2012 Big East Football Preview
West Virginia already left for the Big 12, with Temple as its replacement. Pittsburgh and Syracuse will follow before the 2013 season, and Boise State, Houston, San Diego State, SMU and UCF will be added, with the great possibility of Navy and Air Force.
Here's what the Big East could look like in 2014:
San Diego State
Yeah, go ahead and try to remember all of that. For now, let's try to focus on this year: Here's a breakdown of the 2012 Big East season with predictions.
Louisville Cardinals: 9-3 (7-0)
Louisville really showed us what it was made of last year, starting a tremendous amount of inexperienced underclassmen and still finishing in a first-place tie for the conference. Those same players are back for more in what could be a clean sweep of Big East opponents. Junior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is expected to flourish in his second year under center, while the defense returns eight starters and should be much improved against the pass.
Cincinnati Bearcats: 9-3 (5-2)
With the exception of quarterback Zach Collaros and NFL running back Isaiah Pead (both are huge assets, yes), Cincinnati returns a good team to the field in 2012. Munchie Legaux filled in for Collaros during injury last season and did a good job, having no experience at all. Now he does, and the Bearcats have enough talent on both sides of the ball to contend for the Big East, especially with West Virginia out of the picture.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights: 8-4 (4-3)
The post-Ray Rice era has not been friendly to the Scarlet Knights' running game. Since his departure, Rutgers has averaged 1,699.3 total rushing yards per season—Rice had over 2,000 yards alone his senior year. The offense relies heavily on the run game, but has only compiled 3.7 yards per carry since the beginning 2008. This again will play as a huge factor in Rutgers' success, which is shame, because it has a high-level defense that would take almost any other team to a conference championship.
South Florida Bulls: 6-6 (4-3)
The good news: USF locked up coach Holtz through 2017. The bad news: B.J. Daniels is the starting quarterback. South Florida returns an extremely athletic defense that includes DE Ryan Giddins and linebacker Sam Barrington, as plenty of turnovers will be forced. However, that won't matter until the offense can hold onto the ball itself. Daniels has been a mess of a QB through his first three collegiate seasons and only has one more to get it together. He's terrible inside the pocket and forces the ball far too often. For the Bulls to be the eight- or nine-win team as they were before, he'll need to improve big-time. And quickly.
Temple Owls: 7-5 (3-4)
The outstanding running game will pick up right where it left off between quarterback Chris Coyer and former Boston College tailback Montel Harris. Coyer, not known for his passing abilities, ran for 562 yards off just 69 carries (8.1 ypc) in seven appearances last season, while Harris is the current FBS leader in rushing yards with 3,735. Still, the roster lacks a pass rush and the front seven will seem non-existent at times. Oh, and it'd be nice to have a passing game at some point, too.
Connecticut Huskies: 6-6 (3-4)
First-year coach Paul Pasqualoni and his young Huskie squad fell eight points short of bowl eligibility last season, finishing 5-7 and 3-4 in the conference. Four of their seven losses were by eight points or under, which means talent isn't the issue: consistency is. Luckily for UConn, it returns basically the entire team for another go 'round, and should find itself in the postseason after winning a few of those close games.
Pittsburgh Panthers: 5-7 (2-5)
Two things will determine the outcome of Paul Chryst's inaugural season with Pitt: the health of All-Big East running back Ray Graham and the stability of the offensive line. Graham missed the final five games of the season to a knee injury, but still came just 42 yards short of a 1,000-yard year. He is the offense and the Panthers need him. However, he will be all on his own if the offensive line doesn't improve—it allowed an NCAA-high 64 sacks in 2011.
Syracuse Orange: 2-10 (0-7)
Have fun with this one, ACC. Syracuse lacks a running game, contribution from receivers, a pass rush, the ability to stop the run, and a secondary. Quarterback Ryan Nassib will have his work cut out for him, and his stats likely won't reflect the kind of player he is. Aside from left tackle Justin Pugh and linebacker Marquis Spruill, the Orange have no next-level talent and will struggle in their final season as a member of the Big East.
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