Big East Outlook...
August 27, 2008
Big East outlook
By Bill Koch
1. West Virginia: The bitterness over the departure of favorite son Rich Rodriguez to Michigan continues to linger among Mountaineer fans, but the players are ready to move on under new coach Bill Stewart, a longtime West Virginia assistant. QB Pat White, a Heisman Trophy hopeful, is back to run the powerful offense and is being asked to add more of a passing threat to his formidable running skills. Sophomore Noel Devin (8.6 yards per carry and six touchdowns last year as a rookie) is poised to take up the slack left by Steve Slaton's departure.
2. South Florida: The Bulls, who rose to No. 2 in the national polls last year before hitting a three-game losing skid, return the top two players from that team in quarterback Matt Grothe, one of the most versatile QBs in the league, and defensive end George Selvie, the reigning Big East defensive player of the year.
3. Pittsburgh: Dave Wannstedt is only 16-19 since returning to coach his alma mater, but he has been stockpiling talent with solid recruiting classes. The Panthers could be poised to move up the Big East ladder after they knocked off West Virginia in the final game of last season. Running back LeSean McCoy set a Big East freshman record last year with 1,328 yards. Pat Bostick started eight games at quarterback last year as a freshman. On defense, Pitt has one of the best groups of linebackers in the league.
4. Rutgers: Prolific running back Ray Rice is gone, but the Scarlet Knights showed the ability to throw the ball last year behind quarterback Mike Teel, who ranked second in the league in passing yardage. He has two all-league receivers to throw to in Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood. In addition to the loss of Rice, the Scarlet Knights also will miss placekicker Jeremy Ito, who left with the Big East record for points (400).
5. Cincinnati: The Bearcats enter Brian Kelly's second season as head coach well-equipped on defense with All-America tackle Terrill Byrd and two standout defensive backs in Mike Mickens and DeAngelo Smith. But there are question marks on offense, beginning at quarterback.
6. Connecticut: Talk about a lack of respect. The Huskies return 19 starters from a team that shared the Big East title last year, but are still ranked only sixth in this year's preseason league poll. QB Tyler Lorenzen returns after throwing only six interceptions a year ago. Andre Dixon and Donald Brown give the Huskies one of the best running back tandems in the league. UConn won last year without a lot of star players - only four players were named to the 51-player all-league teams. The Huskies did it with balanced offense.
7. Louisville: The first year under new coach Steve Kragthorpe was nothing short of a disaster. The Cardinals, who entered the season as a national top-10 pick, fell on hard times with a 6-6 record one year after beating Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl.
8. Syracuse: The Orange have won only seven games in three years under Greg Robinson - just two in the Big East - but Robinson still managed to survive to coach at least one more year.