Concerns:  Despite having a stout defense against the run, WV’s pass defense has been exposed somewhat this season, ranking 52nd nationally in the FBS. 
The secondary will have to step up in this game because Florida State spreads the ball around to multiple receivers and backs.  Their ability to cover the intermediate routes and screens will have a direct impact on who wins this game.
 
Strengths:  FSU’s offense has taken another huge step forward this season, averaging just under 422 yards from scrimmage per game.  One key component of that has been the leadership and solid play from quarterback Christian Ponder.  Unfortunately, for the ‘Noles, Ponder’s season was cut short with a separated shoulder.

Freshman QB EJ Manuel will need a solid day if the 'Noles want a win (google images)

 
Freshman QB EJ Manuel has assumed that role, and has filled in fairly well in his three starts.  The wideouts at FSU are very versatile and any of them can make the big play, but the most consistent of the group has been sophomore, Bert Reed, who has racked up 710 receiving yards this season.
 
Key Concerns:  FSU’s defense has been brutal this season, ranking 110th nationally.  Legendary defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews will need to get his unit to play inspired football, or West Virginia could make it a long day for the ‘Noles.
 
FSU has had particular trouble with the spread this season, and Devine and company will provide one of the toughest challenges they have had all year.
 
Florida State Offense vs. West Virginia Defense
  
Even though Manuel is a young quarterback, he has a lot of weapons around him, and more importantly, in front of him.  FSU’s offensive line is the best OL in the ACC, and the weeks of preparation have given time for All-American guard Rodney Hudson to get back to full strength.
 
West Virginia has a unique defensive scheme with their 3-5-3, but FSU’s OL coach, Rick Trickett, who coached there before coming to Tallahassee, will have his line ready to play against them.  Also, look for EJ Manuel to hit a lot of screens and short passes early to soften the defense and get him into a rhythm.  EDGE:  FSU
  
West Virginia Offense vs. Florida State Defense
  
West Virginia’s spread attack and the speed of Noel Devine will be tough to overcome.  FSU has been vulnerable to the big play all season, and this game should be no different.  The ‘Noles have a particularly tough time with misdirection, and the Mountaineers will likely use this to their advantage.
 
The Mountaineers are not known for their ability to throw the ball, but pretty much every opponent FSU has faced, regardless of talent at QB, has scorched the ‘Noles’ struggling secondary.  With that in mind, WV will likely take a few shots down the field.  EDGE:  WV
  
Special Teams
  
We have mentioned how explosive Noel Devine is as a running back, but he is equally as dangerous as a kick returner.  The Seminoles, however, have had a lot of success this season against some of the best returners in the country, including Clemson’s CJ Spiller.  That is because of the leg of freshman kicker Dustin Hopkins, who has boomed a whopping 23 kickoffs for touchbacks, which is fifth best in the country.
 
Couple that with the nation’s top punt returner in freshman Greg Reid, and Florida State’s special teams have truly been special this season.  EDGE:  FSU
  
Prediction
  
As bad as FSU’s defense has been all season, look for them to play inspired football.  It is, afterall, the final game for head coach Bobby Bowden and longtime defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews.  Also, take into account FSU’s success at the Gator Bowl (5-0-1 all-time), and the ‘Noles will be tough to beat.
 
Expect a high-scoring game, but ultimately, we think FSU’s offense will have a solid game with all the preparation time, and the defense will do just enough to send Bowden off with yet another bowl win.  Score Prediction:  FSU wins 33-27

College Football Preview Week 4: Miami at Virginia Tech

Same bitter rivalry, different conference.  For years, the annual match up between the Miami Hurricanes and the Virginia Tech Hokies often determined the Big East Champion.  Now that Miami is back in the national spotlight, this Saturday’s game could very well determine who will represent the Coastal Division in this year’s ACC Championship Game.

In this week’s edition, College Footblog will analyze these two former Big East rivals and their match up this coming weekend.  We will look at the strengths of each team, we will break down the game and we will give our prediction for this very important match up.

