Big East : Parity remains strong theme in Big East; league wide open

first_img Comments Published on October 11, 2011 at 12:00 pm Contact Ryne: [email protected] For Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano, the Big East has long been defined by parity. Whether a team sits atop the conference standings or scuffles at the bottom, every conference matchup is a battle.‘I think that’s been the Big East,’ Schiano said in the Big East coaches teleconference Monday. ‘I think that’s one of the things that makes the Big East football conference so exciting is that every week any team in our league can beat any other team.’It was true last year when Schiano’s Scarlet Knights finished in last place with a 1-6 conference record, but they earned their lone win over the Big East champion, Connecticut. And they have proven to be true again so far this season.Schiano and Rutgers (4-1, 2-0 Big East) were picked to repeat their 2010 last-place performance in the Big East football preseason media poll, but after winning their first two conference matchups, they are currently in first place. The Scarlet Knights are one of five Big East teams with winning records at the midway point. At 3-3, Pittsburgh is a dangerous opponent and the conference’s coaches aren’t about to overlook Louisville and Connecticut despite their subpar play thus far.South Florida and Pittsburgh have both already learned how important it is to go into each game ready to go from the start.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe Bulls’ lesson came in its first conference matchup with the Panthers on Sept. 29. Going into the Thursday night game with a struggling Pittsburgh team, South Florida was cruising. USF was 4-0 and climbed to No. 14 in the nation behind an explosive offense.But the Panthers upset the Bulls to end their undefeated start in dominant fashion, winning 44-17.‘Every week in this league, you better strap it up, you better be ready to play or you’re going to get beat,’ USF head coach Skip Holtz said in the teleconference.Holtz is keeping that in mind as his team prepares to take on Connecticut this Saturday. The Bulls head coach said UConn is a solid football team despite its 2-4 start, pointing out that three of the Huskies’ losses came by a combined 14 points.As USF looks to get back on track, Pittsburgh will try to rebound after following up its big win over the Bulls with an embarrassing 34-10 loss to Rutgers last Saturday.Pitt head coach Todd Graham said he stressed to his team that it needed to put the emotional high of the USF win in the past and to start preparing for the Scarlet Knights. But Graham said the Panthers failed to do so, and it showed in the loss Saturday.Graham said he is still trying to get his program established in his first year at the helm, and his players need to show more consistency.There are no excuses for failing to prepare properly, he said, especially for a conference game. He and his coaching staff try to hammer that point home every week.‘You better be humble each week is what we talk to our guys in how you approach your opponent in the Big East,’ Graham said in the teleconference. ‘Because if not, you’ll get humbled.’Staying humble has also become a part of the ‘fabric’ of Schiano’s Rutgers program. Schiano said he talks about being humble every day. With his team off to an unexpected 2-0 start in conference play, he said it is important to keep that mentality moving forward.This Scarlet Knights team has adopted that mentality since it began working out immediately after the 2010 season ended with a 35-14 loss to West Virginia on Saturday, Dec. 4. The Monday after the game, Schiano said, Rutgers was already training for 2011.The team’s losing campaign snapped a streak of five straight bowl appearances for Rutgers, and that didn’t sit well with Schiano or the players.Their drive to improve has formed a strong bond between the players in 2011. Now, the Scarlet Knights are taking extra time to study their playbooks together during the week. The intense preparation has translated to a high level of confidence for Rutgers on Saturdays, Schiano said.The fast start has answered some of the questions surrounding the Scarlet Knights after losing their final six games to finish 4-8 last season.‘It was questions about doing some things that were very fundamental playing the game, as well as chemistry things that I wanted to see us get back to who we were,’ Schiano said. ‘And we’re not there yet, but I like the direction we’re headed.’From what Holtz has seen from afar, he thinks Rutgers has reclaimed that identity as a tough and fundamentally sound football team. The USF head coach feels it’s also the identity of the Big East, and that style of play is the reason the conference is so competitive each week.‘It is such a balanced league with teams playing solid, fundamental football,’ Holtz said. ‘This is not a trick league where it’s wide open, throw it all over the yard.’Big man on campusStedman BaileyWest VirginiaWide ReceiverLast week: Seven catches, 178 yards, two touchdownsBailey now leads the Big East in receiving after his fourth straight game with 100 yards receiving in West Virginia’s 43-16 win over Connecticut on Saturday. The redshirt sophomore caught seven balls for 178 yards, good for a 25.4-yard-per-catch average. Bailey’s 84-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter pushed WVU’s lead to double digits and put the game out of reach. Bailey has become one of quarterback Geno Smith’s favorite targets as the Mountaineers continue to light up the [email protected]center_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img