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Big East football: Anything could happen


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Big East football: Anything could happen

WILLIAM S. PAXTON Staff writer

Article Last Updated: 07/12/2008 06:44:32 PM EDT

The scent of pigskin arrived about two weeks ago when college and NFL previews began to line up on magazine racks in supermarkets and newsstands across the country.

It's one of the few times a year when sports writers get to impersonate weathermen and make forecasts for the upcoming season — most of which end up with the same success rates as the daily weather reports.

When it comes to Big East prognostications this season, two things are clear — West Virginia is the favorite to win the conference and Syracuse is favored to finish last, again. When it comes to forecasting the rest of the field, that's where things turn a little murky. The only consistent when picking No. 2 through No. 7 is that nobody seems to agree on the same order of finish.

The Mountaineers might not be a top-five team like last season and first-year head coach Bill Stewart might be the second coming of Ray Handley (sorry for bringing him up, New York Giants fans), but they still get the nod. They're helped by having one of the most gifted dual-threat players in the country in senior quarterback Pat White.

Depending on which publication you glance at, Cincinnati, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, South Florida and UConn have a shot at being either quite good or dwelling in the Big East cellar with the Orange.

All six teams have their share of flaws, but also have enough talent back to make a case for No. 2 — expect for maybe Louisville, which might not even have enough receivers to field a team by September with its recent run of problems.

USF might have the strongest resume with much of its high-powered spread offense returning intact, led by junior quarterback Matt Grothe and running back Mike Ford. But Jim Leavitt's boys were 6-0 and ranked second in the BCS standings last year after upsetting West Virginia and Auburn. Three straight Big East losses later, USF came crashing back to earth, and you have to wonder if they have recovered mentally from it.

Next up is Cincinnati, which seems to be returning everyone except quarterback Ben Mauk from a 10-3 squad that finished the year in the top 25 (No. 17 AP, No. 20 ESPN/USA Today). Last time I checked, the man calling the signals under center was a rather important job, and if the Bearcats don't find a replacement, there could be big problems.

Then there is Rutgers, the pride of New Jersey's sports scene after a magical run two years ago that thrust the program into the national spotlight with a 9-0 start and top-10 ranking. The team finished 11-2 and ranked 12th in the nation (AP) after beating Kansas State in the Texas Bowl.

The Scarlet Knights got a healthy dose of gridiron reality last season — hello, one great season does not make you a football powerhouse, New Jersey — with an 8-5 campaign. Now the humbled Scarlet Knights look to bounce back without stud running back Ray Rice to carry the load.

On paper the Pitt Panthers appear to be stacked, led by running back LeSean McCoy, but the program has one big thing working against it — the Wannstedt factor. Head coach Dave Wannstedt might have a knack for recruiting talent, but once they arrive in the Steel City, he has no idea what to do with it. In three seasons, Pitt is 16-19 and without a bowl appearance under DW.

That leaves us with Louisville and UConn. Call me crazy, but should Bobby Petrino get credit for ruining two teams last season? Not only did he succeed in creating a mess in Atlanta with his ill-fated attempt to coach the Falcons, but his departure from Louisville seemed to throw the birds into a tailspin, too. The players and new coach Steve Kragthorpe never seemed to click last season. Besides losing receivers daily to arrests and being shot this off-season, the Cardinals also have to replace talented quarterback Brian Brohm. Draft guru Mel Kiper already is on board with replacement Hunter Cantwell, but is anyone else?

So why not the Huskies for No. 2?

The Big East's Cinderella story in 2007 and defending co-conference champions return 18 starters — 19 if you count punter Desi Cullen — and has two workhorses in the backfield with Donald Brown and Andre Dixon, plus two red-shirt freshmen waiting in the wings.

Also back is senior quarterback Tyler Lorenzen, who is no John Elway with a suspect throwing arm but has proven to be a good game manager. The biggest question mark for the Huskies going into the season: Are they just one-year wonders or have they really arrived?

After reviewing the Big East, I think you can add one more constant to the mix — it's really anyone's race.

Contact William S. Paxton at wpaxton@ctpost.com

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good article. I hate Tyler Lorenzen by the way.

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Everyone ranks West Virginia so high because of Pat White, but what will West Virginia do if and when he gets hurt?

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I guess you have to watch Pat White against teams other than South Florida to see how good he is.  ???

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Everyone ranks West Virginia so high because of Pat White, but what will West Virginia do if and when he gets hurt?

they are going to pass more this year to prevent injury to Pat White. How many games have they lost when he is healthy? This game at the end of the year, especially if its cold weather, REALLY scares me

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I hate UCONN. Im pretty sure they are one year wonders. Notice how no one really talks about them as being a contender......

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I hate UCONN. Im pretty sure they are one year wonders. Notice how no one really talks about them as being a contender......

they've got their entire starting team coming back pretty much.  from what i remember last season...their running game is pretty good.

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I remember Lorenzen making that little "Horns Down" gesture after throwing a TD pass.  Hopefully Leavitt plays that in the locker room before the game.

BTW, Herbie picked UCONN to win the conference.

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UCONN was given two games last year by the refs (Louisville and Temple). Additionally, USF gifted them a game. There is no way that squad has the talent that we do. Just take away those 2 ref blown games and UCONN is 7-5 last year heading into their bowl game. Take away the USF debacle (which will not happen again in Tampa this year) and they were a 6-6 regular season team and they don't even make a bowl game.

While they do have a couple of good running backs, that teams doesn't have much else on offense, but is decent on defense. I see a 6-6 season forthcoming for the Huskies (W: Hofstra, Temple, Baylor, Syracuse, Louisville, UNC)(L: USF, WVU, Cincy, PITT, Virginia, Rutgers).

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UCONN was given two games last year by the refs (Louisville and Temple). Additionally, USF gifted them a game. There is no way that squad has the talent that we do. Just take away those 2 ref blown games and UCONN is 7-5 last year heading into their bowl game. Take away the USF debacle (which will not happen again in Tampa this year) and they were a 6-6 regular season team and they don't even make a bowl game.

LOL.  what's all this "take away this, take away that" stuff?

u can't just take away games u didn't like and discredit the whole team.  take away a blown call on a Marcus Edwards return at FAU and USF never smells the Top 10...  see?

i'm definetely not sold on UConn this year, but u can't discredit what they did last season.

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