2007 Big East
- 2008 Big East Early Lookaheads
2007 Big East Season
In his first year at the helm, Bearcat head coach left no doubts
that he was the right man to replace Mark Dantonio, leading
Cincinnati to a bowl victory and its first 10-win season since
1951. Kelly’s spread offense, a stark contrast to Dantonio’s
conservative running game, was a smashing success, cranking out 36
points and 434 yards a game. Cincy’s three losses came by a total
of 16 points, a testament to how much the program grew in such a
short period of time, and how close it was to really doing something
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Ben Mauk
Defensive Player of the Year: DT Terrill Byrd
Biggest Surprise: Waxing Oregon State, 34-3, on Sept. 6.
Still a mystery outside the Queen City, the Bearcats gave a glimpse
of its potential in front a national TV audience, blocking a punt
for a touchdown and picking off six passes, a degree of thievery
that would become their trademark in 2007.
Biggest Disappointment: Unbeaten and ranked in the Top 25 on
Oct. 13, Cincinnati allowed struggling Louisville to temporarily
find its footing in a sloppy 28-24 loss. The Bearcats moved the
ball well, but committed four turnovers and 11 penalties in a
heartbreaking home defeat.
Looking Ahead: The foundation is in place for Cincinnati to
build on last season, and contend for a Big East championship. The
Bearcats are clinging to the hope that Mauk, the heart and soul of
the offense, will be granted a sixth year of eligibility by the
The hands-down surprise of the year in the Big East, Connecticut
defied the odds by going 9-4 and winning a share of the league
title. With a win over West Virginia on Nov. 24, the no-frills
Huskies would have been the outright champs, earning a BCS bowl
berth that was unimaginable just three months earlier. Connecticut
won plenty of games the old-fashioned way, snuffing out opponents
with a no-name defense and controlling the clock with talented
sophomore backs Andre Dixon and Donald Brown.
Offensive Player of the Year: RB Donald Brown
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Danny Lansanah
Biggest Surprise: The defense. Not a whole lot was expected
from a unit that lacked star power or high-profile recruits.
Opportunistic and air-tight against the pass, Connecticut allowed
just 19 points and 194 yards passing a game behind anonymous
players, such as Lansanah, LB Lawrence Wilson, and DE Julius
Biggest Disappointment: Connecticut wasn’t supposed to beat
West Virginia in Morgantown with so much at stake, but a 66-21 loss
robbed the program of earning the national respect that it sorely
craves. After taking a 7-0 lead, the Huskies were never
competitive, a stark reminder how far they must travel before
measuring up with a team like the Mountaineers.
Looking Ahead: With so much of last year’s squad, including
coveted head coach Randy Edsall, returning in 2008, there’s no
reason to believe Connecticut won’t be right back in the bowl hunt
again next November. Unlike this past fall, however, the Huskies
won’t be able to sneak up on the rest of the Big East.
Louisville belongs right in the same discussion with Nebraska, Notre
Dame, and UCLA as one of the most disappointing programs of 2007.
The Cards, a Big East favorite and fringe national title contender
in August, squandered QB Brian Brohm’s final year in school, failing
at 6-6 to even attract a bowl invitation. Louisville’s demise can
be traced to a leaky defense that allowed 38 or more points seven
times, and was helpless against opposing quarterbacks.
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Brian Brohm
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Lamar Myles
Biggest Surprise: With very little to play for in the regular
season finale, Louisville dug real deep against Rutgers, rallying
from an 18-point, second-half deficit to pull out an improbable
41-38 victory. The Cards displayed more heart in two quarters than
it had in the previous 11 games combined, getting a spark from a
future star, freshman RB Bilal Powell.
