Big East mailbag

So a movie comes out with both Natalie Portman and Zooey Deschanel in it, and it bombs. How is that possible?

On to more important questions: yours.

Hank from Leeds, Mass., writes: BB, I thought that opening with Michigan was a driving force for UConn last off-season. The team really rallied around that challenge. I know the game at Michigan didn't pan out as hoped but the gains made in the off-season certainly did. I think the Huskies may have been the most motivated team in the BE last summer. Which team in the BE do you see as having that edge this offseason?

Brian Bennett: Well, I'm not sure I can agree with you about UConn. The Huskies fell flat on their face against Michigan, lost to Temple and started out 0-2 in the Big East. They didn't start playing well until late October, and Randy Edsall hinted that they might have read too many of their press clippings in the summer. All that said, the team with the most motivation for the opener has to be South Florida. The Bulls open at Notre Dame in a game that will get a lot of attention with the Holtz connections. They know if they win in South Bend, it will open a lot of eyes.

Michael M. from Williamsburg, Va., writes: I've been hearing a lot about the new offensive system Todd Graham is installing at Pitt. However, as one of the many people that are still somewhat skeptical of Tino Sunseri (note, I was always something of a Pat Bostick fan) I have to wonder whether he can really run a spread system. What's your thought on this subject?

Brian Bennett: I would argue that Sunseri might actually be a better fit for the spread than the pro-style. Think about it: In Wannstedt's system, he was often asked to throw deep off of play-action, and the deep ball looks like his biggest weakness. In Graham's system, he'll be in the shotgun, which will help his view of the field since he's not very tall. The system is based more on getting rid of the ball quickly and making decisive reads than pure arm strength. Sunseri, as a the son of a coach, understands the game well. Look at some quarterbacks who've had success under Graham like Paul Smith and G.J. Kinne at Tulsa, and they're not physically imposing.

Rickey from Lehigh Acres, Fla., writes: I see that USF is tops on the list of a Florida receiver looking to transfer. We already got a few running backs that transferred looking for a fresh start after running into trouble at their other schools. How do you think this reflects on the program? Does this cast USF in a bad light since we are accepting some guys with checkered backgrounds or does this make USF look good by allowing some guys a second chance to play ball, earn a degree and hopefully turn their lives around?

Brian Bennett: It all depends on how the guys behave once they get to your school. I go back to how Louisville accepted a lot of transfers and found great success with players like Eric Shelton and Nate Harris. But that bit them on the behind when they took a chance on Willie Williams. None of the guys coming to USF have major problems in their background from what I can tell. Part of the advantage of being located in Tampa means that the Bulls will be an attractive destination for Florida players looking to come home from other schools.

Matt from Oklahoma City, Okla., writes: Why does Cullen Christan have to sit out a year and Barry Brunetti does not? They are both transfering back home?

Brian Bennett: Brunetti, the former West Virginia quarterback, successfully appealed to the NCAA to become immediately eligible by citing his mother's health. She's recovering from a car accident and lives in Memphis, which is much closer to Ole Miss than Morgantown. Christian, who's transferring to Pitt from Michigan, has no such extenuating circumstances that I'm aware of. By the way, this story says Bill Stewart helped Brunetti win his appeal. It's nice to see a coach helping a player out like that.

Matt Rob from Pittsburgh writes: Your description of the Big East as a "Torso League" is validated by the four-year performance averages. The Big East places third out of all conferences, and has a top-to-bottom average better than any others.

Brian Bennett: Say what you want about the Big East, but there are no easy outs anymore in conference play. If Cincinnati and Rutgers are improved this year as I think they will be, this will easily be the most balanced league in the country, top to bottom. But can any one team stand out?

Corey from Hurricane writes: Regarding what it would take for WVU fans to feel more fondly about Rich Rodriguez: I know many Mountaineer fans that aren't angry or happy with Rich Rod any more -- it's more a sense of apathy. I feel that more than anything WVU fans still just can't get their minds around why he would ever leave Morgantown. He had spent seven years to build his alma mater and life-long favorite team to the brink of a national championship (and had he stayed in 2008 it's hard to believe that team would have not gone undefeated), but only to leave for "greener pastures" at Michigan. I for one will never understand how yearly BCS games, Top 10 finishes, and shots at the NC game are not of the greenest of pastures.

Ryan from Houston writes: I admit that I have never understood the level of resentment and outright hatred showered upon Rich. Granted, the way in which he left the team and the state was unceremonious. However, I don't understand how people can just sweep him under the rug and act like he didn't have an outrageous level of success at WVU that really re-energized the university and the whole state. Maybe one of these days, Mountaineer fans as a whole will learn to appreciate his tenure and the unprecedented success. .... For what it's worth, I am a native West Virginian, attended WVU undergrad and law school, and I had Rich at the top of my wish list for replacing Stew.

Ed from Morgantown: In response to your question: yes, we do still hate Rich Fraudriguez.. 'nuff said.

Brian Bennett: Well, there are certainly many different opinions about Rodriguez. I do think, with time, there will be more appreciation of what he accomplished in Morgantown. It's pretty easy to see why he left: more money, the appeal of coaching Michigan and some obvious conflicts he had at West Virginia. These days in college football, to have a coach stick around for seven years or so is pretty much an era. Rodriguez leaving was an error. But I bet he'd do the same thing again if given the choice.