Today we kick off a new series that will take a team-by-team look at the marquee nonconference faces the Big East will see in the fall. Every regular reader of this blog knows about the Teddy Bridgewaters and Greg Blairs of the world, but who are some of the opponents outside of conference play that are worth studying up on before your favorite team takes the field in 2013?
We'll set out to do that each day for the next two weeks.
We'll start alphabetically, as always, with Cincinnati.
Offensive opponent to watch: Akeem Hunt, RB, Purdue. The all-purpose back seems to have the No. 1 job to himself this year for the Boilermakers, who travel to Cincinnati in the season opener for their first game under new head coach Darrell Hazell. Hunt rushed for just 335 yards and two scores last year but averaged eight yards per carry, 15.7 yards per catch (with two more scores) and 22.2 yards per kick return, including a 100-yard kick return for a score. Hunt had four scoring plays of at least 50 yards in 2012, and he capped a strong spring with 19 carries for 134 yards and a touchdown in the spring game. Hunt has drawn comparisons to the lightning-quick Dri Archer, who starred for Hazell last season at Kent State.
Defensive opponent to watch: Jonathan Brown, LB, Illinois. Two weeks, two Big Ten opponents for the Bearcats, who travel to Champaign, Ill., in Week 2. There, they will be tasked with stopping Brown, who checks in as a first-teamer on Phil Steele's All-Big Ten squad. Brown was banged up during much of last season, as he was limited to nine games. But he still notched 59 total tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery for an Illini defense that was, simply, not very good. When healthy, Brown is among the best linebackers in the conference, as illustrated by his second-team All-Big Ten selection as a sophomore in 2011, when he recorded 108 total tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, one pick, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble.