2007 Midseason Report - Big East
South Florida QB Matt Grothe
South Florida QB Matt Grothe
Posted Oct 17, 2007

The best Big East players, coaches, surprises of the midseason and more. Scroll down for predictions for every team and every game.

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Offensive Player of the Midseason
Brian Brohm, RB Louisville

Defensive Player of the Midseason
George Selvie, DE South Florida

Ten best Big East players in the first half of the season
1. George Selvie, DE South Florida
2. Brian Brohm, QB Louisville
3. Patrick White, QB West Virginia
4. Ray Rice, RB Rutgers
5. Steve Slaton, RB West Virginia
6. Harry Douglas, WR Louisville
7. Ben Moffitt, LB South Florida
8. Ben Mauk, QB Cincinnati
9. LeSean McCoy, RB Pittsburgh
10. Mike Mickens, CB Cincinnati

Biggest Surprise – South Florida
Feel free to put Cincinnati in this slot, since USF expected to be good … just not this good.  Not positioned-to-play-for-a-national-championship good.  With Auburn and West Virginia already in the win column, South Florida has become the favorite to take the Big East and play in a BCS bowl game, the next step in Jim Leavitt’s master plan toward building a fourth power program in the state of Florida.  The biggest one-game surprise was Syracuse’s 38-35 shocker over Louisville, one of the most improbable results in league history.

Biggest Disappointment – Louisville
Just how far has Louisville fallen since winning the conference championship last season?  Yeah, the defense had to be rebuilt, but the thinking was that the high-octane offense would carry the Cards until the D came around.  Uh-uh.  Even Brian Brohm and one the best ensembles of receivers around haven’t been able to compensate for a dreadful unit that can’t tackle.  Not long ago considered a sleeper for New Orleans, losses to Kentucky, Syracuse, and Utah have Louisville battling to stay alive.

The Big East Champion will be ... South Florida
A close call with Florida Atlantic was a reminder that the Bulls are hardly a lock to run away with the Big East title this fall.  However, they’re the one program that’s best constructed to survive a league that’s deep and short on gimmes each weekend.  Along with the top defense in the conference, South Florida has begun to run the ball better with Benjamin Williams and Mike Ford, taking heat off QB Matt Grothe.  The Bulls will lose one game, possibly at Rutgers Oct. 18, but getting Cincinnati and Louisville in Tampa are nice breaks in the schedule.   

Best Game of the First Half
South Florida 21 ... West Virginia 13, Sept. 29
The USF defense stuffed West Virginia's running game, and started off the scoring when LB Ben Moffitt picked off a Pat White pass for a 26-yard touchdown, in the seminal win in the young program's history. The Bulls took a 14-0 lead in the first half on a 55-yard Carlton Mitchell touchdown catch, and padded the lead on the opening drive of the second half, finishing with a 19-yard Jamar Taylor rushing score. The Mountaineer offense only managed two Pat McAfee field goals until late. With Pat White out with a leg injury, Jarrett Brown had to take over the West Virginia offense, and he came through with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Darius Reynaud with just under six minutes to play. The Mountaineers had one final shot, but Brown couldn't connect on a fourth down pass to keep the final drive going, and USF was able to run out the clock. The two teams combined for ten turnovers.
Second Best Game - South Florida 26 ... at Auburn 23 OT, Sept. 8
Third Best Game -
Kentucky 40 ... Louisville 34, Sept. 15

Worst Game of the First Half
Rutgers 59 ... Norfolk State 0, Sept. 15
Norfolk State hung tough for a quarter, only allowing a 30-yard Jeremy Ito field goal, and then the second quarter started. Rutgers cranked out 42 second quarter points, with Mike Teel connecting with Kenny Britt on touchdown passes from 42 and 34 yards out, Tiquan Underwood caught a 28-yard scoring pass, and Ray Rice scored three times. With the starters pulled, Jabu Lovelace was the main man in the second half for the Scarlet Knights with two 16-yard touchdown runs.

Coach of the Midseason – Jim Leavitt, South Florida
Brian Kelly of Cincinnati also deserves mention here, and wouldn’t be a wrong answer.  Leavitt, however, has the Bulls in the rarified air after knocking off Auburn and West Virginia.  Barring a second-half collapse, Leavitt will contend for more than Big East Coach of the Year, battling for national Coach of the Year honors. 

