July 14, 2004

Let's play some Football! Big East Version

This is part two of my possibly massive, possibly forgotten college football preview. This time we check out the not-so Big East. After the defection of Miami and Virginia Tech, and the pending departure of Boston College, this conference is on life-support in football. One good team (WVU) is left, with a couple maybes and many also-rans. Next year Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida will join, but this conference is not anything close to what it was. Right now, other than the Mountaineers, none of the remaining BE teams would be the favorite in conferences like the MWC or MAC.

1. West Virginia Mountaineers
This good, but not great team will almost inevitably be overrated. I’ve seen them as high as 5th in preview magazines. They might end up with a top-5 record, but not a top-5 team. The team is doubtlessly talented, led by Rasheed Marshall, a dynamic run-oriented quarterback and many returning starters, but Marshall hasn’t shown much ability in the passing game, and the fact that WVU has gotten stomped its past 2 bowl games doesn’t bode well.

2. Boston College Eagles
Well, this should be a fun year for the Eagles, huh? Two experienced but not terribly effective quarterbacks, and no running back, plus the fact that everyone in the conference hates them. Still, there is talent here, certainly more than the other non-West Virginia teams in the conference. Somebody has to finish second. As I mentioned though, BC would be a 2nd or 3rd place team in the MWC or MAC. The move to the suddenly awesome ACC could be ugly.

3. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
It might well be these guys. Rutgers? Seriously? Yes, it is a long shot, but Greg Schiano has recruited pretty well, far better than any other Scarlet Knight coach in the last, well….ever. Ryan Hart leads eight returning starters from the best offense is school history, including do-it-all RB Brian Leonard. The defense will have to improve a bunch, but the young talent is there.

4. Pittsburgh Panthers
So Walt Harris, all you need to do is replace your starting QB and WR, and a Heisman runner-up WR. The offense featured four returning starters, but that should really be listed as three, since the two returning WR split time across from Larry Fitzgerald last year. Walt also fired a couple assistants and moved a few others around, all under the lingering suspicion from Panther fans that he isn’t as good a coach as they might have thought. No pressure, Coach, no pressure.

5. Connecticut Huskies

UConn moves into the Big East a year quicker than expected. After two independent seasons of 6-6 and 9-3 and still no bowl invites, the Huskies are ready for the move. This quickly improving program could make some noise in the downsized Big East starting this year. Dan Orlovsky is pro prospect at QB, and Terry Caulley was leading the nation in rushing before getting hurt last year. This team has as much upside as any in the bottom six.

6. Syracuse Orange

The Paul Pasqualoni deathwatch begins in earnest. The main question among Orange fans is if he will be fired during the season or after. Syracuse features an All-American tailback in Walter Reyes and not much else. Reyes, who deserves better than the team around him, has a good chance at setting the school all-time rushing mark. Considering the backs to come out of Syracuse, that’s impressive.

7. Temple Owls

The Owls are the Montreal Expos of college football. Nobody seems to want them, or even know why they exist. Starting next year, the Owls will play as an Independent, and I’ll be damned why they don’t just drop down to Division II. Anyway, this is more of the same for Owl Fans (perhaps that should be singular): Too small, too slow, but with heart and at least one exciting player. Walter Washington, the Owls injury plagued QB, would compare favorably to WVU’s Marshall if he played on a better team.

ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12 ,Non-BCS Conferences, PAC-10, SEC

Posted by Frinklin at July 14, 2004 06:05 PM
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