2012 Pre-Preseason Rankings - Big East
Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater
Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater
Posted Jan 19, 2012

The too early look at how good the Big East should be in 2012.

CFN 2012 First Look Rankings

Big East

2011 CFN Pre-Preseason First Look Rankings
The Top 10 | Rankings 11-25 | Rankings 26-50
- Rankings 51-75 | Rankings 76-100The Bottom 20  

2011 CFN Final Season Rankings
The Top 10 | Rankings 11-25 | Rankings 26-50
- Rankings 51-75 | Rankings 76-100The Bottom 20

- CFN 2011 FINAL Rankings

1. West Virginia (10-3)
(Note: This is if the Mountaineers are forced to play in the Big East this season)

Which West Virginia will show up? Will it be the one that blew the doors off of Clemson in a jaw-dropping Orange Bowl win, or will it be the one that struggled in game after game against mediocre Big East teams? The offense should be unstoppable with quarterback Geno Smith a possible Heisman front-runner, and all the key skill weapons back at his disposal including RB Shawne Alston and WR Tavon Austin. The line has to replace two starters, but it should be fine with a little bit of time. The defense will be along for the ride, but it’ll be loaded with experience with three starters back up front – but not top end Julian Miller – and two back at linebacker. Three starters return in the secondary only losing safety Eain Smith.

2. Louisville (7-6)

The defense that was such a surprise is loaded and should be among the nation’s best. The line that was so good at getting into the backfield gets three starters back after finishing tenth in the nation against the run, and that doesn’t include pass rushing terror Marcus Smith on the end. Leading tackler Dexter Heyman has to be replaced, but the linebacking corps is sound on the outside and the secondary should be out of this world with all four starters returning. The offense is all about the maturation and improvement of QB Teddy Bridgewater, who got his feet wet last year and showed maturity beyond his years. RB Victor Anderson is done, but bulky back Dominique Brown returns and should be a power runner to work behind. Micahlee Harris is a strong inside receiver who should shine as Bridgewater’s safety valve. The line struggled in pass protection, but four starters return.

3. Rutgers (9-4)

Playmaking receiver Mohamed Sanu took off early for the NFL, but the real problem could be a line that struggled last year and now loses the interior. Mark Harrison has to become a go-to target and Jawan Jamison will have to carry even more of the rushing workload, but the offense won’t improve unless QB Chas Dodd becomes more efficient and more effective. The defense that dominated so much last year needs LB Khaseem Greene to come back healthy after the nasty leg injury suffered in the bowl game. Only three starters are gone from a D that led the Big East in most of the major categories, but top interior pass rusher Justin Francis is gone as is end Manny Abreu and FS David Rowe. If Greene can make it back, this should once again be one of the nation’s nastiest run defenses.

4. Cincinnati (10-3)

The Bearcats came up with a ten-win rebound season under Butch Jones, but now it could be rebuilding time again with QB Zach Collaros, RB Isaiah Pead, and DT Derek Wolfe three heart-and-soul players who need to be replaced. One of the nation’s top run defenses loses leading tackler J.K. Schaffer and has to replace both starting tackles. Three starters return to the secondary, Walter Stewart is a rising star, and SS Drew Frey can hit. The offense needs Munchie Legaux to play as well as his name working behind a retooled line that has to replace three starters. D.J. Woods is done, but the rest of the receiving corps returns, while George Winn, Jameel Poteat, and Ralph David Abernathy will all try to replace Pead, the Big East Offensive Player of the Year.

5. South Florida (5-7)

What’s next after the awful 1-7 run after such a strong start? The defense was among the best in America at getting into the backfield, and the run defense was terrific. The front seven will once again be outstanding with Ryne Giddens back at one end and the entire linebacking corps returning including leading tackler DeDe Lattimore. The secondary loses FS Jerrell Young and CB Quenton Washington, but it should still be a good year for the pass defense thanks to the pass rush. QB B.J. Daniels is a crusty veteran who has to be consistent, and he’ll get the chance to shine with a good line coming back and all his weapons returning. RB Darrell Scott bolted a year early for the NFL, but Demetris Murray can pick up the slack.

6. Pitt (6-7)

New head coach Paul Chryst needs to upgrade an offense that sputtered and struggled way too often in a disappointing year under Todd Graham. Getting RB Ray Graham back healthy would be a great start, but QB Tino Sunseri needs to be better and more efficient. The line has work to do with three starters gone from a group that did absolutely nothing in pass protection. If Sunseri gets time, he could shine with a veteran receiving corps returning. The defense that was dominant at getting into the backfield loses Brandon Lindsey and three starters up front, but leading sacker Aaron Donald is back at one end. Five starters are gone from the front seven, but three starters return to the secondary including FS Jared Holley, who should be one of the Big East/s top tacklers.

7. Syracuse (5-7)

After last year’s collapse with a 1-6 Big East record and five straight losses, the Orange has to come up with more on offense. QB Ryan Nassib is gone, as is top runner Antown Bailey, three starters up front, and WR Van Chew. Big bomber Charley Loeb is up next at quarterback, and he needs Alec Lemon to become a more dangerous No. 1 target. The defense was good, not great, and now it has to replace three starters up front and has to hope the loaded back seven can shine. The loss of leading tackler and pick-off artist Phillip Thomas to suspension late last year was a problem, but it gave other players time to be ready to hit the ground running. Shamarko Thomas and Jeremi Wilkes form a decent safety tandem, while undersized MLB Marquis Spruill should be a top tackler. PK Ross Krautman will be one of the team’s top weapons.

8. Connecticut (5-7)

The Huskies have to find an offensive identity after doing nothing in any phase. Three starters return to a line that didn’t generate any sort of a push, and the top receivers are gone, but the backfield returns intact with Johnny McEntee needing to shine if he can hold on to the starting quarterback gig. RB Lyle McCombs put together a solid season, but he needs more help if Scott McCummings isn’t under center. The defense that rocked against the run loses starting tackles Twyon Martin and Kendall Reyes, but Sio Moore and the linebacking corps should be terrific. The secondary gets all four starters back after finishing 113th in the nation in pass defense.