Friday, November 30, 2007

Huskies coach Randy Edsall is in Atlanta today interviewing for the Georgia Tech job. Edsall was an assistant with the Yellow Jackets. While I don't think he'll get the job, let's discuss who are possible replacements if he were to leave, and also the distraction this has caused the team as it gears up for the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

Tulsa coach Todd Graham
Central Michigan's Butch Jones
Buffalo's Turner Gill
Kentucky offensive coordinator Joker Phillips

This isn't a big name program and big name coaches aren't going to want to come to Connecticut.

As for the distraction, I wonder how the kids feel with their coach running off looking for a new job? Look, no one should say that Edsall has no business trying to better his station in life, but I feel this is the wrong time. How awkward would it be if, say he does get the job, and the Huskies play the Jackets in Charlotte? Who does he coach for?

This is just bad timing by Edsall.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A new poll is up: vote for the conference's top coach.

Here are my picks for a few honors, real or that I created. Let me know what you think...

Coach: Randy Edsall, UConn
Player: Pat White, West Virginia
Freshman: Noel Devine, West Virginia
Worst coach: Greg Robinson
Worst team: Syracuse
Best game: West Virginia vs. Louisville
Worst game: Pitt at West Virginia (in advance)
Best cheerleaders: South Florida
Worst cheerleaders: UConn
Biggest surprise: UConn
Biggest letdown: Louisville
Best mascot: South Florida
Worst mascot: West Virginia (when the mascot looks like the locals, it's either a great choice by the school or a bad place to live).
Best press meal spread: South Florida
Worst press meal spread: West Virginia
Best press box: Rentschler Field, UConn
Worst press box: Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati (hot and the most absurd Internet situation). Rutgers isn't far behind.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Huskies landing a spot in the Meineke Car Care Bowl can be viewed as a bit of an upset. Cincinnati had thought it was a lock for the Sun Bowl, but apparently that bowl wants Oregon State from the Pac-10, a team the Bearcats had already defeated.

With that, Cincy figured to play in Charlotte. But now that they are not, the Bearcats are trying to come to grips with playing in the Bowl while two teams with identical record, but who both lost to the Bearcats, are playing in more appealing games.

Meineke Car Car Bowl Executive Director Will Webb told the Cincinnati Post, "Neither school has an extensive bowl history. We know that Cincinnati has a longer Division I football tradition, and they sure have in the last year energized their fan base. We had to decide one way or the other. It was not unanimous, but UConn came out on top. The conference rank should mean something. There were some folks that argued that didn't give up on Cincinnati, with the head-to-head and ending rank. You had reasonable people that agreed to disagree."

