Thursday, August 30, 2012

2012 - A Big East Preview

The Big East had lots of defections to deal with and finally came with 8 teams into this season after letting Temple back into the conference.  The Big East will have more teams next year with Boise State and San Jose State joining.  Although I believe that those two teams will do the TCU thing and not join if there are any other attractive offers out there for them. 

The bad thing is that West Virginia is no longer in the league.  Pittsburgh is leaving after this year.  And if it is true that the Big 10 and Rutgers are making googly eyes at each other, then this conference might be going the way of the WAC.  We shall see as conference realignment continues into the forseeable future.

1.  Pittsburgh.  I believe that the Panthers have found the man that could lead them back to national prominence.  At least there will be stability.  In the past 3 years, the Panthers fired Dave Wannstadt as Head coach, hired Michael Haywood, fired Michael Haywood after 16 days because of a domestic violence charge, hired Todd Graham who left for Arizona State, and hired Paul Chryst.  The big question for the Panthers is if QB Tino Sunseri can become a consistent quarterback.  I believe he can.  The receivers and offensive line are solid.  RB Ray Graham could put a charge in the running game if he can come back from ACL surgery.  The defense is altering to the 4-3 base defense.  The Panthers should have a D-Line that pressures the QB and the secondary is their strength on defense.  How well the Linebackers get up to spped should tell the story of the season for the Panthers.  Overall 9-3, Big East 6-1.

2.  Louisville.  The Cardinals will be fighting for the Big East crown with a solid offensive line.  QB Teddy Bridgewater needs to continue to improve with the experience he is getting.  The receivers are growing along with Bridgewater and it looks like RB by committee in Louisville.  Head Coach Charlie Strong has vowed that the defense will improve this season, even though it ranked 23rd in the nation.  The front seven of the defense will be the strength of the defense.  The secondary gave up 20 TD passes last year and might equal that this year.  Louisville is the favorite to win the league, but I don't see it.  Overall 11-1, Big East 6-1.

3.  South Florida.  Skip Holtz was brought in to get the Bulls over the hump in the Big East.  He hasn't done that and it doesn't look like it will happen this year either.  QB B.J. Daniels needs to step up and become the leader that everybody expected him to be.  The receivers are the best since Daniels has been the QB, the committee at Running Back is troubling and the offensive line should be fine.  The Linebackers lead the defense while the secondary has experience all over.  the problem will be the Defensive line where depth is a question mark and the production of the starters wasn't up to snuff last year.  Maybe the defense will be able to hold onto wins (4 late drives by opponents for wins in the 4th Quarter last year).  Overall 8-4, Big East 5-2.

4.  Rutgers.  The Greg Schiano era is over for the Scarlet Knights.  The offensive line should be improved, the receiving corps is the best in the Big East, the running backs should be the beneficiaries of the improved offensive line, but the Scarlet Knights need to coalesce around one of the two QBs that were fighting for the starting job.  The defense is the strength of the team.  The linebackers should have a couple of All-Big East players on it.  The secondary can be put against any team and do a good job.  The only ding on the defense is the pass rush.  If Rutgers can find a couple of effective pass rushing ends, then the defense could carry them to a Big East title.  Overall 8-4, Big East 4-3.

5.  Cincinnati.  There are plenty of question marks surrounding this team, mostly on offense.  Big East Offensive Player of the Year RB Isaiah Pead and QB Zach Collaros are gone.  It looks like the RB position will be run by committee.  QB Munchie Legaux is talented but erratic.  The Offensive Line needs to jell and the receiving corps isn't the best the the Bearcats have had in the past couple of years.  The defense was also hit by graduation.  There are two serviceable DE's and veterans on the back end but the depth is thin.  Overall 6-6, Big East 3-4.

6.  Syracuse.  If the offense doesn't improve from last year, then the Orange will have a long year.  QB Ryan Nassib is a decent college QB.  The receivers are a proven lot.  There is lots of inexperience at the RB position.  The line is very thin.  On defense, the Orange expect to improve because of the experiences from last year.  The key for the defense is how the Linebackers can utilize their individual strengths and come together as a unit.  The secondary should improve with three returning starters.  The Defensive line was hurt by graduation.  The record would be better, but a tough non-conference schedule that includes USC and Missouri will keep the win total low.  Overall 3-9, Big East 2-5.

7.  Connecticut.  The Huskies went to the Junior College level to improve their offense at QB.  Watch out for Chandler Whitmer, he looks far and away like the best QB on the roster.  The receivers are transfers from BC and Clemson.  There is a logjam at RB for the Huskies and the Offensive Line will have a new scheme and two mainstays have graduated.  The defense will keep the Huskies in lots of games.  The starters are strong all along the defense.  The problem will come if they need to have the reserves in many games.  Overall 5-7, Big East 1-6.

8.  Temple.  Welcome back to the Big East after 7 years.  The problem for the Owls is that only 1 starter is back on the Offensive Line.  The Big East is a step up from the MAC, so the Line will have problems.  A receiver or two need to step up and show that they can play.  The Owls have one returning receiver that has caught more than 3 passes.  The spread-option is in good hands with Chris Coyer at QB and a running back by committee approach.  The defense would be good if they were playing MAC teams.  The talent isn't there for a Big East team.  Overall 3-8, Big East 1-6. 

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