Big East Preview

By on August 8, 2010

West Virginia Mountaineers

The only thing keeping the Mountaineers from being in the discussion for a BCS bowl in January is how quickly Sophomore QB Geno Smith adjusts to full game speed in the FBS.  He played in four games as a freshman last season, but only one was meaningful….a 24-7 victory over in-state rival Marshall after QB Jarrett Brown was knocked out of the game.  The defensive front seven could be the best in the nation and they have a Heisman hopeful in RB Noel Devine.  With Devine, LB JT Thomas and several other key seniors returning, this team could dominate the Big East and have some folks talking Glendale.  If they can tackle both big road games at LSU and Pitt, it might not just be talk.

Pitt Panthers

 

Watching the Panthers’ RB Dion Lewis run last season as a freshman took me back to the early days of Barry Sanders.  The kid can get stuffed in the middle, spin to the outside, hit some space, juke a linebacker out of his Nikes, then hit the third level and make DBs look like computer controlled Tecmo Bowl players.  In his inaugural campaign, Lewis amassed almost 1,800 yards and 18 TDs.  He has the ability to lead this team to big things this year, provided sophomore QB Tino Sunseri and the young DBs can step up and make some plays, this Panther team can certainly challenge West Virginia for the Big East Title.

Cincinnati Bearcats

The Bearcats lost starting QB Tony Pike and standout WR Mardy Gilyard to the NFL this offseason, but don’t discount the 2010 version from pushing for another January bowl game.  The “new” starting QB, Zach Collaros, started four games for Cincy while Pike nursed a broken arm, and did not miss a beat.  As a matter of fact, Collaros proved to be the more dynamic QB, rushing for over 300 yards and four TDs in Pike’s absence.  However, the x-factor in this team’s success is in whether or not the defense can provide a consistent pass rush.  The secondary won’t be able to withstand a consistent onslaught of downfield targets again this season without a true standout in the defensive backfield.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

 

A mixture of talented youth and experience is what Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano is banking on to get his team to a fifth straight bowl appearance.  While blessed with several young, productive players on the offense, what ultimately jumps out about this Rutgers team is the outstanding players on the defensive line.  Jonathan Frenny, Alex Silvestro, Charlie Noonan and Scott Vallone anchor a defense that finished top 20 in six different categories last season.

 

Skip Holtz inherits a lot of talent and a lot of expectations, but little experience.  The Bulls lost five defensive standouts and have an inexperienced but promising young man helming the offense, sophomore QB BJ Daniels.  The defense should be just fine with the depth that former coach Jim Leavitt left behind, but if they are to be able to hang with the cream of the Big East crop, senior RB Moise Plancher MUST become a consistent, reliable option for USF.

Connecticut Huskies

 

The lack of proven talent at QB won’t keep the Huskies from taking consistent shots downfield.  Former Notre Dame prospect, QB Zach Frazer, is out to prove the Irish made a mistake by choosing Jimmy Claussen over him.  Lack of top level talent on the defensive side of the ball hasn’t stopped coordinator Todd Orlando from assembling one of the Big East’s best defenses in recent years, and there’s no reason to think any differently about 2010.  As seems to be the case with a lot of teams this year, the Huskies are looking for a playmaker in the secondary and may just find it with Sophomore CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson.

Syracuse Orange

Second year coach Doug Marrone is thankful he has some rope to work with for this Orange team.  There will be plenty of pressure put on the ball from the defense, but the secondary has to step up to create turnovers, because this offense will not give them much breathing room this year.  Marrone did a good job of stopping the bleeding for this struggling program, but this season isn’t going to offer much in respect to getting back to a bowl game.  They have a long way to go, but at least Syracuse is finally heading back in the right direction.

In a conference littered with talent in their opponent’s defensive front sevens, the Cardinals are going to have a tough time this season, having to adjust to a new system (new OC Mike Sanford is deeply rooted in the spread), a new head coach (Charlie Strong), and questions abound on offense.  They have no idea who will be playing QB, with Adam Froman and Justin Burke the leading candidates.  The offensive line is atrocious, not for a lack of talent, but due more to inconsistency and no cohesion.  If Sanford can get them to gel and spark something out of the offense, he will have more than earned his paycheck.  On defense, Strong has a lot of work to do.  They are experienced, but extremely porous.  Last season the defense was poor against both the run and pass.  It will be a couple of years before Louisville can compete in the Big East.

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