Monday, November 26, 2007

Now that the regular season is over, the guessing begins as to where the UConn football team plays its next game.
As one of three teams finishing the season at 9-3, the range of possibilities include cross-country travel and even leaving the country. Based solely on the Huskies’ second-place finish in the Big East, they should find themselves in a Sun Bowl matchup against a Pac-10 opponent (Cal, Oregon or Arizona State). But if the Sun Bowl committee decides to go with Cincinnati, considered a more exciting team and one of three to defeat UConn, the Huskies will look for a spot in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, N.C.
“I had the chance to play golf with the Meineke people this summer (at Big East Media Day) and the Sun Bowl people as well,” UConn coach Randy Edsall said Sunday, when asked if he would be willing to make sales pitch to bowl committees.
Charlotte would provide the Huskies with a great regional matchup, facing a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference, giving both high profile and a respectable opponent. The possibilities go from Clemson to Virginia to Wake Forest to Georgia Tech to Florida State.
If somehow that were to fall through, the Papa John’s Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., would be waiting. This is the least appealing option for the Huskies because it opens up the possibility of them losing to a team from what is considered an inferior Conference USA. For all of the progress the program has made this year, a loss to say, Memphis, would validate the criticism of UConn being a product of a weak schedule.
Lastly, the International Bowl in Toronto would provide the Huskies with a Mid-American Conference opponent, either Bowling Green or Miami (Ohio).
“We’ll be happy wherever we’re going,” Edsall said. “The Big East has five bowl opportunities. There are five teams that are bowl eligible. I would just think with what we accomplished this year, people would look at the whole season and see a 9-3 football that was ranked for a number of weeks during the season. ... I think we’ll fare well.
“Whoever wants us, we’re going to go there and enjoy it and enjoy their hospitality and play a whale of game for those people that are going to be in those stands wherever it is.”
One monkey wrench in all of this would be if the Gator Bowl, long suspected to pass on a Big East team, chooses a Big East school (therefore committing itself to the Big 12 for the next two seasons) such as South Florida, then Cincinnati becomes a greater possibility to play in Charlotte. That leaves the Huskies to decide between travel to Birmingham and Toronto.
An outside possibility, according to Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese, is that the conference may trade out of a bowl game in exchange for a game associated with another conference.
“We can; it depends who’s in the game,” Tranghese said. “It all depends on who’s in the game. We won’t even get to this until next week. We have to play out this week. ... Then we’ve got to see who’s where. There’s still a possibility of a trade out, but there’s still some other games to be played.”
Regular-season conference play comes to an end this weekend, but even with the last bit of unfinished business left on the table, talk has clearly turned toward bowl season.
Behind West Virginia’s runway victory for the Big East title, calls for more prominent bowls and matchups are ringing in the office of conference commissioner Mike Tranghese.
“We’re trying to identify bowls that we can go to places our fans and teams want to go,” Tranghese said Monday. “But our other priority is who we play. Currently, we do not play the Big 10 and we do not play the SEC, and I would like to play both of those conferences.”
An option for the conference before the Bowl Championship Series contract expires after the 2009 season is trading a bowl game with another conference, something Tranghese said will be discussed in the coming weeks.
Tranghese noted that with two years remaining on the BCS contract, the Big East is eyeing a stronger presence in the BCS, considering it will likely have a team playing for that national title and doesn’t have an affiliation to any of the four BCS bowls.
“When we negotiated the contract, Boston College was still in this league playing in that one year period of limbo,” he said. “So we had no leverage, and to be quite candid and blunt, we were lucky to get what we got.”
Tranghese said the next round of negations are at least a year away but that the appeal of the conference is expanding. He noted that four bowls, which are not affiliated with Big East teams, expressed interest in becoming partners last season. With four teams finishing with no less than nine wins, the Big East is gaining appeal.
Brawl mates
Just because West Virginia has put itself in position to play for the national championship doesn’t mean Pittsburgh will allow its next-door neighbor to treat it lightly Saturday when the two teams met in the “Backyard Brawl.”
“Their the Big East champ right now, and that’s motivation,” Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. “You’re always looking for something when you’re struggling like we are. You’re always looking for things to add to the game.”
Top players
Cincinnati’s “Bionic” Ben Mauk was named the Big East’s Offensive Player of the Week. Mauk’s heroics allowed the Bearcats to pull away in the fourth quarter for a tough road win at Syracuse. He completed 29-of-42 passes for 431 yards and four touchdowns while running for a score. Six of Cincinnati’s scoring drives lasted 1:38 or less and he established a new school record with 27 touchdown passes.
West Virginia’s Mortty Ivy took home the Big East Defensive Player of the Week honor. His 11 tackles — three for a loss — two sacks and forced fumble against UConn sparked the Mountaineers to a win for the conference title.
Ivy’s teammate, Pat McAfee, won the Big East’s Special teams Player of the Week award for the second consecutive week and third time this season. McAfee nailed all eight of his extra point attempts and launched a 46-yard field goal. Also, his three punt attempts landed inside the 20-yard line.
UConn coach Randy Edsall speaking to reporters after Saturday's loss.
A panoramic view outside of Mountaineer Field before Saturday's game.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A new poll is up -- tell me where you think the Huskies play next.
Less than 24 hours after his team was handed its worse defeat in program history, UConn football coach Randy Edsall was moving forward as the Huskies sit and wait to learn the opponent and location of their next game.
Even a 66-21 loss to West Virginia, one which gave the Mountaineers the conference championship, Edsall and his coaching staff hit the recruiting trails for the next three weeks toting the team’s 9-3 record, second-place Big East finish and upcoming bowl game.
“They left already,” Edsall said of his coaching staff. “We got in here (Sunday) morning and had the film graded and things and we had a 10 o’clock staff meeting. They were out of here by 12 o’clock, heading on planes, heading places to start recruiting.”
As for the yet-to-be-determined bowl game, Edsall claimed to not have a preference, but said if university or conference administrators want him to pitch his team to a bowl’s committee, he’d be ready.
“That’s pretty much for the other people. That’s (Athletic Director) Jeff Hathaway to do those things, and our conference to do that. If they want me to get on the phone and call anybody, I’ll be more than happy to call anybody. I know all of the people that are involved with the selection.”

