Posted by Chip Patterson
The Midseason Report separates the contenders from the pretenders in each conference race. The Big East has been openly criticized for their weakness in the 2010 season, but they still hold on to a BCS Bowl berth. Someone has to win it, ranked or not. West Virginia has carried the banner for the conference thus far, but with a backlogged conference schedule, there is a lot of football left.
West Virginia (1-0)(5-1) - The race for the Big East is pretty much the Mountaineers' to lose at this point. They appear to be a far superior team to their conference counterparts on both sides of the ball. While there is some concern for running back Noel Devine's health and recent decline in production, quarterback Geno Smith has emerged as the center of the West Virginia offense. Smith has thrown for 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions, and has done a good job spreading the receptions around the field, keeping the defense from stacking the box against Devine. Head coach Bill Stewart said that Devine is "close to 100 percent" finally after injuring his foot against LSU. Devine has not missed much time, but has been noticeably limited on the field. The defense has also been a pleasant surprise for West Virginia fans in 2010. Allowing only 12.3 points per game, the Mountaineers are rank 3rd in the nation in scoring defense. Their greatest challenge left on the schedule is a late season matchup at Pittsburgh November 26. But even that game looks very winnable at this point.
Rutgers (1-0)(4-2) - The most significant event of the Scarlet Knights' season unfortunately is also one of the saddest. Defensive tackle Eric LeGrand still is in the hospital, paralyzed after making a special teams tackle in the 23-20 overtime win against Army. But if you are looking for good things to take from the game, the most impressive was the performance of quarterback Chas Dodd. Dodd appears to have the starting job locked up for now, after throwing for 251 yards and two touchdowns to help Rutgers rally back from a 17-3 third quarter deficit. Unfortunately, the Scarlet Knights have one of the most difficult remaining schedules in the conference. Road trips to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and West Virginia make a daunting order for Greg Schiano's squad.
Cincinnati (1-0)(3-3) - The Bearcats have shown flashes of greatness in 2010, they have just failed to carry it for an entire game. However with a schedule full of conference foes, the slate might as well be clean for Cincinnati. Quarterback Zach Collaros continues to sling the ball all over the field, with four straight games of at least 200 yards and three touchdowns. His most recent five touchdown outing helped the Bearcats lock up that first road conference victory. They still will have to face the other three teams on this list of contenders, but only have to leave home to travel to Morgantown. Their failure to put a complete game does not give me confidence they will take the conference, but it does not make the feat impossible.
Pittsburgh (1-0)(3-3) - Pittsburgh's season has been painfully inconsistent. Not only have they failed to string together back-to-back wins, but their "Jekyll and Hyde" routine has kept them from climbing back into the national scene. Ever since the season opening loss at Utah it has been a season of head scratching for Panther fans. The good news is there are six conference games left on the schedule, and regardless of overall record they are currently tied for first. Additionally, they also picked up their victory on the road, leaving only one significant test away from home: a season finale showdown with Cincinnati. Both teams will be fighting for postseason postion (or maybe eligibility) and should the Panthers string some wins together and upset the Mountaineers, could have conference title implications. Having said that, I'm not holding my breath on the Panthers running the table.