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: Sep 19, 2008
Posted on: June 25, 2009 12:03 pm

Picking the Big East

I completely agree that their problems lie mostly with their offense due to the 3 key losses, and I strongly point that out in the rest of my comment.

Right now Rutgers has the #4 ranked O-Line in the Country.  Our Defensive Line brings back two DE that could start on any SEC or B10 team. 

I know that it is a big IF, but if D. Natale could get into a grove with two or three receivers opposing D's will be force to drop back at least 2 safeties to protect against the pass.  Then you will see Joe Martinek, J. Brooks and J. Corcoran wear down defenses.  

Martinek 5' 11" 210lbs
Brooks 6' 1" 240lbs
Corcoran 6' 2" 255lbs

I don't know of a defense in the BE that's deep enough to bring in fresh bodies in the 4th QTR of games in order to deal with these guys.  You will see miss-tackles up front and frustration setting in as the game progresses.  Now factor the home games where people are cheering you on and adrenaline is pumping.

However, I feel that 18pt a game statistic you put forth is a much bigger indicator of the inept big east offenses they faced last year rather then the a strong RU defense. Moreover my point was- RU can't be an IMPROVED team with the same defense and a now deteriorated offense.

You are aware that the BE was raided in 2004 and we lost 3 marquee programs to the ACC.  I understand what you are saying and to some extent I agree with you especially when you compare us to some of the elite conferences.  But keep in mind that Rutgers, Syracuse, Pitt and UCONN cannot recruit kids with a sketchy past (legal issues) or poor academics (Prop 48).  Rutgers ranks #3 in the country behind Stanford and the Navel Academy for graduating their athlete with real degrees.  I’m not using this as a crutch but it is a definite factor to consider when you compare us to programs that allow superb one dimensional athlete’s to play regardless of criminal records or failing grades.  Just look at schools like Florida, LSU, Alabama, Penn State and you might as well throw in USC as well.  Great football programs with major legal issues off the field.  You rarely ever hear of Rutgers, Syracuse, UCONN or Pitt having these issues.  I’m sorry if this hits a nerve but it’s the truth.      

Since: Sep 19, 2007
Posted on: June 25, 2009 11:44 am

Picking the Big East

Lets be honest here... WVU, Cincy,RU,and Pitt are the 4 players this year. They all have talented recruiting classes and good talent returning. 

Conn & USF are  2nd teir.  USF has recruited well, but they have NO offensive line which is death in CF. Conn just doesn't recruit deep enough classes.

Louisville & Syracuse are rebuilding.

IF WVU wins :  It will be because they find away to move the ball in short yardage during the big games. The D is great and skill spots are strong.

If Cincy wins: Pike and the Wrs carry them until the D becomes a solid unit late in the season.

If RU wins: The QB plays smart and hits wide open receivers (since everyone will have 8 in the box).  The D will be dominant.

If Pitt wins: All the Wannestad haters will have to eat it.  HaHa !!!  Seriously, they just need solid QB play and a better 2ndary.

The bigger picture is that the BE might be up this year since the top 4 teams have recruited strongly the last couple years. I think they should be competitive with anyone. I predict the BE shows up strong in bowl games this year.

Since: Mar 27, 2007
Posted on: June 25, 2009 11:40 am

Picking the Big East

I completely agree that their problems lie mostly with their offense due to the 3 key losses, and I strongly point that out in the rest of my comment. However, I feel that 18pt a game statistic you put forth is a much bigger indicator of the inept big east offenses they faced last year rather then the a strong RU defense. 

Outside of Cincy, the BE offenses are even more inept then last year. On defense, Rutgers returns as much as any team in the conference, and from the #2 rated scoring defense in the conference. It's your opinion that they aren't very good, but it's unsubstantiated....As is your opinion about their recruiting.

Moreover my point was- RU can't be an IMPROVED team with the same defense and a now deteriorated offense.

RU, Pitt, and WVU are my favorites to win the conference. All 3 had big losses on offense, and you can easily argue that Pitt (McCoy, Kinder, Collins, Porter, Davis) and WVU (White, Figueroa, Isdaner, Dent, Stanchek, Jalloh) both had greater losses on offense then Rutgers. Point being that the team who wins the BE probably won't be improved, just better then the rest of the teams in conference.