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Dennis Brown connected with Anthony Davis on a two-yard pass with 1:20 left in the game.
West Virginia's Ed Collington shredded the UConn defense and scored on a one-yard run to put the Huskies in a 66-14 hole.
Jock Sanders rushed for 58 yards on three carries and gave West Virginia a 59-14 lead in the fourth quarter.
Steve Slaton ran in from three yards out to give West Virginia a 52-14 lead over UConn.
UConn quarterback Tyler Lorenzen fumbled a snap and it was recovered by a West Virginia defender, giving the Mountaineers a 45-14 lead with 3:33 left in the third quarter.
Noel Devine broke a 25-yard run to put West Virginia ahead of UConn, 38-14, Saturday afternoon.
Pat White took advantage of a pass interference call against UConn and scrambled in every direction, ending with a 24-yard touchdown to put West Virginia ahead, 31-14, early in the third quarter.
Another thought to ponder: The last two meetinsg saw UConn play better in the second half. If this trend holds true, could we see a Huskies' win?
Just some look at the statistics:

UConn leads in first downs 13-8, rushing yards 137-102, passing yards 124-88 but West Virginia has forced two turnovers compared to none for UConn. Those turnovers led to 14 WVU points.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the difference.
Donald Brown scored from two yards out with 19.2 seconds in the half, pulling UConn to within 10 points, 24-14, going into halftime at West Virginia.
Pat White ran 29 yards on a 3rd-and-10 and that was followed by a Steve Slaton 31-yard run for a score to push West Virginia's lead over UConn to 24-7 Saturday afternoon.
Jasper Howard's fumble of a punt return at the West Virginia 14-yard line, led to a Mountaineers' score and a 14-7 lead for the hosts Saturday
Pat White connected on a 49-yard pass, then scored o a three-yard pass to pull West Virginia even with UConn, 7-7.
Tyler Lorenzen found Brad Kanuch just over the cusp of the end zone for a six-yard pass to culminate a 92-yard drive, putting UConn ahead against West Virginia, 7-0, in the first quarter Saturday.
This time of year, seeing representatives of different bowl games is a sure sign of a college team's significance. The past few weeks, reps have been at UConn games home and way. Naturally, with the Big East championship on the line shortly, there are important people around today's UConn-West Virginia game. That is, reps from the Orange Bowl.

Keep in mind, as part of the bowl selection process, the four non-national championship bowls have pecking order. Unless the champion of a conference associated to a bowl is in the title game, they are contractually bound to a game. The order and affiliation list is:
Orange Bowl (ACC)
Rose Bowl (Big 10)
Fiesta (Big 12)
Rose Bowl (Pac 10)
Sugar Bowl (SEC)

Now, for the sake of argument we'll pretend UConn wins. Why? Because if they lose, they'll almost certainly fall to the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, N.C., and this becomes a pointless exercise. Also assume whomever wins tonight's Kansas-Missouri game wins the Big 12. Amuse me.

This is what the likely bowl sitaution will be:
National title game: Ohio State vs. Kansas/Missouri
Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. UConn
Rose Bowl: USC vs Illinois
Fiesta: Kansas/Missouri vs.Georgia
Sugar Bowl: LSU vs. West Virginia

The difference if UConn loses?
National title game: West Virginia vs. Ohio State
Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Florida
Rose Bowl: USC vs Illinois/Hawaii
Fiesta: Kansas/Missouri vs.Georgia
Sugar Bowl: LSU vs. Kansas/Missouri/Oklahoma/Oregon

Also, the immediate qualifier for the BCS games is nine wins, which means the following schools are eligible:

LSU, Kansas, West Virginia, Missouri, Ohio State, Arizona State, Georgia, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, USC, Texas, Boston College, Hawaii, Virginia, Illinois, Boise State, UConn and Wisconsin.
After sitting through an additional hour's worth of traffic because of the mass of humanity attending the game, I finally arrived at the stadium. The sea of blue and gold is rather awe inspiring.

Save the jokes, but it reminds me a lot of a NASCAR race where there are fleets of RVs and tents and flags and an endless parade for miles lf horn-tooting MOuntaineer faithful.

