Big East mailbag

My days are a little off after covering the NCAA basketball tournament for a week. That's why they call it madness, I suppose. So here's a mailbag that usually runs Tuesday but is running Wednesday for the second straight week. I'll be straightened out soon.

Ben R. from Pittsburgh writes: Your reference to The National in Tuesday's Big East lunchtime links made by day, Brian! They're actually Cincinnati natives but Brooklyn's their home now. But on to my question ... do you think Tino Sunseri will be under center/in the shotgun for Pitt next year?

Brian Bennett: Glad you liked it and even happier you got the reference. The National is great and I've seen them a few times in concert. Anyhow, Todd Graham has talked about how being in the shotgun will be good for Sunseri so he's better able to scan the defense pre-snap. I expect we'll see him in that formation the overwhelming majority of the time.

Dave from Hartford, Conn., writes: I have to disagree with you on the Connecticut superlatives. You nailed it with the D-line as the strength, but I believe a majority would say that QB is the weakest position going into next year. Based on the strength of the O-line, D.J. Shoemate, Martin Hyppolite, Jonathan Jean-Louis once healthy, plus Leon Kinnard or either of the incoming freshman will be an effective running back next year. Maybe not at a Jordan Todman or Donald Brown level, but good enough. QB on the other hand, is a complete unknown with only Michael Box having three quarters of experience under his belt. That's the position that would keep me awake at night going into next year; wondering how you landed on RB.

Brian Bennett: I was either going to pick quarterback or running back, and you make good points on why the quarterback position is weak. My argument would be that there are at least a lot of candidates, including Box, Michael Nebrich, Johnny McEntee and Scott McCummings. Whereas there are only two guys available for spring practice at tailback, and neither of them have had much actual experience at the position. The running back position will eventually be deeper, but for that series I was considering who was going through spring practice. You're right, though, that if the offensive line stays strong, UConn will be able to run the ball. On the flip side, the Huskies won the Big East last year without much production from the quarterback spot.

John from Dallas writes: Do you think the Big East is a stepping stone for TCU to one day join the Big 12? Or do you think Texas & Co. are happy with only having 10 teams and splitting their revenue amongst themselves?

Brian Bennett: The Big 12 has no interest in TCU. That league already owns the Dallas/Fort Worth market with Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Baylor and others. All TCU brings is another competitive team that splits the revenue.

A.J. from Syracuse writes: How does USF consistently have a strong defensive line after losing so many starters?

Brian Bennett: That's a good question. Defensive line has been a consistent source of strength for the program year after year. My answer is that Florida produces an inordinate amount of those big, fast defensive linemen that everybody wants, which is why so many schools recruit the state. South Florida has done a good job keeping some of that talent home.

Brian H. from New Jersey writes: I want your opinion on Greg Schiano. He'll be entering his 11th season at Rutgers. He's won nothing in arguably the easiest BCS conference. He's now by far the most seasoned coach in this league (no one else has even five seasons), and putting up the results he has in recent years if you ask me is unacceptable. Going 4-8 in a year when the league was way down this season, losing to rookie coaches over and over again, and not to mention losing to Tulane on homecoming (who was ranked 119th in FBS overall preseason in several publications), is preposterous. I honestly think that if he does not improve next season (i.e. .500 minimum), he's gone. Thoughts?

Brian Bennett: Well, first I think you have to judge Schiano based on where the program was when he came in and where it is now. There's no doubt that he has improved the Scarlet Knights by leaps and bounds in every area. They have become a yearly bowl team, with last year being a notable exception. Does Schiano need to have a breakthrough and win the Big East soon? Yes. (And maybe it was just bad luck that his best team, the 2006 one, played in what was the best year for the conference since the new format began). He has recruited very well and has the talent to get to the next level in the next couple of years. But Schiano is in no immediate danger, because of what he's done for the program and for his very expensive contract.

Michael S. from Louisville writes: I could not help but notice that in your piece about how the Big East would have fared in a football playoff, you threw out both of Cincy's BCS teams (good move, I agree). I could not help but recall though, that when you had a mock playoff between the best BE teams last year that you had one of the Cincy teams beating the 2006 Louisville team. I remember (and I am not going to mince words here) that is was one of the DUMB DUMB DUMBEST things I had ever seen you write. Your justification at the time was that the Cincy teams refused to lose in the regular season, but this was suppose to be a postseason scenario! Further, you had just admitted that Cincy won in two down years for the league, while Louisville won the league in arguably its strongest year (2006). I think you just proved yourself how dumb that pick was last year.

Brian Bennett: I believe that 2006 Louisville team was better than the 2009 Cincinnati team. I also believe that weird things can happen in a tournament, which is why I picked the upset. Just look to the other madness for plenty of examples of similar craziness.