The Big East is in turmoil right now. Pittsburgh and Syracuse are leaving after this year. TCU was to be joining the league, but then West Virginia announced they were bolting to the Big 12 and then the Horned Frogs followed suit. All is not lost, as the ever improving Temple Owls will return to the Big East this year. Last year it was West Virginia that took the BE Title and then demolished Clemson 70-33 in their Bowl game. This year USF, Louisville, Rutgers, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh all have decent shots at taking the title. Below is how I see the Big East shaping up this year, with the Conference Title Odds in ( ). Odds are from BetOnline.com.
Big East Quick Hits: The Big East is the only Division I conference that has seen each of its members play in at least one bowl game in the past two seasons and is the only league in which each team has at least one bowl win in the last four years… The Big East is also a combined 215-95 SU in non-conference games (.721). That stands as the best seven-year non-league record in the history of the conference and second among FBS conferences, only behind the SEC… The conference also has the second-best postseason record (43-27, .614) of any Bowl Subdivision conference since the inception of the BCS in 1998. Every Big East team won at least five games last season – the first time since 1905 that an existing Bowl Subdivision conference had every member finish with at least five wins.
Louisville (+225): The Cardinals had a young squad last year (10 True Freshmen Started at some point) and it showed as they went 2-4 out the gat, but they finished strong going 5-2 in their last 7 games to win a share of the BE Title. This year they have 15 returning starters, including the best QB in the league in Teddy Bridgewater. The Cards have the most veteran team in the league (77% ret. lettermen), and they get 4 BE home games, including a big one vs South Florida. This is a very talented team and all those young players that had a strong second half of last year are now a year older. This is HC Strong’s best team yet and he should have them playing in a BCS Bowl at the end of the year. KEY TREND—6-0 ATS their last 6 games vs Southern Mississippi.
South Florida (+300): Last year the Bulls were not as bad as their 1-6 BE record would indicate. They had second half leads in 5 of their 6 losses and they were +26.4 ypg in BE play. This year Skip Holtz has 15 returning starters and usually exceeds expectations. Their Defense will be very tough with 7 starters back from a unit that allowed 22.3 ppg last year. On offense the exciting BJ Daniels returns, along with their top 6 pass catchers from a year ago. Some work needs to be done on the OL, but they will be an explosive team this year. The Bulls have just 3 BE away games, but one of them is at Louisville and that has me calling for a 2nd place finish for them. KEY TREND—2-8 ATS on weekdays vs an opponent off a SU win
Rutgers (+500): Greg Schiano has left for the NFL, but new coach Kyle flood is stepping into a great situation here. 15 starters are back from last years group that went 9-4. He also may be fielding one of the 10 best defenses in the nation. Last year they allowed just 18.3 ppg and 311 ypg, but will be even better this time around with 12 of their top 15 tacklers back. Last year this Schaino used a 2 QB rotation, but it is expected that flood will go with Dodd as his clear Cut starter. The Knights have their top 3 RB’s back and 7 of their top 9 pass catchers from a year ago. They put up 26.4 ppg last year and should be even better this year. Rutgers could contend for the title, but road dates at USF, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, plus the coaching change has me calling for them to finish third, but they still could surprise and move up higher. KEY TREND—8-1 ATS in their last 9 games vs Army. KEY TREND—8-1 ATS as non-conf dogs of 4 or more.
Pittsburgh (+550): The Panthers hope that their coaching carousel (4th coach in last 13 months) has finally landed them a good one in Paul Chryst. with 9 starters back on offense, including Tino Sunseri, top RB Ray Graham and their top 5 WR’s they will be one of the most explosive teams in the Big East. Defense will be a problem for this team as they have just 5 starters back, including just 1 back on the DL and just 3 of their top 8 tacklers overall. This team does have a ton of talent, especially on offense, but they are changing schemes once again and may have a target on their back for wanting to leave the Big East. Pittsburgh is talented and should get back to a bowl game this year, but taking the Big East title may be a bit too much to ask for. KEY TREND—10-0 ATS as road dogs with revenge.
Cincinnati (+225): The Bearcats had a big turnaround last year as they went from 4-8 in 2010 to 10-3 last year, but I expect them to take a small step back this year. The Bearcats will be led by their defense as they return 7 starters from a group that was 2nd in the nation in sacks. The Bearcats allowed just 20.3 ppg with 10 starters back last year, but this group may be even better . Offensively they have just 5 starters back and lose a solid QB in Zach Collaros, plus their OL lost 3 starters and they lost top RB Isaiah Pead (1259 yds, 12 TD’s LY). QB Munchie legaux will take over, but he only connected on 47.5% of his passes in 118 attempts last year, so some growth is needed there. The schedule isn’t too tough, but their offense just isn’t there for them to finish higher than 4th or 5th in the conference. KEY TREND—9-0-1 ATS before playing Louisville.
Connecticut (+2000): There is a big gap between the top 5 in the league and the bottom 3 and unfortunately for the Huskies they are part of the latter. Last year the Huskies were 3-4 in the BE, but were outgained by 111 ypg in those games, so they have a lot of ground to make up. The Huskies have 14 starters back, but just 31 lettermen return overall and that will pose some big depth problems for them. Their last 4 games are at USF, home vs Pitt, at Louisville and home vs Cincinnati and with little depth on this team that schedule will cost them any shot at a bowl game. The Huskies will play better than last year, but it may not result in more wins for them. KEY TREND—0-6 ATS in their last 6 games vs Temple
Syracuse (+2000): The Orange had a 5-07 mark last year, after going 8-5 in 2010. Last year they had 13 starters back, but this year they have just 12 and 66% of their lettermen return, which is 2nd fewest in the BE. They do have one of the top 4 QB’s in the league in Ryan Nassib, but very little talent around him at the skill positions will make it hard for them to top the 24 ppg they put up last year. The defense has 7 starters back but their line is not that strong, so the stop troops may struggle some. The schedule is very tough and the talent is just not there for them to move higher in the standings. If it weren’t for temple joining the league they would be in the basement this year. KEY TREND—1-8 ATS off a SU & ATS win.
Temple (+2000): After getting booted out of the BE a while back, the Temple Owls have returned. They may have been the best team in the MAC the last 3 years, but still never won a MAC title and it won’t get any easier for them this year as they step up in competition. The Owls have just 3 starters back on offense, including QB Chris Coyer, but they lose top RB Bernard Pierce, their top 3 WR’s and they must replace 80% of their OL. They will not come close to the 30 ppg they put up last year, especially with some of the defenses in this league. Last year they allowed just 13.9 ppg, but with 5 starters back on that side they will be very hard pressed to duplicate that feat. Temple made great strides in the MAC, but it will take them a few years to get back to respectability in the BE. KEY TREND—11-1 ATS as home dogs.
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Good stuff, Jeff. Cannot wait!
Get 'em, Pregamers!
Looking forward to some BE and CFB, JSS!! thx for tha' info.
Great job Jeff, appreciate the preview & info!
"EVERY DOG HAS HIS DAY"
I heard a lot of folks last year say Fl. St. was a year away from a National Championship, but I don't know...FSU, Oregon, USC, Oklahoma, & the SEC all seem like they have a good chance of making the BCS....
Thanks guys and your welcome. My pleasure. Im really looking forward to this football season.
Yeah Griff i felt the same way at the end of last year about FSU, but in looking at how strong their defense is and the way Bama parlayed their defense and average offense into a national title, i will expect the same from FSU this year. Their defense is tough and quick and is the best in the land this year.