Formerly known as the Big Least the Big East conference has recovered from the losses of Miami (FL), Virginia Tech and Boston College to the ACC with the rise of Rutgers and South Florida and the establishment of West Virginia as a national power. Now the conference is at a critical point as South Florida and Rutgers must prove that they have longevity and West Virginia that they can maintain national prominence without Rich Rodriguez at the helm.
I have the top three teams being very close with the legitimate possibility of Pittsburgh (yes, Pittsburgh) being a dark horse. There is no doubt that this will be one of the best conference races to watch in 2008.
Big East Predictions
West Virginia – The Mountaineers remain on top of the conference despite only returning 12 starters from last season led by senior quarterback Pat White. The unknown factor is how much new head coach Bill Stewart will tinker with the offense. Speedster Noel Devine will replace Steve Slaton with no problems but someone will have to replace Darius Reynaud’s 12 touchdown receptions.
Rutgers – The Scarlet Knights will return 15 starters from last year and really only have one glaring question, who is going to replace Ray Rice? If Mason Robinson can give them a third of Rice’s production then they’ll be fine.
South Florida – Here’s a crazy thought the Bulls could actually run the table and be playing in the BCS Championship in January. They return 17 starters from last year and have only one true road test, when they go to Morgantown.
Pittsburgh - The Panthers could have the best defense in the conference and return 8 starters on offense including sophomore running back LeSean McCoy who finished 2nd to Rutgers’ Ray Rice in rushing yards last season. Pittsburgh has a very favorable schedule going for them as well.
Connecticut – The Huskies are returning 17 starters and much like Cincinnati benefited from some lucky breaks. They are still talented and could go a long way in this conference but the problem that I have is that UConn just doesn’t have the track record to make me comfortable picking them any higher.
Cincinnati – The Bearcats were the beneficiaries of a +16 turnover ratio and suffered virtually no injuries last year. If their luck continues they could finish higher than I have them listed but if you bet on luck you’ll lose more often then win.
Louisville – The Cardinals have to replace 8 starters on offense including quarterback Brian Brohm, leading rusher Anthony Allen and leading receiver Harry Douglas. Steve Kragthorpe is a very good coach but it doesn’t appear that he’ll have much to work with this year.
Syracuse – Someone has to finish last and the Orange are making a habit of it. This could be the 4th consecutive year that Syracuse finishes in the Big East basement. It would also make it Greg Robinson’s final season in New York.
My Pre-Season All-Conference Team
QB – Pat White, West Virginia
RB – LeSean McCoy, Pittsburgh
RB – Andre Dixon, Connecticut
WR – Kenny Britt, Rutgers
WR – Tiquan Underwood, Rutgers
WR – Mike Williams, Syracuse
TE – Nate Byham, Pittsburgh
C – Mike Dent, West Virginia
G – Greg Isdaner, West Virginia
G – Ryan Schmidt, South Florida
T – Anthony Davis, Rutgers
T – Ryan Stanchek, West Virginia
DT – Terrill Byrd, Cincinnati
DT – Earl Heyman, Louisville
DE – George Selvie, South Florida
LB – Scott McKillop, Pittsburgh
LB – Tyrone McKenzie, South Florida
LB – Reed Williams, West Virginia
CB – Darius Butler, Connecticut
CB – DeAngelo Smith, Cincinnati
SS – Quinton Andrews, West Virginia
FS – Courtney Greene, Rutgers
K – Conor Lee, Pittsburgh
P – Kevin Huber, Cincinnati
KR – Max Suter, Syracuse
PR – Aaron Berry, Pittsburgh