I wonder if it serves the Huskies well if they arrive with blindfolds over their eyes.

Not at Duke or South Florida or Cincinnati or Virginia have I seen this environment. Like it or not, this is college football at its finest.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thoughts while sitting in my hotel room...

Hawaii looks good, amazingly.

It's colder in Norwich than Pittsburgh.

The room service quesadillia is so expensive, it charged me gratuity just to be in its presence.

This room is so big, you can fit four sportswriters at the desk.
I'm here in Pittsburgh getting ready to head south to Morgantown tomorrow morning. There's a lot riding on tomorrow's game. More so now that LSU lost to Arkansas in triple OT.

Here's the thing: Before LSU lost, West Virginia was going to run up the score against UConn if it had the chance. Why? Assuming LSU was to beat Arkansas, West Virginia would need to win by as many points as possible to impress voters and hope that the Missouri/Kansas winner falls in the Big 12 title game next week against Oklahoma.

Now, a Missouri win and a West Virginia win likely pushes the Mountaineers into the top spot.

Talk about pressure? If there wasn't enough on the Mountaineers, it's been jacked up a few notches. If you ask me, that added pressure helps UConn. But if it doesn't take advantage of that factor early, it can be quickly negated.

I still don't like the Huskies' chances. I hope they win; a BCS game for this upstart team makes for a great story, maybe one of the best this season. But I just don't see it happening.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"I was telling someone earlier (Tuesday), my wife and I -- she's pretty astute -- following football, we actually talked about the beginning of the season (she said) one of the teams you have to look out for is UConn because they had so much bad luck after last year with the injuries and all that. Normally you're not going to have that bad luck two years in a row.

"People have known they're pretty good for the last four, five weeks and they're still winning."

-- West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez on UConn.
Just a quick perusal of national media's take on Saturday's game and I see most outlets/columnists are including the game as one of the games to watch. Some, however, are either dismissing the Huskies or just believe the game isn't worth watching despite the Big East title being at stake. Is that shoddy journalism? Maybe. Logic would tell you if a conference championship is on the line -- and a BCS bowl bid -- then there is some significance to the game. That's where I think it's not a problem to dismiss the Huskies. At least there's an opinion, but to ignore the game entirely -- no matter how you think the game will turn out -- treating it as if it were a Temple-LSU game. This is two Top 25 teams.
-- New poll --

Who wins Saturday? You have until kickoff to vote.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Huskies will have their hands full this weekend trying to stop West Virginia quarterback Pat White. In order to try to mimic White's movements in practice this week, UConn will use defensive back Jonathan Jean-Louis in the roll of Pat White.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Huskies have won and will now play for the Big East championship next weekend at West Virginia. More on that later...
Danny Lansanah just add the final touches to the game, a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown. It's the fifth time the Huskies have done so, a school record.
After missing a 38-yarder, Tony Ciaravino came through and kicked a 32-yarder to stretch the UConn lead to 24-0.
It's the half and it looks like UConn is toying with Syracuse. The lead is 21-0 and no matter what the Orange tries to do, it isn't enough. Even when UConn punter Desi Cullen mishandled the ball on a punt attempt, he picked up the ball and drop kicked it to the 'Cuse's 27 yard line.

