This is always the point in the football season where I feel like I know the least. We've seen just enough football to render preseason predictions useless, but not enough football to make new, concrete assumptions about what we have in front of us. Ken's going to post our Blogpoll draft tomorrow morning, and I freely admitted when I turned in my half that I had a hard time coming up with 25 teams I felt deserved to be ranked. That thing is making me feel stupid right now.
So to try and make myself feel like less of an idiot, I thought I'd try to figure out the things we know about the Big East, the things we think we know, and the things we don't know.
THINGS WE KNOW
- The most talented teams are also the worst-coached teams. Not necessarily in how they coach individual players, but Bill Stewart and Dave Wannstedt are definitely the two worst game managers. Bizarre strategic decisions, forgetting to get the ball to your best players for long stretches of the game, inexcusably flat performances… they cover all the bases. And unless West Virginia grows a pair and cuts the cord with Stewart, both of them are going to be around for awhile. This does not bode well for a quasi-juggernaut to emerge and help the league save face nationally.
- The league is virtually up for grabs but in a bad way. The only thing worse than no one distinguishing themselves so far is that no one has demonstrated that they are just flat-out terrible, not even Louisville. That means there's no telling who will ultimately win the Big East, but it also means no punching bags and not much chance of some team getting to, say, 10-2 and making some kind of case for being a legitimately good team.
I know, the ACC isn't very good either, but they have several patsies plus a championship game, which should be enough for the winner of that league to head to the BCS with something like a 10-3 record. The Big East has neither of those things. You could seriously have an 8-4 team win the Big East, which would be a PR debacle. It's never good to have your BCS representative suck, but this season is a really bad time since ESPN is ALL OVER the mid-majors this year. Especially Boise State. It's like the Broncos are Bret Michaels and ESPN is a contestant on Rock of Love.
- Connecticut is not nearly as good as all the hype. Rather than go on and on myself, let the suddenly despondent The UConn Blog tell you about it. The post pinpointing UConn's exact level of achievement and the one about the series of eight offensive plays in the fourth quarter are especially damning. This seems to be the way of the league, though. Whoever gets all of the preseason buzz ends up disappointing (see also: USF the last two years).
THINGS WE MIGHT KNOW
- Cincinnati may have been Kragthorpe'd. It's one thing when a new coach comes in and it takes a few games for new schemes to coalesce. But when he comes right out of the box making bad decisions (like not knowing when to go for two), and players look infinitely worse than they did the year before, it's probably time to panic. Did Brian Kelly set the bar so high that Jones couldn't possibly clear it? Maybe, but Jones is failing at some pretty baseline tests of coaching competency. I fear Oklahoma is going to just light them on fire this Saturday.
- USF might be the best-coached team in the conference right now. That's not really a definitive statement that Skip Holtz is an awesome coach, because we're only two games in. But with Brian Kelly gone, Rutgers admitting they threw out their entire game plan against SCUMBAGS, and UConn looking highly and uncharacteristically dysfunctional on both sides of the ball... I mean, who's left? For a team that isn't really that deep (especially at receiver and in the front seven), they actually did an admirable job against the Gators, and as I addressed last week, it certainly wasn't for lack of a good plan. I've been predicting a 7-5 record ever since the summer, but with everyone else in the league flailing around to various degrees, that prediction might be a little conservative.
THINGS WE DON'T KNOW AT ALL
- Is Rutgers going to get their act together as they go along again? No one wants to throw shovels of dirt on the Scarlet Knights' grave more than us, just because we hate Greg Schiano so much. (Totally OK admitting this, too -- we have nothing to hide.) But you have to admit that he's done an amazing job of getting that team into gear after slow starts the last two years. If he does it again it might be the toughest task of the three, because Tom Savage looks worse than he did at any point last year, he has no one to throw to, and the running game isn't strong enough to support the offense on its own. It might be desperation time when North Carolina shows up this week. I'm placing the over/under on Rutgers trick plays this Saturday at 1.5.
- Can anyone win a big OOC game? Or even a medium-sized OOC game? I won't dwell on the missed opportunities so far, but the bigger problem is that collectively, everyone is running out of chances. If Pittsburgh (vs. Miami), West Virginia (at LSU), Rutgers (vs. North Carolina) or Cincinnati (vs. Oklahoma) don't get one this week, there are only a couple of chances left. It would either have to be Pittsburgh at Notre Dame, USF at Miami, or Syracuse hosting Boston College to save the league from an embarrassing month of gossip before bowl season. And even that might not be enough.