My bet with ESPN Big East blogger Andrea Adelson rolls on. Cincinnati may have lost the game on Saturday but the Bearcats defensive line was suffocating. Overall, UC’s defense held West Virginia’s lethal offense to 17 points, it’s lowest total of the season (even #1 ranked LSU held WVU offense to 21 points). In many ways this shutdown on defense was benefited from a menacing pass rush led by Cincinnati’s front four, who sacked Geno Smith five times, compiled almost 30 tackles, and notched 9.5 tackles for loss. They also forced 3 fumbles which helped get the Bearcats back into the ball game. It was this stellar performance that not only kept Cincinnati’s defensive line in 1st place in these standings but allowed them to begin to separate themselves from the rest of the conference:
- The leaders on last Saturday’s team were none other than Derek Wolfe and Walter Stewart themselves. Wolfe has been rock solid on the interior leading his unit in most statistical categories. But it’s Stewart who has really made plays in the past couple of weeks that has placed him just behind his huge defensive tackle in those categories. Walt has also been causing more forced fumbles than any other player on the team. Don’t run to his side!
– Not to be forgotten is John Hughes, who has constantly commanded double teams and has been a brickwall against the run but finally got to the quarterback this week adding two sacks to his stat sheet. The big 300 lbs bull is a handful for offensive lines to block, especially with Wolfe lining up next to him.
– Over the next three weeks, Cincinnati faces teams that are ranked 72nd, 79th, and 118th in sacks allowed so look for the Bearcats’ defensive line to stay entrenched atop the conference.
To the rest of the Big East
– The bye week absolutely killed UConn, who tumbled to 7th in the rankings. They should benefit from Syracuse, West Virginia, and Pitt all having this weekend off but will need to do some work in their final games.
– Rutgers has arguably the best all-around defense in the Big East and most of that can be attributed to their defensive line that just knows how to get after the ball carrier (2nd in tackles) and rattle the quarterback (2nd in QB hurries) despite being middle of the road in sacks.
– The South Florida Bulls also possess an impressive defense despite their over all record and have been doing extremely well getting into the backfield this season.