August 28, 2006

Frinklin Football Forecaster: Big East

This might be the most top-heavy league in the country. West Virginia and Louisville are both borderline national championship contenders. The other six teams are borderline bowl contenders. Mountaineers at Cardinals on November 2. The other teams might as well just watch. Teams ranked 3-7 could finish just about anywhere.

Just not in the top two.

1. West Virginia Mountaineers
The last time WVU came into the year as a challenger on the national scene, they puked all over themselves. This year, after a thrilling win over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, the Mountaineers should be better prepared. Two quicksilver sophomores, QB Pat White and RB Steve Slaton, ran all over the Bulldogs, and should do the same in the Big East.

2. Louisville Cardinals
The Cardinals fully expected to run rampant over the Big East last season. They didn’t quite live up to expectations, but it certainly the fault of the offense. Led by Brian Brohm and monster tailback Michael Bush, this offense was downright scary, putting up over 43 points per game and topping 60 three times. Bobby Petrino seems to be in for the long haul now, but he’ll have to curb his Mike Martzian “I’m smarter than you” recklessness for this team to be a championship contender.

3. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
After a ton of heavy lifting, Coach Greg Schiano’s team has turned the corner. The Knights first bowl appearance since 1978 (against the same team, weirdly enough) should be followed by another. Despite the star power of Bush and Slaton, Rutgers features the best running back tandem in the league. Ray Rice is the shifty tailback and Brian Leonard is the do-everything fullback. The Knights do have a new quarterback, the heralded sophomore Mike Teel.

4. Pittsburgh Panthers
Dave Wannestadt’s inaugural foray into college ball didn’t go quite as smoothly as he expected. The Panthers stumbled at the start with a horrific overtime loss to Ohio and a 7-6 loss to Nebraska that might be the nadir for both programs. Pitt will be a very young team built around two legitimately great players: QB Tyler Palko and MLB H.B. Blades.

5.Connecticut Huskies
After stunning the conference and earning a bowl bid their first year in the Big East, UConn came back to earth a bit in 2005. Problems in the passing game stunted the offense, while the defense ranked #1 in the conference the second straight year. The Huskies should find themselves in minor bowl this year, thanks in part to a preposterously easy schedule that includes Army, Navy, Indiana and Rhode Island.

6. South Florida Bulls
Another Big East team with some offense issues, the Bulls lost leading rusher Andre Hill and are trying to replace QB Pat Julmiste for the second straight year. Coach Jim Leavitt has built an impressive defense, finishing in the top-20 nationally. Led by stud linebacker Stephen Nicholas, the Bulls are fast and physical.

7. Cincinnati Bearcats
The Cats were ugly –seriously ugly- last season. In Coach Mark Dantonio’s first season he rode a senior-driven squad to a bowl appearance. His second year… not so much. Now he reaches the third with another young team. Dantonio’s pedigree (Tressel, Mason, Saban) is impeccable, but he faces a long rough year. A schedule that serves up Ohio State and Virginia Tech doesn’t help much.

8. Syracuse Orange
This is year two in former NFL coordinator Greg Robinson’s rebuilding job, and progress is slow. Last season Robinson tried to run a West Coast offense with option talent and an attacking defense with bend-but-don’t-break talent. The results were not pretty; last in scoring offense and scoring defense. Robinson has another solid batch of recruits, but anything above last should be considered a victory.


Posted by Frinklin at August 28, 2006 10:22 PM | TrackBack

One minor correction: the University of Pittsburgh's teams are called the Panthers, not the Pirates. Otherwise, seems like a solid analysis.

Posted by: Mediocre Fred at August 29, 2006 07:11 AM

Sweet Jebus I need an editor.

Posted by: frinklin at August 29, 2006 07:36 PM
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