Blog Entry

Picking the Big East

Posted on: June 23, 2009 11:51 am
Edited on: June 24, 2009 2:12 am

Sometimes you feel like the smartest person in the college football world.

Sometimes you throw darts.

Welcome to the Big East where all you need is flexible wrist. Don't worry about a bulls eye. Anywhere, you throw it, you could be a winner. Since 2003 eight different schools have claimed at least a share of the Big East title. A lot of that has to do with realignment after ACC expansion. But the conference remains perhaps the most competitive BCS conference.

Last season six of the eight teams made it to a bowl. In 2006-2007, three Big East teams had made it to the top three in the polls. With only eight teams, the league had one less NFL draft pick (27) than the Big Ten's 11 teams (28).

The demise of the Big East was greatly exaggerated. In the four years since realignment it is 3-1 in BCS bowls.

A case can be made for at least four schools being good enough to win the league this season.

Picking the Big East ...

1. Rutgers -- This dart lands in Piscataway. The Scarlet Knights will go to their first BCS game mostly because they have the league's most favorable schedule. Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, South Florida and West Virginia have to come up the Jersey Turnpike.  Even though Greg Schiano loses his quarterback (Mike Teel) and two best receivers (Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood), there is enough talent to fill in. All five starters are back on the offensive line, including 325-pound NFL prospect Anthony Davis at left tackle. Schiano gave up his play-calling duties on defense, handing them over to assistants Bob Fraser and Ed Pinkham. The pressure will be on but the Knights have time to wade into the deep end. They get Howard, Florida International and Texas Southern at home before playing their second Big East game. The momentum created by a seven-game winning streak to end '08 will carry over with 16 returning starters.

2. South Florida -- It helps to have the Big East's best offensive (quarterback Matt Grothe) and defensive (George Selvie) players. The offense gets more of a pure spread with the promotion of Mike Canales to offensive coordinator. Grothe might have to use those magic legs more than ever with only one returning starter on the offensive line. Selvie can be a freak at times off the edge. He slipped back in '08 after 14 1/2 sacks in 2007. The Bulls must learn to finish. They started 6-0 in '07 and 5-0 in '08. If they are going to get off to a similar start this season they must win at Florida State on Sept. 26.

3. Pittsburgh -- I really want to pick the Panthers to win. I really do. Dave Wannstedt might have the most talented team in the league but he will have to prove it. The loss of tailback Sean McCoy to the NFL was a killer. Early enrollee Dion Lewis has a shot at the job. If senior Bill Stull doesn't hold onto the quarterback job (nine touchdowns, 10 interceptions, there's always junior Pat Bostick. The defense will be stout again with Mick Williams at defensive tackle. Linebacker Adam Gunn returns for a sixth year of eligibility after breaking his neck in the '08 season opener. Wanny has stockpiled talent with three consecutive top 25 recruiting classes. Coming off a nine-win season, he needs to take the next step and win a bowl game in his fifth year at Pittsburgh.

4. Cincinnati -- The Bearcats were lucky enough to hold onto coach Brian Kelly. The ultimate coaching ladder climber (three jobs since 2003), recently signed an extension through 2013. If Kelly sticks around long enough, Kelly could make Cincinnati into a watered down version of Miami in the old Big East, an urban school waiting to bust out. In his second full season, Kelly produced 11 wins, a conference title and an Orange Bowl berth. Injuries forced Kelly to use five quarterbacks last season. The survivor, senior Tony Pike, is back. He'll throw to Marty Gilyard, the leading returning receiver in the league.

5. West Virginia -- Sorry, West Virginians. You lose Pat White and your prospects don't improve. White was one of the Big East's best-ever players and perhaps the best player in West Virginia history. The slippery quarterback cannot be fully replaced, but Jarrett Brown will give it a shot. The senior gets his shot to start in his final season. The 6-foot-4 Brown is more of a physical dual-threat quarterback. What Brown can't do, tailback Noel Devine can. After rushing for almost 2,000 yards in his first two seasons, this could be Devine's breakout year. A Heisman run wouldn't be surprise. The Mountaineers will have to win at least nine again to make it happen. That could be a struggle.

