The past few years Rich Rodriguez and WVU has dominated the Big East. Now Rich Rod is gone to Michigan, but WVU still has Pat White and I really think that'll be enough for WVU to continue there success in the conference.
1. West Virginia-This pick is just based on the fact that West Virginia still has Pat White one of the 5 best quarterbacks in the country. The Mountaineers do lose though their 2nd leading rusher in Steve Slaton and leading reciever in Darius Reynaud. I think that Noel Devine should be able to replace Steve Slaton, and we all saw what Devine could do when he was given the ball 20-30 times in the Fiesta Bowl. Reynaud will be more difficult to replace, and the new #1 reciever is expected to be Dorrell Jollah, while the new #2 reciever is expected to be Tito Gonzales. The defense is expected to take a step back with only 4 returning starters on the defensive side of the ball. Though the defense should take a step back this season, expect Pat White and Noel Devine to be able to carry West Virginia to another Big East Title. The biggest conference game on the schedule is the road game against Pitt, while the headliner in the non-conference is a home game against Auburn.
2. Pitt-The first 11 games for Pitt were pretty bad as they went 4-7 and during those games they suffered numerous injuries. Then the entire outlook changed for this season, on the last game of the regular season when Pitt went up against West Virginia in the Backyard Brawl in Morgatown, West Virginia. In this game many felt that Pat White and Steve Slaton should be able to just run right over Pitt, but that didn't happen West Virginia put up their lowest point total all year, struggled all night and lost their chance at a National Title with a 13-9 loss. The strength of the Pitt offense will surely be the running game led by LeSean McCoy who last year as a freshman ran for 1300 yards. The Pitt Panthers also return their top 2 recievers in Oderick Turner and TJ Porter. The key for the Pitt offense is who'll be the quarterback, it appears to be a two man battle between Pat Bostick and Bill Stull, with Bill Stull having the advantage right now. The defense last year was the strength for Pitt ranking 10th in total defense last year, and the Pitt defense showed how good they were by shutting down West Virginia, expect it to be the strength of Pitt this year as well. If Pitt wants to win it's offense will have to surely improve from it's 107 ranking in total offense, Pitt though catches a break in the scheduling having to play WVU at home this year. The headliner in the non-conference schedule is a trip to South Bend to play Notre Dame.
3. Cincinnati-The Bearcats are still basking in what was the greatest year in Beacats football last year as they were able to win 10 games and finish ranked in the top 20. This year the Bearcats return 16 starters from that team so expect Cincy to once again have a football team capable of being ranked in the top 25. The key for Cincy is finding a good starting quarterback, and it appears that Demetrius Jones a transfer from Notre Dame seems to be the front runner, but Dustin Grutza is still battling him for the job, The Bearcats lost a trio of running backs, so they need to find a new running back to take some burden off the starting quarterback. The recievers seem to be the strong point of Cincinnati with the return of their top 3 recievers in Dominick Goodman, Marcus Barnett and Marshawn Gilyard. The defense like last year appears to once again be very good for Cincinnati. The Bearcats last year which lead the country in takaways will need, to force many turnovers again to help a young quarterback on offense. The question mark on the defense is the defensive line. With both defensive ends Angelo Craig and Anthony Hoke graduating, along with the suspension of All American Terrill Boyd. The key for Cincinnati this year is to try to find an effective quarterback and a good defensive line, if Terrill Boyd is reinstated that would help out the defense greatly. The huge game in non-conference play is the road game against Oklahoma, and they end the year with a road trip to Hawaii as well. In conference the key games for Cincinnati seem to be the road trips to West Virginia, Louisville and UConn, along with a home game against Pitt.
4. South Florida-Last year the South Florida Bulls reached epic heights being ranked at one time #2 in the country. That was before they fell apart and finished the season getting blown out by 35 against Oregon in the Sun Bowl. The offense will once again be lead by quarterback Matt Grothe who last year had over 2600 yards throwing and 800 yards rushing. The Bulls also return sophmore running back Mike Ford, who last year as a freshman rushed for over 600 yards. The Bulls also return their top 2 recievers in Carlton Mitchell and Jessie Hester. The defense should be better then last year, which struggled at the end of last year to stop teams. The key is to try to replace Mike Jenkins, who should be a 1st round pick in the Draft. They do return All American George Selvie though. Overall, it should be interesting to see which USF team shows up? The team that beat West Virginia and was #2 in the country, or the team that struggled to stop Oregon and their 4th string quarterback in the Sun Bowl. If the Bulls want to win the Big East they'll need to beat West Virginia in Morgantown.
5. UConn-Last year the UConn Huskies shocked the world and became Co-Big East Champs last year and was able to win 9 games. The Huskies on offense will be lead by their solid running game led by Andre Dixon and Donald Brown who both ran for over 800 yards last year. The quarterback will be Tyler Lorenzen who last year had a solid first year as a starter. The top returning receiver is Terence Jeffers who last year had over 400 yards receiving. Defensively UConn was really good last year and that was a huge key in their success. This year the defense shouldn't be as good, but don't expect a huge step back this year. The big game for UConn in the non-conference schedule is a home game against Virginia, while the important games in the conference play are the home games against Pitt, West Virginia and Cincinnati. While the biggest road game is a road trip to USF. UConn could suprise again and make a run at 10 games, for that to happen the defense will have to be as good or better then last year's defense.
6. Rutgers-Rutgers fate may have been sealed when Ray Rice announced that he was skipping his senior year and headed to the NFL, he took with him his 2000 yards from last year. Rutgers though does return an experienced quarterback in Mike Teel and two 1000 yard recievers in Tiquan Underwood and Kenny Britt. It's going to be hard enough to replace Ray Rice, but it'll be even higher because Rutgers also losses 3 of their offensive line. The defense was decent last year, but I really think the defense will have to take a big step forward for Rutgers to have a shot to win the Big East. Rutgers starts off the year against a top 25 team in Fresno State so we'll know right away how good Rutgers will be. Rutgers has the toughest Big East road schedule with having to play Cincinnati, Pitt, West Virginia and USF on the road. You will notice those are who I think will be the top 4 teams in the Big East.
7. Louisville-Last year was a disaster for the Cardinals, as many picked them to win the Big East and to be a darkhorse to go to the National Title game. It ended bad with a 5-7 record and no bowl for Brian Brohm in his senior year. Last year the defense was horrid for the Cardinals, they hope that former Michigan Defensive Coordinator Ron English will be able to improve the defense, and there is no doubt he knows how to coach defense, but this unit is pretty bad. The offense should be solid, but not as good as last year's unit with the loss of Brian Brohm and most of the key parts on the unit. Hunter Cantwell should be a solid quarterback and when give the chance he produced, the good thing for Louisville is that they return experienced running backs. The bad news they have little experience at the reciever position. Louisville could contend for a bowl berth, with help from a favorable schedule with West Virginia, Cincinnati and South Florida at home.
8. Syracuse-This could be Greg Robinson's last year unless he is able to make a bowl game this year. The thing is I don't know if he can win a Big East game. They return Andrew Robinson at quarterback who had a solid first year as a starter. The Orange return their top reciever from a year ago in sophmore Mike Williams, but they lose 800 yard reciever Taj Smith to graduation. The Orange had little running game last year, and I really don't think there will be much of an improvement even with a returning starter. The defense wasn't very good, and considering that Greg Robinson is known as a defense coach it's shocking it's that bad, I don't think it'll get better and I think Greg Robinson will be looking for a job this spring. The Orange have some chances to get some wins when they play Northwestern, Northeastern, Akron, Louisville and Notre Dame, I wouldn't be shocked if Syracuse didn't win a Big East game.