Jacory Harris has taken Mark Whipple's offense and run so far in 2009.  (google images)

Jacory Harris has taken Mark Whipple's offense and run so far in 2009. (google images)

Miami

Strengths:  The strength of Miami, particularly on offense has to be the emergence of sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris.  After splitting time with now departed Robert Marve, who transferred to Purdue last spring, Harris has silenced all of the critics who questioned his ability to win games with his arm.

In two games this year against quality opponents, Harris has amassed 656 yards, while completing just under 70% of his passes.  He has taken to new offensive coordinator, Mark Whipple’s scheme, and he has really come into his own so far in 2009.

Miami’s other major strength is the two-headed monster they have at running back.  Graig Cooper and Javarris James were held someone in check in the ‘Canes’ opener at Florida State, but in two games, they have combined for 232 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, while averaging just over 4.7 yards per carry.

Virginia Tech

Strengths:  In a season that has not been full of offensive highlights, the play of freshman running back, Ryan Williams has been a constant for the Hokies.  While sharing the backfield with fellow freshman David Wilson, Williams has still managed to rush for 235 yards and five touchdowns, while averaging an astounding 8.1 yards per carry.

The other strength for Virginia Tech is their massive and experienced offensive line.  Anchored by seniors Sergio Renderand Ed Wang, the Hokies’ O-line is physical and athletic, and they are a big reason for the success Frank Beamer’s squad can control the clock with a solid running attack.

Ryan Williams could have his biggest test this weekend.  (google images)

Ryan Williams could have his biggest test this weekend. (google images)

VT Offense vs. Miami Defense

Look for Miami to stack the box in an effort to limit Williams and the VT running game to fewer big plays on the ground.  The Hurricanes’ defense managed to shut down a Georgia Tech’s more dominant ground game to less than 100 yards last Thursday.  That is the same Georgia Tech offense that broke 300 rushing yards in each of their first two games this season.

Much like the ‘Canes did to Georgia Tech, they will dare the quarterback to beat them through the air.  Va Tech quarterback, Tyrod Taylor has only managed to throw for 252 yards in the Hokies’ three games this season.  EDGE:  Miami

Miami Offense vs. VT Defense

As previously mentioned, the rise of Jacory Harris has surprised many in the college football world, but he has been the real deal.  He and the weapons around him are much more explosive and dynamic than the Alabama Crimson Tide offense that lit up Virginia Tech in week one for nearly 500 yards.

Miami’s balance on offense and the depth they have at running back and wide receiver will be a lot for Virginia Tech to handle.  EDGE:  Miami

Special Teams:  With a healthy Javarris James back in the rotation at running back, head coach Randy Shannon has been able to utilize Graig Cooper in the return game this season–and the results have been there.  Add the explosive Travis Benjamin to the mix, and the ‘Canes have some homerun threats in the return game.  As solid as the return game has been for Miami, junior kicker Matt Bosher has been a little shaky.

Virginia Tech has always been known for their special teams, and this year has been no different.  Davon Morgan and Ryan Williams have added some explosiveness to the return game, and the Hokies feature a senior kicker and punter.  Couple that with Frank Beamer’s uncanny ability to block kicks, and the VT special teams are always a threat.  SLIGHT EDGE:  Virginia Tech

Over the opening weeks of this college football season, Virginia Tech has shown the same consistency that they have shown in the last several years–solid running game and special teams, and Bud Foster is still one of the best defensive coordinators in all of college football.

Miami, on the other hand, has taken a major step forward in their quest to get back to the dominant days of the 80’s and 90’s.  With the emergence of Jacory Harris to compliment the talented running back tandem of Cooper and James, the Hurricanes once again have an explosive offense.  They have also shown with their dominance over Georgia Tech that they not only have the speed and athleticism on defense, but that they are also capable of playing with discipline.

Bud Foster will be able to slow down the Miami offense, but they will still get their yards and the biggest factor will likely be the Miami defense, stacking the line to slow down VT’s running game, and I just do not see Tyrod Taylor being able to win this one with his arm.  Prediction:  Miami wins 24-14