Biggest Disappointment: Where do you begin? In a season
marked by disappointments, none was bigger than the 40-34 loss to
Kentucky on Sept. 15. In a microcosm of all that went wrong in
Steve Kragthorpe’s debut season, Louisville somehow allowed WR Steve
Johnson to get behind the secondary for a game-winning 57-yard score
with 28 seconds left on the clock. The loss wasn’t quickly
forgotten by the Cards, who were shocked by Syracuse the following
Looking Ahead: Kragthorpe has already shaken up his coaching
staff like a snow globe, but it’s going to take some time before the
changes have an impact. Louisville needs to replace a ton of
offensive firepower in 2008, namely Brohm, receivers Harry Douglas
and Mario Urrutia, and back Anthony Allen, who’s transferring.
If not for a spate of injuries, the past fall might have become the
breakthrough season that Dave Wannstedt has been craving since
returning to his alma mater. Despite finishing out of the bowl
picture for the third consecutive year, Pittsburgh will remember
2007 as the year it broke the seal on franchise RB LeSean McCoy, and
ruined rival West Virginia’s season in a one-for-the-ages Backyard
Brawl. The defense, ranked No. 7 nationally, kept the Panthers in
plenty of games, but could have used a lot more help from an offense
that sputtered too often in the red zone.
Offensive Player of the Year: RB LeSean McCoy
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Scott McKillop
Biggest Surprise: Stunning No. 2 West Virginia, 13-9, in the
regular season capper as a four-touchdown underdog. Even in a zany
season that was marked by upsets, no one could have seen this
bombshell coming. The Panthers got enough from the defense and the
running game to throw the BCS into its familiar state of chaos as
the year came to a close.
Biggest Disappointment: Some poor officiating got in the way
of Pitt’s upset bid at Rutgers on Nov. 17. On the brink of evening
its record at 5-5, Panther WR Oderick Turner got flagged for a
questionable pass interference after catching the apparent
game-winning touchdown with 16 seconds remaining. The loss dropped
Pitt to 4-6, crushing any hopes for a bowl game.
Looking Ahead: Okay, we’ve heard this before, but this
really could be the year Pittsburgh challenges for the Big East
championship. All signs point to a promising 2008 for the program
if it can find a playmaker at quarterback out of injured veteran
Bill Stull and sporadic rookie Pat Bostick.
Although the Scarlet Knights didn’t win the Big East title that they
crave, eight wins and a second straight bowl victory were still
building blocks for a program that’s just a couple years removed
from being a laughingstock. Rutgers was tough to get a read on all
year, finishing fifth in a league of nine teams, yet beating South
Florida when it was No. 2 in the country, and thrashing Ball State
in the International Bowl. RB Ray Rice solidified his spot as one
of the greatest players in school history, rushing for 2,012 yards
and scoring 25 touchdowns to top an outstanding sophomore
Offensive Player of the Year: RB Ray Rice
Defensive Player of the Year: DT Eric Foster
Biggest Surprise: It’s hard to imagine today, but South
Florida looked borderline invincible when it descended upon New
Jersey on Oct. 18. The Scarlet Knights ended the Bulls’ brief plans
for a national championship with a second-half rally and some gutsy
play-calling from Greg Schiano.
Biggest Disappointment: Back-to-back home losses to Maryland
and Cincinnati following a cushy non-conference got Rutgers booted
from the Top 25, drastically changing expectations for the program.
Losing to the Terps was especially difficult because the Knights got
manhandled by a school that played most of the game with a backup
Looking Ahead: Whether Rutgers is a contender for a BCS bowl
game or another second-tier postseason game depends on how the
program can get past Rice turning pro early. The 2008 team belongs to QB Mike Teel, who made strides as a junior
and will be welcoming back 1,000-yard receivers Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood.
The streaky nature of South Florida’s 2007 season was a reminder
that this is still a neophyte program that lacks the consistency of
schools that have been at this for more than just a decade. The
Bulls rose to No. 2 in the country with a 6-0 start, but lost three
consecutive games to fall completely out of the Top 25. After
seemingly regrouping with lopsided wins over Syracuse, Louisville,
and Pittsburgh, USF got bombed by Oregon and rookie QB Justin Roper
in one of the worst performances of the postseason. Such is life at
a school that’s clearly headed in the right direction, yet still has
some growing up to do.
