Syracuse, Pittsburgh not focusing on conference realignment
Published: Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 00:09
The overwhelming storyline of the Big East Conference this week is the departure of Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the Atlantic Coast Conference. Both teams will play the following two years in the Big East and will then begin play in the ACC starting in 2014.
Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone admits he is looking forward to the opportunity to compete in a new league, but his primary focus in the short-term remains on his football team this season.
"I told my coaches and I told the players not to comment on it, and we have a tough task ahead in the season, and that's what we need to concentrate on," he said.
Last week, the Orange traveled to USC in a game that was well-contested but eventually saw the Trojans pull away with a 34-17 victory.
"We just weren't in the best of positions all the time to make plays, and we didn't make plays on offense near the end when we had the opportunities," he said.
Syracuse will host Toledo, who is coming off of a 40-15 defeat at the hands of Boise State, this week.
"We have to get back on track from the west coast, and get ready to play a team that's favored to win the MAC that has a bunch of seniors," he said.
Marrone has a great amount of respect for Toledo after nearly upsetting Ohio State at home on the opening weekend of the season, then following with an impressive showing against Boise State.
"They could have won either of (those games)," he said. "We have a lot of work ahead of us right now."
The upcoming matchup with Toledo is Marrone's sole focus, and he said until this season is completed, he wants to avoid discussing his team's future move to the ACC.
"After the season's over, I'll be more than happy to open it up and we can talk about it as much as we want to talk about it."
One of the more pressing questions Pittsburgh head coach Todd Graham has been asked the past few days is his take on the future of the rivalry between Pittsburgh and West Virginia.
With Pittsburgh's move to the ACC on the horizon, Graham is unsure about the future condition of the Backyard Brawl.
"I have no idea," Graham said of the continuation of the rivalry. "Naturally, it's one of the great rivalries in college football and you would hope it would continue, but I have no idea what the future holds."
For the Panthers, the immediate future is a home matchup against Notre Dame. The Irish dropped its first two games of the season, but last week upset Michigan State on the road in what turned out to be an impressive win for the Fighting Irish.
"We have Notre Dame coming in here (and) I'm very, very impressed with them," he said. "Watching them on film, I think no doubt (they will be) the best football team we've played to this point and maybe as good as we'll play all year."
Last Saturday, Pittsburgh lost on the road at Iowa, despite jumping out to a 24-3 lead. The Hawkeyes won the game 31-27, dealing Pittsburgh their first loss of the year.
"I was proud of our players, and how they competed and how they played, and we just didn't finish," he said. "On the road like that, we have to learn how to finish."
Butch Jones and the Cincinnati Bearcats defeated in-state rival Akron 59-14 last weekend.
The Cincinnati defense scored three touchdowns, proving to Jones his team is taking heed to his call of playing physical, aggressive defense.
"Defensively, we were very opportunistic with three scores, but what we continue to preach is (that) takeaways are a byproduct of playing aggressive and playing physical," he said.
"We thought we were able to disrupt the quarterback, and when you're able to do that, good things happen."
This week, the Bearcats are travelling to play North Carolina State. The game is scheduled for an 8 p.m. kickoff Thursday and will be televised on ESPN.
In light of the shifting conference scenery going on across the country, Jones was quick to highlight that his program is poised to succeed regardless of its eventual destination.
"First and foremost, it starts with (the) educational value that we have the prestige that we have in regards to that," he said.
"You look at the location – you're located in a metropolitan area – a great city that is very passionate for sports, (and) I think you just look at the university and all the things we have to offer, and I think, obviously, the success that we've had in past years and the success we continue to have in football and basketball … I think we're very, very attractive."
Although South Florida head coach Skip Holtz expected to win last week's matchup against FCS Florida A&M, he didn't foresee the offensive onslaught his team would employ en route to a 70-17 victory.
"I was really, really pleased with the performance of our team Saturday," he said. "Walking into a game like that, you're always concerned with how your team is going to play.
"You look at some of the scores, not only around the league but around the country playing FCS programs, and you look at how close the scores are, and so we really challenged our team to go out there and set the tone and play our game, and I thought they went out and played exceptionally well."
This week, the Bulls play host to UTEP, who is coming off of a victory last weekend over New Mexico State.
Holtz took time to briefly discuss the conference reconfigurations ongoing throughout the country, but he was quick to remind the media about his requirements as a coach.
"For me, I'm a football coach," he said. "I have my head buried in the bunker, watching film on UTEP and Florida A&M and what we're doing here."
Holtz went further to discuss the notion the renovating going nationwide is nowhere near finished, and is sure to continue shifting for the foreseeable future.
"Right now, there's so much speculation out there on what's going to happen and how big all these conferences are going to grow to be, and who's going to be where, and I just think right now, the landscape of college football is very unstable as far as who is going to be in what conferences."