Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Preseason Outlook: Big East

The Big East aka "Big Least" had two teams preseason ranked in the Top 15 last season but failed to have one in the Top 25 at the final poll. The conference looks to bounce back this season and put at least a couple teams back in the top 25 for the upcoming season even with all the off season coaching drama at major programs. I take a look at the top players and teams in the conference for the upcoming season.

1. West Virginia: Bill Stewart resigned over the summer after West Virginia assigned Dana Holgorsen to head coach in waiting for 2012 and placed him as offensive coordinator for this season. Holgorsen now takes over for the Mountaineers but has some big expectations. The Geno Smith to Tavon Austin connection should be used alot this season while the Mountaineers  count on the support of on of the best defensive lines in College Football. Replacing Noel Devine and having a solid running game could be the problem in Morgantown.

Isaiah Pead had three 150+ yard rushing
games last season for the Bearcats
2. Cincinnati: Whenever you have the two best players in the conference on an team they should be ranked #1 but not with an unproven defense. QB Zach Collaros and RB Isaiah Pead will lead another strong Cincinnati offense despite losing five starters. The defense returns every single starter, which would usually merit a Top 25 ranking but not with a defense that struggled so much last season. Butch Jones looks to bring the Big East title back to Cincinnati but their success will rely on the defense, specifically the DB's.

3. South Florida: B.J. Daniels has been a love hate player for Bulls fans but looks to be the savior for the 2011 season. His amazing ability to escape from trouble with his legs but his very questionable throwing decisions make fans go crazy. DE Ryan Giddins and LB Sam Barrington will led a strong and athletic Bulls defense that looks to take advantage of coaching problems at Pitt and West Virginia and win their first ever Big East Championship.

4. Pittsburgh: The Pitt Panthers have consistently been at the top of the Big East  but have failed to hold up that Big East trophy since the Larry Fitzgerald days back in 2004. Tino Sunseri returns at quarterback and Ray Graham will lead the rushing attack anchor by an offensive line should be the best in the Big East. Pitt has the talent to do great things this season but I believe that this first season under Todd Graham will be a struggle.

5. Syracuse: Syracuse got back to a bowl game last year for the first time since 2004 and with 13 starters back they look to improve on an 8-5 record. Ryan Nassib comes back to take command of the offense while Antwon Bailey will be the go to guy in the backfield for the Orange. The defense lost 6 starters and most of their leadership from last years team so we will have to wait and see how it looks come their first game vs Wake Forest.

6. Louisville: Charlie Strong did an unbelievable job in his first season as the Cardinals head coach last season. Taking the team in a 180 degree turn, taking them to bowl game and having one of the best recruiting class in team history. RB Victor Anderson will led the offense and DT Greg Scruggs will be the defensive leader for the Cardinals. Strong lost 25 seniors and 11 starters from their bowl team last season and I think it will be a couple of years before the Cardinals are back on top of the Big East but they still should be headed back to a Bowl in 2011.

WVU's Keith Tandy should be one
 of the nations best corners in 2011
7. UConn: With Randy Edsall and Jordan Todman gone all UConn fans can say is "Uh Oh." The Huskies do return 15 starters from a Big East Championship team. They return a very strong offensive line and have an elite defense returning, 9 returning starters. I think that this 2011 UConn team will be like the 2010 Cincinnati team and will struggle with a new coaching staff in their first season.

8. Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights have the potential for a dominant aerial attack with returning quarterback Chas Dodd throwing to two of the best receivers in the Big East in Mohammed Sanu and Mark Harrison. The real question is if the line can protect Dodd after losing four starters. The defense that gave up 69 points to Cincy last year needs to have improved greatly over the off-season for them to have a shot at making a bowl game this upcoming season.

Preseason Awards

Player of the year: Zach Collaros, QB, Cincinnati

Defensive Player of the Year: Keith Tandy, CB, West Virginia

Coach of the Year: Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia

Freshman of the Year: Savon Higgins, RB, Rutgers

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