Preview 2012 - Big East Predicted Finishes
The early summer look at where we think each team will finish.
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Preview 2012 - Predicted Conference Finishes
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2011 Record: 7-6, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 10-2
The record will be better than the team, but the team will be really, really good, too. The defense that turned into such a powerhouse last year should be even better getting all four starters back in the secondary to go along with a loaded defensive front. Thanks to rising star QB Teddy Bridgewater, the offense should be fantastic with four starters returning to the line and a nice-looking receiving corps to work with. The schedule works out almost perfectly with Kentucky and North Carolina winnable non-conference home games and the one rough stretch of three straight road games against FIU, Southern Miss, and Pitt – with two weeks off before facing the Panthers – not that bad. Cincinnati and South Florida both have to come to Louisville, but going to Rutgers on a Thursday night to end the regular season just five days after playing UConn could be the make-or-break moment for a truly special year.
2011 Record: 9-4, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 9-3
Greg Schiano left new head coach Kyle Flood with a heater of a team and an extremely manageable schedule. The quarterback play has to be more effective, but there's talent in the receiving corps – even with Mohamed Sanu gone – and Jawan Jamison is a terrific running back to work around. LB Khaseem Greene is expected to be 100% and ready to go after suffering a broken leg in the bowl game, and the co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year should lead a terrific defense that gets eight starters back. Back-to-back road games at South Florida and Arkansas close out a run of three road games in four weeks to start the season, and then things ease up with four home games in the next five to build up the record. It'll all come down to the finishing kick with road games at Cincinnati, Pitt, and closing out hosting Louisville.
2011 Record: 10-3, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 8-4
Cincinnati somewhat quietly came up with a phenomenal season under Butch Jones, and while it'll be tempting to think that it was a jumping off point, it'll be a rebuilding season needing to replace several tremendous parts. Gone are the two best players in the Big East last year – RB Isaiah Pead and DT Derek Wolfe – and the run defense has to find new playmakers up front. Jones has stocked the talent level and he knows what he's doing, but it'll be a work in progress in a decent year for the Big East. Fortunately there are enough layups to expect a strong record with Delaware State, Miami University, and Fordham to tune up on. There are only three road games in Big East play, and while one of them is at Louisville, the other two are winnable against Temple and Connecticut.
4. South Florida
2011 Record: 5-7, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 7-5
Will the team erase the memories of the 2011 collapse quickly enough to be ready to go from the opening kickoff? The Bulls have to make a statement in the Big East opener against Rutgers at home, but in many ways beating a loaded Florida State would be more satisfying. With road games at Louisville and Cincinnati, USF has to hold serve in Tampa to have any shot of winning the conference title, and it could with a phenomenal front seven that gets most of the key parts back and with a linebacking corps that'll be a brick wall. The offense will be able to run the ball, and it needs to control things against the terrific defense throughout the schedule. It should be able to come through.
2011 Record: 6-7, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 7-5
The offense wasn't explosive enough and the defense has to keep getting into the backfield. Getting RB Ray Graham back healthy and back to form is a must, while the O line has to keep QB Tino Sunseri upright. New coach Paul Cryst will be creative, but he'll want to bang away as much as possible and use Graham as much as he can handle. Can the line continue to produce with three starters gone? The secondary will be a plus early on, but the run defense will have to do the heavy lifting early on against Cincinnati and Virginia Tech in the first three games. Getting hot before November is a must with three of the final four games on the road including tough dates against Notre Dame and South Florida. On the plus side, two of the Big East favorites, Rutgers and Louisville, have to come to Pittsburgh.
2011 Record: 5-7, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 6-6
The Orange have to be better in Big East play after collapsing last season and finishing 1-6 in the conference, but most of the top offensive playmakers are gone along with some key pieces up front. Pass rusher Chandler Jones is gone off the defensive front but the back seven is loaded with experience. More than anything else under coach Doug Marrone the team has to learn how to own home field. The USC game in New Jersey doesn't really count as a home date, but it's close enough to make it four friendly games in the first five. With four road games in the final five, SU has to get off to a hot start and will have to steal a game against a good team like South Florida or Cincinnati.
2011 Record: 5-7, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 5-7
The first year under Paul Pasqualoni wasn't totally miserable, but the offense that was so great at running the ball under Randy Edsall didn't do much behind a poor line and the passing game wasn't effective enough. RB Lyle McCombs is a nice back to work around, but there has to be explosion from somewhere. The defense is going to take a step back on the line without Kendall Reyes and Twyon Martin, but the linebacking corps appears ready to be among the best in the Big East. Beating UMass to open the season is a must and cleaning up at home against Buffalo and Temple are givens. Three road games in a four date stretch and with a run of six road games in nine it's going to be tough sledding, but the team should be competitive enough to have a decent year.
2011 Record: 9-4, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 3-9
Be careful of what you wish for. Temple would've been one of the clear favorites to win the MAC, or at least the MAC East, but now it's going to have to deal with a Big East that should be a bit better than last year. The Owls were terrific by the end of last year, and coach Steve Addazio is doing a fantastic job, but too many key starters on defense are gone while the offense has to do some work to find a steady passing game. The bigger problem is a schedule full of landmines. Maryland isn't going to be pushover in non-conference play, and a run of four road games in fix weeks over the second half of the season could be a killer before closing out with Syracuse.