In 2009, I went through all the major BCS conferences and created some semi-amusing, totally off-base and (eventually) inaccurate predictions and bowl projections for the upcoming college football season. In 2010, I was working nonstop throughout the summer without a break and never had the chance to put together some predictions. So now that I have some free time on my hands, it’s time to do some predictions – here’s the Big East.
West Virginia and South Florida appear to be the favorites heading into the season. I prefer South Florida in that battle because I still think WVA will need more than Dana Holgerson’s offensive genius to win the conference. USF seems way more balanced and Skip Holtz is more of an all-around, CEO coach compared to Holgerson’s offense-only focus. He’s essentially a mini Mike Leach whose offensive prowess masks inexperience running a defense or special teams as head coach. There’s nothing preventing them from success – the Big East is such a winnable conference, a high-powered offense may be the only thing they need. I still prefer USF.
1) South Florida 11-1 (7-0) – I see this as the year USF breaks through to a BCS bowl and a Big East Championship. They’ll drop their first game of the year at Notre Dame, but win out. Conference challenges include a trip to New Brunswick and Pitt, which I have them winning…but if USF’s past road luck is any indication, they could be in for a fright in those games. QB BJ Daniels put up pretty crappy numbers last year (11 td, 13 int, 1685 yds) but his supporting cast should be really good. Interesting sidenote – former Colorado Buffalo Darrell Scott is “projected” (Phil Steele, at least) to be the starting running back after sitting out the 2010 season. On defense, I love their speed. Despite USF’s terrible “Bulls” logo, (since when were there Bulls in South Florida?) I see them winning the conference this year and earning the school’s first BCS berth.
2) West Virginia 9-3 (6-1) – There’s no question in my mind Dana Holgersen is an offensive genius arguably in the same class as Mike Leach. But as a head coach? I have no idea – and I’m concerned about how crappy defensive recruiting under Bill Stewart will play out this year, even with veteran defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel at the helm. Offensively, Holgersen inherits a great offense led by QB Geno Smith, and despite former coach Bill Stewart’s shortcomings on the field, the guy could recruit offensive guys. WVU plays a very tough non-conference schedule with bouts against Maryland and LSU highlighting their slate. I don’t see WVU topping them because both teams are more balanced all-around. Overall, WVU will win all but one of their conference games, and finish with a 9-3 record, earning a bid to the Bowl Formerly Known as the Meineke Car Care Bowl, the Belk Bowl.
3) Pittsburgh 8-4 (5-2) – I don’t like to personally attack people, but Steve Pederson is a fool – firing one of your school’s most famous alumni, not doing due-dilligence on his replacement (Mike Haywood), then having to go to the bottom of the barrel for the third-string coach in Todd Graham? Anyway, Pitt brings back a ton of talent this year, especially with eight starters on defense returning, but I’m concerned about the Panthers losing defensive coordinator Phil Bennett to Baylor. The Panthers play a great non-conference schedule with battles against Iowa, Notre Dame, and Utah, but I think they’ll struggle in some games. I see them losing to Iowa, ND, USF, and WVU, but enjoying a pretty successful season overall. I have the Panthers headed to the Champ Sports Bowl.
4) Rutgers 9-3 (4-3) – The Scarlet Knights play a very managable non-conference schedule with games against Ohio, N.C. Central, North Carolina, Navy, and Army. I think RU can easily win all five of those games, then pick up four more wins in conference. I don’t think they have the firepower on offense or defense to beat USF, Pitt, or WVU, but they should be able to handle everyone else. Nine starters from last year’s offense return, along with utilityman Mohamed Sanu, so I like their chances to improve. Last year’s offensive line had two freshmen on it, and overall was horrific – allowing 61 sacks. They have five starters returning on defense, and just one in the defensive backfield, but I’m confident (sorry, Rutgers fan here) Greg Schiano can get improvement out of a unit that really struggled after Eric LeGrand’s injury last year. Regardless, I see the Scarlet Knights headed back to a bowl game – in particular, the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.
5) Cincinnati 7-5 (3-4) – The Bearcats play a great non-conference schedule with bouts against Tennessee, North Carolina State, and Miami OH, but I don’t see them being able to top the Vols at Neyland Stadium. I love Cincy’s QB, Zach Collaros, but his supporting cast isn’t overwhelmingly strong. UC DOES have 10 starters coming back on defense, so I think that’ll keep them in a lot of games. With the Big East’s sixth and final bowl slot, I see the Bearcats headed to the awesome Beef O’Brady’s Bowl despite finishing ahead of Louisville, since the Cardinals went there last year and generally travel very well compared to UC.
6) Louisville 7-5 (2-5) – I think the Cardinals will struggle in Big East play, but find a way to win games in the non-conference slate and ensure a trip to its second straight bowl game. UL coach Charlie Strong has a really good freshman class in place, and to me at least, he’s proven he’s a pretty darn good coach. I see UL earning a bid to the BBVA Compass Bowl despite a 2-5 conference record.
7) Connecticut 5-7 (1-6) – No way the Huskies can replace Jordan Todman and Zach Frazier’s production and moxie overnight. UConn misses a bowl game for the first time in four seasons.
Syracuse 2-10 (0-7) – For some reason, Phil Steele has the Orange last in the Big East. I’m fine with that, despite being impressed by QB Ryan Nassib in the Pinstripe Bowl last year. Steele also has four of the Orange’s five offensive linemen back, so with the numbers Nassib put up last year, it’s entirely possible SU pulls a few upsets and ends up with a record around .500. My friends will tell you it’s no secret I dislike Syracuse (as a university), but in all honesty, I loved their speed and tenacity last year in the one time I really got to watch them – the Pinstripe Bowl. But again, I’m fine with it if they finish last.
So that’s the Big East. No real national championship contender, but a pretty solid 1-3 battle for the regular season championship between WVU, Pitt, and South Florida.