Personally, I think it'll be Pitt.



Since: Jun 25, 2009
Posted on: June 25, 2009 11:36 am

Picking the Big East

Ok, first of all, how can you possibly put a Cincinatti team that has to replace all but 1 starter on defense in the top half of the league? And you have WVU at 5? Give me a break. Now I will be the first to admit that this league, especially this season is way to tough to pick. But if you are going to make these predictions, at least have some logic behind them. I don't really agree with the Rutgers at No. 1 either. I know they have been getting a lot of love, but losing key players at key positions is not an easy whole to fill. I do agree with South Florida being in the top 2. They have a lot of experience coming back and if they are ever going to win the big east, there is no better year for it then now. OK, I'm going to take a stab at this. I believe I can make more sense of the conference...

1. South Florida
2. WVU
3. Rutgers
4. Pitt
5. Cincinatti
6. Uconn
7. Syracuse
8. Louisville

Since: Mar 17, 2009
Posted on: June 25, 2009 11:29 am

Picking the Big East

Paulus has a loooooong way to go before he is a starting QB again.  I could see him starting mid season though.

Since: Mar 17, 2009
Posted on: June 25, 2009 11:28 am

Picking the Big East

Mallory - Agreed.  People obviously aren't paying attention to the talent we are bringing in to Morgantown.  But to be honest with you, I think I would much rather be the UNDERDOG flying under the radar.  Our guys do much better with that mentality, as we've shown. 

Since: Jun 24, 2009
Posted on: June 25, 2009 9:53 am

Picking the Big East

I completely agree that their problems lie mostly with their offense due to the 3 key losses, and I strongly point that out in the rest of my comment. However, I feel that 18pt a game statistic you put forth is a much bigger indicator of the inept big east offenses they faced last year rather then the a strong RU defense. Moreover my point was- RU can't be an IMPROVED team with the same defense and a now deteriorated offense.

Since: Sep 19, 2008
Posted on: June 25, 2009 8:43 am

Picking the Big East

The Big East will be back and when it happens you will see that the SEC, B12 and B10 will stay clear of playing us.  It’s a chess game when scheduling OOC games in college football "stay clear of those who can beat you".  This will persist until we add two teams to this conference.  As for RU let's wait and see what happens, if Natale gets the ball to some of those young WR's and builds some confidence then I see the O-Line manhandling D-lines for the running attack to establish itself.  If we run the ball exclusively then we are dead because opposing D's will load the box to stop the running attack.  If Rutgers can establish a passing attack they will win the conference because the rest of the team is deep with mature talent. 

Since: Mar 27, 2007
Posted on: June 25, 2009 8:38 am

Picking the Big East

They do have 16 returning starters...the problem is most of them aren't any good, and especially on the defensive side of the ball

They gave up a little over 18 a game in BE play, and they did it playing BE #1, #2, #3, and #5 on the road...And they return 8 starters on defense.

Not to mention the 4 BE QB's they sent to the sidelines (Dantley, White, Frazer, Stull). If Rutgers has problems, it will be on offense. 

Since: Jun 25, 2009
Posted on: June 25, 2009 4:03 am

Picking the Big East

Wow... this is aweful!  Matt Grothe the best Big East offensice player?  Thats hilarious!  Jarrett Brown... hell, Greg Paulus might be better QB's than Grothe!  The stand out offensive players are Tony Pike and Marty Gilyard...Marty might be a 1st round NFL pick next spring!  Matt Grothe?  Not so much!
Everyone seems to be hopping on the Rutgers bandwagon.  I think they'll be a good team but the 1st week against Cincy is dangerous... you never know how their new QB and recievers will step up.
WVU will finish top 3... having them at 5 is preposterous.  Cincy will be up there too.  I think everyone is way too quick to crown Rutgers... they could either be a flop or run the BE.  Pitt will lose the important games and finish middle of the road cause thats how Wanny does it! South Florida will probably rise to number 1 in the polls and then fall in to obscurity and make the Bowl.
It's a wide open race but this article gave me a good laugh!

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