6. Connecticut -- UConn forces you to pay attention. The basketball team has a higher profile. In a league of football overachievers, it is not the first option. South Florida is in its 13th year of existence, but UConn has been in I-A only seven years. The country had to pay attention last season.  Donald Brown led the country in rushing, the Huskies blew out conference champ Cincinnati and won eight games. Coach Randy Edsall's name continued to pop up for higher profile jobs. Edsall stayed. However, Brown is gone to the NFL so don't expect another 2,000-yard season. Notre Dame transfer Zach Frazer will take over at quarterback throwing to 5-9 Kashif Moore, the team's leading receiver.

7. Louisville -- This has to be a make or break season for Steve Kragthorpe. He is 11-13 in two years. Last season crashed with a five-game losing streak. The once powerful offense is now struggling. Tailback Victor Anderson rushed for 1,000 yards but only 207 of those came in the last four games. Louisville desperately needs something good to happen. The schedule is not kind. In consecutive weeks the Cardinals play at Kentucky, at Utah, Pittsburgh, Southern Miss, at UConn and at Cincinnati.

8. Syracuse -- If Doug Marrone's work ethic could be transformed into wins, the Orange would be back in a major bowl. Cuse Nation is excited about one of their own taking over. Still, Marrone is a rookie head coach inheriting a train wreck. The new coach has embraced Syracuse traditions. Redshirt freshman Ryan Nassib was named starter in spring practice but there is the small matter of a former Duke guard in the mix. This was a good place for Greg Paulus to land. A one-year cameo could get the Cuse back on track. Before missing last season for academic reasons, Mike Williams caught 60 passes in '07 and was second-team all-Big East. The defense finished last in the conference in total defense. Look to the Jones brothers for improvement. Senior Arthur is a defensive tackle who has 31 1/2 career tackles for loss. His brother Chandler is an end who could get into the lineup as a redshirt freshman.



Since: Mar 27, 2007
Posted on: June 24, 2009 11:28 am

Picking the Big East

You should read more carefully it mentions him directly.

Dodd edited the article. The original article did not mention Paulus.

Since: Nov 26, 2006
Posted on: June 24, 2009 11:09 am

Picking the Big East

The Big East is the biggest fraud in college football.  How can Ohio State and or Penn State be in the discussion of going undefeated and NOT playing in the BCS championship because the conference is "weak".  Over the past few years WVU was in the national championship discussion if they went undeafeated but PSU might have been leapfrogged by a 1 loss team.  OSU and PSU would DOMINATE this joke of a conference.... didn't perennial loser Cinn. Bearcats win the conference last year??  Joke.  No way should they have a BCS tie in.  They should be forced to play the WAC or ACC winner for a BCS spot since those conferences are weak too.

Since: May 19, 2009
Posted on: June 24, 2009 11:00 am

Picking the Big East

You should read more carefully it mentions him directly.

Since: May 19, 2009
Posted on: June 24, 2009 10:53 am

Picking the Big East

WVU will be better than people think. Brown gives them more of a passing threat than White and it seemed last year like that was what they really want from their QB. The majority of the passing game was timing and accuracy versus with Rich Rod when it was run, run, run, throw the deep ball. I'm not a WVU fan at all so I could be a little off here, but I just think that the offense will be better and the defense will be solid as usual.

1. Rutgers/PITT - bit of a homer call but I have to hope that Dave can FINALLY make it happen with a new coordinator and an outstanding defense. If Stull starts though we have no hope. I love the kid and he's a local guy but c'mon, enough already. Play Bostick or even Sunseri and you win 2 more games.

3. WVU

4. UConn

5. USF

6. Cincy - Sorry but I just don't think that the dog and pony show that is the Cincy offense will continue to work. Especially against the speed that the defenses in the league are beginning to bring in.

7. Syracuse

8. Louisville - I HATE what Krapthorp has done to this team. I've never seen a team go down as fast and as hard as Louisville in the past two years. They need to get rid of this guy before he KILLS this program completely.

Since: Feb 9, 2009
Posted on: June 24, 2009 10:34 am

Picking the Big East

Been a Pitt fan for a bizillion disappointing seasons, and agree that this is the year Wannstedt has to take that next step.  However, if Stull is the QB, that just isn't going to happen.  Defense will be tough again this year, but the O is a big question mark.  I think any one of four or five teams has a chance to finish at the top.  But no matter what happenes, we still have our Stanley Cup.