It's that kind of day.
Donald Brown delivers with a 21-yard run for a score. With the point after, the Huskies lead 21-0 with 7:04 to play.
Andre Dixon ran in from two yards out to put the Huskies up two touchdowns. Right now Cincinnati and West Virginia are watching this game knowing the Huskies' success puts more pressure on the teams as they meet tonight.
In what might be the sweetest looking pass play of the season, Tyler Lorenzen connected with Terence Jeffers ona 63-yard TD pass. It's the longest pass for the team since Oct. 23, 2004 when Dan Orlovsky hooked up with Jason Williams for 90-yards against Temple.
Just in case any of you decide to check in before kickoff, the field looks horrible. As AP's Pat Eaton-Robb said to me, "It looks like they brought out the Maine field," in reference to the sad state of affairs from the home opener.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Any questions about Lou Allen’s long-term status with the UConn football team were answered Tuesday when coach Randy Edsall announced that Allen, of Salem, would not be returning to the team next season.
The end of Allen’s Huskies career is two fold: The tailback is on course to graduate this academic year and is suffering from lingering affects of stingers, an injury common in contact sports. According to the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, it is a “pain that spreads from the shoulders to the hand” and can feel like an “electric shock or a lightning bolt.”
“[Allen] came to me during the open week, just sat down and said, ‘Coach, this is going to be it for me,’” Edsall said. “I kind of looked at him and said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘I’m going to be able to graduate. I’ve had these problems with these stingers.’”
Allen, who established a new state record for rushing yards at East Lyme High School, was indefinitely suspended from the team last week. Edsall said that Allen will not participate in Saturday’s festivities honoring the team’s 10 seniors. Allen’s status for the regular season finale at West Virginia next week and the team’s subsequent bowl game, is up in the air.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Nov. 24 game between UConn and West Virginia has been held for six-day selection, giving ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 until Sunday before deciding which network will broadcast the game and at what time it will be played. The decision will be based upon the results of this weekend’s games. If the game is played at noon, it will be seen on either ESPN or ESPN2. If the Huskies-Mountaineers game is played at 3:30 p.m. or 8 p.m., it will be carried by ABC.
Each year the networks are allowed to designate games for six-day selection a total of three times.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The loss tonight to Cincinnati makes the Big East a tighter race than it appeared to be a week ago. Here are the possiblities:

* If UConn, West Virginia or Cincinnati win out, that team wins the conference championship.

It becomes more complicated when you consider the remaining games for each.
UConn - Syracuse, at West Virginia
Cincinnati - West Virginia, at Syracuse
West Virginia - at Cincinnati, UConn, Pitt

* The most likely scenario is UConn beats Syracuse and losses to West Virginia; Cincinnati does the same; and West Virginia sweeps. Based on those results, the bowl projections would send WVU to a BCS bowl (Orange or Sugar Bowls), Cincinnati to the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, and UConn to the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, N.C.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

UConn's defense has had trouble stopping the run, but a bigger concern has be the futility if the offense. The Huskies need to get something going or the game will have already been decided.
It's cliche, I know, to say today's game is the most important game of the season. But in this case, it's hard to say otherwise. A win by UConn keeps the Huskies in the drivers seat for the Big East crown. A loss turns what was a two-team race into a three-team race. The Bearcats play West Virginia next week and if Cincy wins out over the next three weeks, they are the Big East champs. A loss today places the focus squarely on the UConn-West Virginia meeting in two weeks.

In Friday's paper I predicted a loss for UConn. I'm sitting here in the pressbox at Nippert Stadium and my gut is telling me the Huskies will win.

Cincinnati isn't as effective running the ball as UConn is, but Bearcats QB Ben Mauk will pose problems with his arm and legs. In the end, the decisive factors will be whether the Huskies can score in the red zone and who wins the turnover battle.

Also of note, members of the Sun Bowl committee are here checking out both teams.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Salem's Lou Allen was suspended by coach Randy Edsall Monday for violating an unspecified team rule. No further comment is expected. I attempted to reach Allen, but was unsuccessful.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Just a quick note from last night: Former Husky Alfred Fincher sent a "pump up" video to the team this week, which was played prior to the game. It apparently had such an impact that coach Randy Edsall is giving Fincher a game ball.

Dan Davis said the message was, "Why not us? Why not now?" It's something the team is taking to heart. That also goes for this season being what unifies the players who've played for the Huskies throughout their history.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

If there was any doubt about whether or not the Huskies are a quality team, it is being put to rest tonight. In less than a full quarter, UConn has dismantled Rutgers and lead 18-3.
Earlier this week, coach Randy Edsall refused to say that kicker Tony Ciaravino has stabalized the position. After he missed a gimme PAT, Edsall looks wise beyond his years.
It may be bloody cold here, but what a great start by the Huskies!

D.J. Hernandez's blocked punt leads to a safety, putting UConn up 2-0 before they see the ball.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Well, I'm back -- I don't know who schedules their wedding in the middle of such an incredible season.

It's been an incredible run by the Huskies, who are on their way to a bowl game. Let's take a look at the possibilities based upon how the Huskies finish the season.

4-0: Orange Bowl, against ACC champ (if not playing in BCS title game)
3-1: Sun Bowl, against a Pac-10 team (Oregon, Arizona State or USC)
2-2: Car Care Bowl, against an ACC team (how about a rematch with Virginia?)
1-3: Papa John's Bowl, against a Conference USA team
0-4: International Bowl, versus a MAC opponent