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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, September 9, 2011 at 11:08 PM

For several years now, many handicappers have considered the Big East as more of a “mid major” than a major college football conference. In fairness, it’s a tweener. You can’t equate the Big East with mid majors like the WAC or Conference USA. But, you can’t really say that the best in the Big East measures up with the best of the rest of the country either.

LAST THREE BIG EAST BCS APPEARANCES

  • Connecticut (+14) lost to Oklahoma 48-20
  • Cincinnati (+12) lost to Florida 51-23
  • Cincinnati (+2.5) lost to Virginia Tech 20-7

That’s three straight double digit losses for the Big East champion. And, Cincinnati was a product of Brian Kelly. He moved to Notre Dame. Cincinnati just about fell off the map as soon as it happened.

We don’t want to suggest it’s all bad news. There have been some good bowl results for the Big East here and there…and some decent regular season results in non-conference action too. Still, when you add up the plusses and the minuses…there have been more embarrassments (several times at the expense of Rutgers alone) than highlights. When there are highlights, the head coach gets hired away!

The first week of the regular season wasn’t a disaster for the Big East. But…

*Syracuse had to go overtime at home last week to get past Wake Forest. Wake Forest was picked to finish at the bottom of the ACC this year.

*Louisville didn’t score the spread in a 21-9 win over Murray State as 28-point favorites on the outlaw line. The Cardinals turned the ball over four times and failed to reach 400 yards against an undersized team that wasn’t expected to provide much competition.

*Pittsburgh barely scored the spread last week against lowly Buffalo. Pitt (-30) had to finish strong for a 35-16 win against a Buffalo team that might be one of the five worst board teams in the country.

*South Florida did upset Notre Dame…but they were outgained by more than 250 yards! That was documented for you here in the VSM blog back on Tuesday in the Network Notebook. Would they have won the game without Notre Dame shooting themselves in the foot all day?

West Virginia did look pretty good against Marshall before weather stopped the game in the second half. Everyone else was playing virtual scrimmages against non-entities.

Friday Night…the first loss of the new season for a Big East team...

FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL 24, LOUISVILLE 17

  • Total Yardage: FIU 293, Louisville 446
  • Rushing Yardage: FIU 45, Louisville 83
  • Passing Stats: FIU 14-21-0-248, Louisville 32-45-1-363
  • Third Downs: FIU 38%, Louisville 45%
  • Turnovers: FIU 0, Louisville 2
  • Plays Run: FIU 47, Louisville 86
  • Yards-Per-Play: FIU 6.2, Louisville 5.2
  • Vegas Line: Louisville by 3, total of 49

We included “plays run” because there was a huge discrepancy in that regard. Louisville kept plodding along, failing to turn yards into points until a TD with a couple of minutes to go got them close. FIU scored on two long pass plays to the amazing T.Y. Hilton (FIU has been recruiting some ATHLETES!). Quarterback Wesley Carroll hit Hilton for scores of 74 and 83 yards. Hilton runs a pretty fast 70-yard dash! FIU also scored on a pick-six.

In short, FIU scored quickly when they scored. Louisville spent a lot of time NOT scoring. Yards-per-play favored Florida International, and they didn’t turn the ball over a single time. We’re running into a lot of games already this year where teams are winning the yardage battle without getting much from their yardage. Handicappers must remember that getting into the end zone is a skill that matters!

FIU has come a long way in five years under coach Mario Cristobal. He’s definitely working the Florida high schools and building a program. They were co-champs of the Sun Belt last year…and won a bowl. But, that’s still the Sun Belt! A Big East team should win at home against the Sun Belt. The Las Vegas betting markets expected Louisville to have trouble here…but they expected them to win. Lousville trailed 24-10 for the bulk of the second half.

Let’s keep an eye on the Big East as a whole this weekend. Maybe the conference is going to be overrated because East Coast “media bias” is influencing oddsmakers who spend too much time listening to ESPN pundits.

BIG EAST ON THE BOARD SATURDAY (in schedule order)

  • Rutgers (+10.5) at North Carolina
  • Cincinnati (+5) at Tennessee
  • South Florida (-20) vs. Ball State
  • Connecticut (+2) at Vanderbilt

Only four board games, but some testers in there.

BIG EAST NON-BOARD GAMES

  • West Virginia vs. Norfolk State
  • Pittsburgh vs. Maine
  • Syracuse vs. Rhode Island

In case you missed Kelso Sturgeon’s Friday video at the bottom of the VSM home page, the dean of Las Vegas handicappers released a FREE 50-unit play to website visitors. The blowout pick was on Temple (-15) vs. Akron in Saturday MAC action. Check out the video for other news and notes from Kelso if you didn’t have a chance on Friday. Some great handicapping tips for finding big plays in the colleges for you do-it-yourselfers…plus an outline of the whole weekend on his service.

Mathew Hurley of Jim Hurley’s Network also checked in via video to outline the weekend. Be sure you scroll down often during the week for every new bulletin from our VSM experts.

Back with you Saturday morning to talk more college football. The Network Notebook will discuss the high profile prime time games featuring BYU at Texas and Notre Dame at Michigan. There are rumblings that another PINNACLE play from Wayne Root is coming up Saturday too. That news by itself should make sure you check back with us!

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