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Big East Philosophy: Big Least Indeed

Is Dion Lewis fumbling away his starting job with Pitt? (Icon SMI)

Let’s just start with this: Tulane went to Piscataway and beat Rutgers. Yes, that really happened. Tom Savage, the Scarlet Knights Sophomore quarterback, was injured and was forced to leave the game early against the Green Wave.  However, no matter how you slice it, that’s a weak excuse. Rutgers losing to Tulane is another example of how bad the Big East has been this year. Five weeks into the season there is no clear cut favorite.  West Virginia may be the best of the worst, but to say WVU could hang with the Big Boys of college football would be a reach.

In fact, Tom Savage is a great example of the season thus far for the entire Big East. The Soph was the most experienced quarterback returning to action this year in the conference and, injured or not, Savage has been putrid. Pittsburgh’s Super Sophomore running back Dion Lewis was thinking Heisman. Now, Lewis isn’t even the leading rusher on the Panthers!  It’s been a lackluster season to this point with not many players actually being fantasy relevant on a weekly basis.  Here are some of the players that have separated themselves somewhat through the first month and a week into the season of the Big Least East.

  • Jordan Todman, Connecticut Running Back: I’ve been all over Todman since the pre-season and the Junior hasn’t disappointed in the least. Todman leads the Big East in rushing yards (638) and touchdowns by a running back (7) and he is fresh off a monster 190 yard day against Vanderbilt. Keep in mind those numbers are for four weeks as Todman missed the Huskies game against Buffalo.
  • Ray Graham, Pittsburgh Running Back: How about that?! A Panther running back with 492 yards rushing on just 52 carries for an average of 10.2 per touch not named Dion Lewis. Graham ran for 277 yards and three TDs against Florida International last weekend in place of the injured Lewis. From here on out, however, I highly recommend you pick up and/or start Graham. A very Wally Pipp or Mike Vick feel to the running back situation in Pittsburgh (minus the disease and the dog killing thing).
  • Geno Smith, West Virginia Quarterback: The Mountaineers quarterback has thrown for two or more touchdowns in three of the first four games this season. The lone game in which Smith didn’t throw a score came in Tiger Stadium against LSU at night. There will be no more road games at LSU for Smith (919 yards – 9 TDs) and the ‘Neers this season. That means the strong armed Sophomore will have more multi-score games in the future in the watered down Big East. Just for fun, here is a West Virginia school and a school bus.
  • Bilal Powell, Louisville Running Back: Much like Pittsburgh with Graham taking over for Lewis, Powell wasn’t supposed to be having this type of season. The Cardinals primary back last season was Vic Anderson, yet Powell has been the main focus for the Red Birds offense. In four games, Powell has rushed for over 150 yards twice, including last weekend at Arkansas State (157 yards – 2 rushing TDs – 1 TD reception). Obviously, with Louisville being in a ‘rebuild’ phase, the Cards are likely to be down a lot in games, but Powell should still get enough action to be a worth while play in Big East or deep BCS leagues.
  • West Virginia Defense: I’ll be perfectly honest with you, this surprises the hell out of me. Yet, the Mountaineers rank number 8 in total defense. West Virginia as a defense has not yielded 1,000 yards of total offense against it in four games. Granted the toughest opponent WVU has faced was LSU, and I think you, me, and nine of our buddies could play a Les Miles coached team tight, but looking forward the ‘Neers defense is a viable threat.
  • Rutgers Defense: The Scarlet Knights D hasn’t quite been on par with West Virginia, but Rutgers ranks number 12 in the nation in total defense through four games. In terms of points against Rutgers is fourth in the nation, having not given up more than 14 points in a game yet this season. Of course, the toughest foe so far for Greg Schiano has been a depleted North Carolina team. Much like the Scarlet Knight mascot itself, Rutgers loves to bully the weak.
  • DJ Woods, Cincinnati Wide Receiver/Returner: The Junior has amassed 317 yards receiving in the last two games – with 171 of those yards coming against top 10 Oklahoma. Woods isn’t a guarantee, fumbling punt returns and dropping passes, but it’s clear that the wide out is the primary target for the Bearcats areal assault. I would also keep an eye on Cincinnati’s Zach Collaros, as the Junior QB will be throwing Woods the ball. Collaros has thrown for 300 plus yards in two consecutive games.

Outside of those players and defenses, there have been few consistent performances this season in the Big East. With the meat of the conference schedule kicking into gear this weekend, we will learn a lot more about all of the teams and players in very short order. Until then, the Big East, save for a short few, remains a dicey play in the world of fantasy.

Matt McCluskey is the voice of North Country Sports on WNER 1410 ESPN Radio near Syracuse NY. It is Matt Mc’s Sports Fix, and we all need a hit. http://twitter.com/McsSportsFix


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