Since: Oct 26, 2007
Posted on: June 24, 2009 10:21 am

Dodd you finally got it right!

    The Big East is always a wider race than most think but I believe Rutgers will finally get to do it this year and win the conference. Why? Even with the lose of our starting QB we have a very talented players in Domenic Natale and D.C. Jefferson. We are also very excited on how quickly our star recruit Tom Savage will develope through out this season? 
     As for our OL; If anyone doesnt believe this is extremely important position in CFB then Im just wasting my time. We will have one of the best lines in the Big East as well as CFB by far, controling the line of scrimmage with a new QB will not only help Natale develope in time but contibute to our D not being on the field too long. Perhaps they have forgotten the RB's we had last year that contributed emensiously to our offense? Martinek, Brooks,  Young; how quickly they forget but I'm sure these boys will refresh thier memories?

      Our Defense comes back just as strong and the LB core will be one of the BEST! We have lost some key guys up front but have plenty of depth to help out. Slowly but surely we have been building each year and recruiting has been geting better and better, so this pick may be better than just a sexy pick? LMAO.Wink

Since: Aug 20, 2006
Posted on: June 24, 2009 9:48 am

Picking the Big East

the recruits are remembering that this is West Virginia. Yes they are. The team that gets 2-3 Thursday night games a year, wins BCS bowls, and showcases skill players. The place Pat White and Steve Slaton played and dominated on their way to the NFL. Slaton's NFL success has been a huge asset to recruiting and PW getting drafted in the 2nd round to play as a QB has made WVU a magnet for some of the top dual threat prospects in the nation, including those in SEC and Big 12 country.

4. Cincinnati- Talk about coming out of nowhere
Yeah, if an 8-5 record in 2006 with a bowl win  and top 25 ranking and 10 win season and bowl win in 2007 is from nowhere, you're right.

Since: Aug 20, 2006
Posted on: June 24, 2009 9:31 am

Picking the Big East

Rutgers looks to be the sexy pick, but how do you pick a team that has no established QB, lost it's best receivers, and doesn't have a dominant RB? You have to score to win the BE, I don't care how experienced your O-line is, you'd better have first rate skill players, something Rutgers had last year and really didn't compete for the BE. You also have to beat WVU, which Rutgers hasn't done since they wore leather helmets. And why would USF be any better than they were with the same players that finished 2-5 last year? No mention of the loss of UC entire defense and the return of WVU's entire defense? If Devine has a 2,000 yard season, WVU walks through the BE. I don't think either will happen, but I do think WVU will be playing for the BE at the end of the year. So does the BE, no coincidence they scheldule WVU against UC, Pitt and Rutgers to end the season.

Since: Sep 21, 2006
Posted on: June 24, 2009 9:14 am

Picking the Big East

Tell us something we don't know already.

Since: Sep 19, 2008
Posted on: June 24, 2009 8:09 am

Picking the Big East

I agree that WV is the team to beat.  Last year Cincinnati needed a small miracle to beat WV which earned them a trip to the Orange Bowl.  The bad thing for the BE is that when a team other than WV goes to the BCS you never know what’s going to happen, with the exception of Louisville in 2006 it has not been a positive experience.  I feel that at the end of last season Rutgers was clearly the best team in the BE, not only beating teams but humiliating them as well.  The problem was the slow start which was terrible.   Can Rutgers win the BE?  I don’t know because much will depend on 5<sup>th</sup> year QB Dom Natale and his new WR’s.  All it takes is a couple of big plays and these young WR’s start believing in themselves.  The running game is going to be explosive and punishing.  I see the running game opening up the passing game this year with Brooks and Martinek pounding the ball for 5 and 6 yard gains.  Our D-Line may have the best depth in the BE, we in essence have 9 starters looking for playing time.  This will be huge asset for us during the 4<sup>th</sup> qtr of very close games.  Much of the attraction with RU is their recent recruiting classes, stadium expansion and Greg Schiano.  If Rutgers wins the Big East Championship game look out for their recruiting classes.

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