Well, it's time for some preseason conference round-ups and predictions. I'm starting with the Big East because, honestly, it's my least fave to pick. They're barely an AQ, there's no championship game, there's only eight teams, and they're just kinda boring overall.I'll give you win hint, though: don't look for UConn to re-appear in a BCS game this January. This conference will benefit greatly from TCU's arrival next year. But, while I have just thoroughly trashed them, there's a lot of parity among these teams and we could see five or six in bowl games.
1. South Florida - I don't know if I think that highly of Skip Holtz, or if I just don't think that highly of the conference. Hell, it's a little of both, I guess. But, I see the Bulls winning this conference and maybe even getting to double digit wins. I think they'll lose on the road to Pitt, but will lock up the league by beating West Virginia in the regular season finale. The offense will be better in Holtz's second year and BJ Daniels is a solid returning QB. Defensively. they're not returning a lot, but it'll be decent, because the cupboard's stocked with three-star Florida talent and that's enough to win in this league.
2. West Virginia - I'm very skeptical of this pick, but so wary of the rest of the league that even the coaching drama in Morgantown isn't enough to chase me off. It would have been better for Holgorsen to have a year at OC before taking over, but the athletes he has are more than capable of running his system and the O-line return's the league's most combined starts. Despite the chaos of this past month, there's enough in the program to keep the Mountaineers above most of the Big East pack.
3. Pitt - The Panthers really should be Big East champions next year. They were second in both defense and offense last season and have the right starters back to move up to the top in both. However, they have a new head coach and apretty well documented history of under-achieving. We'll see them live up to their potential in flashes, like my pick for them to beat USF. But we'll also see the lingering effects of the 'stache in a loss to either Rutgers or Louisville and it'll all end with another conference loss to WVU.
4. Louisville - A lot of people are down on Louisville this season. A lot. And I see why. 3 overall offensive starters, a freshman QB, and only 25 starts along the line. I must be crazy, right? Nope. I just like Charlie Strong. He's got seven back on defense and in his second year, there should be enough discipline in place to hold everything else together. They will drop 3 of their last 4 league games, but that's only because their schedule is back-loaded with the three teams listed above.
5. Rutgers - Oh, Rutgers. I have been burned by you before...but not this year. The Knights should be good this year, like I mean 2006 potential. But they won't. Why? Fuck if I know, but picking them above mediocre is suicide ever since Shciano turned down those jobs to stay in Jersey. I like 9 returning on offense, I like only 3 league road games, and I like some of their young talent...but something will happen. It always does. 3-4
6. Cincinnati - Honestly, spots 5-7 are fairly interchangeable; they all have certain strengths and glaring weaknesses. And, I didn't really think about how many first- and second-year HC's this league had until I started writing this. One of those new guys, 2nd year Butch Jones at Cincy will have a solid career with the Bearcats, but I think he's still a year out on that. The defense returns ten, but weren't that impressive last year, so I don't know how much that will help. Offensively, I really like Collaros at QB, and while he should be fun to watch, it won't be enough to get past a 3-4 league mark.
7. Syracuse - I would love to see this team do well. Last year's 8-win mark was impressive, especially coming off the stretch they'd been having this decade. I like Doug Marrone and think he could be a great coach, but this won't quite be his year. The Orange got a lot of luck in 2010 and it won't be back in '11. Their season finale at Pitt ought be the closer on a 2-5 conference mark.
8. UConn - I'll just say that Edsall picked the perfect time to leave