Player who'll step up in the second half – West Virginia RB Steve Slaton
Slaton has been uncharacteristically quiet the last two games, running for just 123 yards and no touchdowns, the first time he’s gone back-to-back games without scoring in his Mountaineer career.  Concerns? Nah.  Slaton’s undersized frame takes a beating, making last week’s bye a much-needed break from the action.  He’ll return fresh and poised for a monster second half of the season as West Virginia tries to work its way back into the Big East race.

Best performance so far – The South Florida defense put on a clinic against West Virginia, neutralizing the Mountaineers’ speed and changing the landscape of the Big East Conference.  Closing fast and cutting off every lane, the Bulls held the high-octane ‘eers without a touchdown for the first 55 minutes of the 21-13 signature upset.  Even more impressive, USF made West Virginia appear slow, something no other defense had done in the Pat White/Steve Slaton era.

Top Freshman – Pittsburgh RB LeSean McCoy
For good reasons, the Panthers are going to build their offense around McCoy, a complete back that can beat defenses with his speed, power, and sharp cutback ability.  Despite beginning the year as a backup, he has quickly become the focal point of the offense, while periodically taking direct snaps a la Darren McFadden at Arkansas.  Pittsburgh may not be going anywhere, but if they can establish McCoy and fellow freshman QB Pat Bostick as fixtures in the backfield, all will not be lost in 2007. 

Coach who needs to have a big second half – Louisville head coach Steve Kragthorpe
Although Kragthorpe isn’t in jeopardy of losing his job after just one season, he does need to show his new bosses that he hasn’t completely lost this Cardinals team in October and November.  Louisville has been one of the unmitigated disasters of the first half, slipping to 3-3 and nearly losing to Middle Tennessee, but Kragthorpe built some momentum and credibility after a win over Cincinnati.  His defensive coordinator, Mike Cassity, could also use a huge second half, but even that may not be enough to save his job.

Player who needs to have a big second half – Rutgers DT Eric Foster
Where has the Scarlet Knights All-American and emotional leader been during the first half of the season?  A force on the 2006 team that opened up space for players around him, Foster has been unusually quiet so far, making just 3.5 tackles for loss and half a sack.  The lack of pressure from the interior has been evident in losses to Maryland and Cincinnati, in which Rutgers allowed more than 400 yards of offense.  Foster has to tap back into his wild side over the next two months if the Scarlet Knights are to remain in league contention.

Best remaining conference game – Cincinnati at South Florida, Nov. 3
This year’s two big surprises out of the Big East will get together for a game that’ll have infinitely more significance than anyone could have imagined back in August.  The winner gets the inside track on a BCS bowl invitation and, if still unbeaten, an outside shot at moving into one of the top two spots in the BCS standings.  It’ll also be can’t-miss viewing for fans of fast, opportunistic defenses that deliver the payload. 

Team Mid-Season MVPs & Predictions
QB Ben Mauk
predicted wins: at Pittsburgh, Connecticut, at Syracuse
predicted losses: at South Florida, West Virginia
predicted record: 9-3

LB Danny Lansanah
predicted wins: Syracuse 
predicted losses: Louisville, South Florida, Rutgers, at Cincinnati, at West Virginia
predicted record: 6-6

QB Brian Brohm
predicted wins: at Connecticut, Pittsburgh
predicted losses: at West Virginia, at South Florida, Rutgers  
predicted record: 6-6

RB LeSean McCoy
predicted wins: Syracuse
predicted losses: Cincinnati, at Louisville, at Rutgers, South Florida, at West Virginia
predicted record: 3-9

Rutgers -
RB Ray Rice
predicted wins: South Florida, at Connecticut, at Army, Pittsburgh, at Louisville
predicted losses: West Virginia
predicted record: 9-3

South Florida
DE George Selvie
predicted wins: at Connecticut, Cincinnati, at Syracuse, Louisville, at Pittsburgh
predicted losses: at Rutgers
predicted record: 11-1

QB Andrew Robinson
predicted wins: Buffalo
predicted losses: at Pittsburgh, South Florida, at Connecticut, Cincinnati
predicted record: 2-10

West Virginia
QB Patrick White
predicted wins: Mississippi State, at Rutgers, Louisville, at Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Connecticut
predicted losses: none
predicted record: 11-1