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Matt Grothe
Defensive Player of the Year: DE George Selvie
Biggest Surprise: Everyone pointed to South Florida as a
possible landmine for Auburn, but few really expected the Bulls to
win this game on the road. Grothe’s touchdown pass to Jessie Hester
in overtime gave USF its biggest win in school history and a level
of national attention that’s usually reserved for Florida, Miami,
and Florida State.
Biggest Disappointment: Playing a Pac-10 team in the Sun Bowl
was actually a pretty big deal for a South Florida program that’s
only played in the less prestigious Meineke Car Care and
Papajohns.com Bowls. The heralded Bull defense, however, got
shredded by Oregon RB Jonathan Stewart in a 56-21 loss that set the
program back a bit.
Looking Ahead: It’ll be interesting to see how South Florida
reacts in 2008 to such a disappointing conclusion to 2007. While a
number of key losses on defense will make the unit more vulnerable,
the offense returns enough starters to make a quantum leap next
The Orange maintained, even enhanced, its growing reputation as the
worst program in the Big East, going 2-10 and winning just a single
league game. There was very little to cheer about at Syracuse,
which lost 10 games for the second time in three years, and was
routinely abused at the point of attack on both sides of the ball.
For Orange fans hoping to see a head or two roll in December, even
that didn’t go their way, as beleaguered head coach Greg Robinson
was given another year to get the program back to
Offensive Player of the Year: WR Mike Williams
Defensive Player of the Year: NT Arthur Jones
Biggest Surprise: The Orange sure weaved a doozy of an upset
on Sept. 22, flooring heavily-favored Louisville in one of the
biggest upsets in Big East history. Syracuse nabbed its first win
of the season behind sophomore QB Andrew Robinson, who turned 17
completions into 423 yards and four touchdown passes.
Biggest Disappointment: The Orange’s encore to picking off
Louisville? Losing to Miami University, 17-14, the following
weekend in a listless effort that encapsulated why the program is in
such a state of disrepair. Syracuse got out gained 436 to 302,
fumbling an opportunity to build on the school’s flashiest win this
Looking Ahead: Well, on a positive note, Robinson’s return
for 2008 means the players won’t have to spend a chunk of the offseason,
learning a new staff, a new offense, and new terminology. Although
the Orange is a mess in the trenches, the skill position players offer a
hint of hope, especially if touted RB Delone Carter can make it all the
way back from a dislocated hip.
In the 33 days between Dec. 1 and Jan.2, the West Virginia program
aged about 33 years. During that brief time span, the Mountaineers
bumbled a chance to play for a national title, lost head coach Rich
Rodriguez, sued Rodriguez to collect a $4 million buyout, shocked
Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, and hired an assistant that no one
expected to succeed Coach Rod. Exhale. Oh yeah, West Virginia got
to Glendale by winning the Big East title for the second time in
three years, despite dropping a couple of games in league play.
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Pat White
Defensive Player of the Year: DE Johnny Dingle
Biggest Surprise: The defense. A disappointment in 2006,
defensive coordinator did a magnificent job with this group, molding
a more athletic unit that led the league in scoring and rushing
defense, and collected a ton of turnovers and plays for minus
Biggest Disappointment: In what was likely the most deflating
loss in school history, West Virginia inexcusably lost to
Pittsburgh, a four-touchdown underdog, with a spot in the BCS
Championship game hanging in the balance. White sat out most of the
game with an injured hand, but no one was making excuses after the
Mountaineers fell to their bitter rival, 13-9, in the regular season
Looking Ahead: If new head coach and life-long assistant Bill
Stewart is going to be exposed, it might not happen until 2009.
Even with Steve Slaton and Darius Reynaud gone, with White back for one final year in
Morgantown, West Virginia will be favored to win the Big East and be
right back in a BCS bowl game next January.