2012 CFN Big East Preview
USF LB DeDe Lattimore
USF LB DeDe Lattimore
Posted Aug 7, 2012

2012 CFN Big East Preview - The league might not be loaded, but the race should be fantastic.

Preview 2012

Big East Preview

- 2012 Cincinnati Preview | 2012 Connecticut Preview
- 2012 Louisville Preview | 2012 Pitt Preview 
- 2012 Rutgers Preview | 2012 South Florida Preview
- 2012 Syracuse Preview | 2012 Temple Preview 

- 2012 Big East Preview
- 2012 Big East Unit Rankings
- 2012 CFN Schedules & Picks
- 2012 CFN All-Big East Team & Top 30 Players
- 2012 Big East Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish  
By Richard Cirminiello

The Big East was left without a permanent commissioner after John Marinatto stepped down on May 7. The way league members will have to globetrot to play games in the future, it might be wise to consider Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan as a successor.

The Big East is still alive in football, though frequent checks of the conference's pulse are recommended. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so after Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia announced that they'd be relocating, Big East officials went trolling for replacements … regardless of their zip code. Welcome to the really, really Big East, where the powers-that-be hope that you don't take their name literally. In a series of moves that look like quick-fixes, the beleaguered league will be adding Houston, SMU, UCF, Memphis, Boise State and San Diego State in2013. Navy comes aboard in 2015. Yup, certain league games will require a 3,000-mile cross-country trip, one of the more ridiculous aspects of realignment.

In the short-term, the Big East has traded West Virginia, which would have been the heavy favorite, for Temple, a former member likely to occupy the cellar. The immediate beneficiaries of realignment will be the remaining seven schools, all of whom are being presented with a golden opportunity to win a title, and represent the league in a big-payday BCS bowl game. The favorite to find the hidden treasure? It's a jump ball at this point.

Louisville could be primed for a breakout year under Charlie Strong, who has done a magnificent job of recruiting and coaching so far. His defense is scrappy, and his young quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, is about to become a symbol of the school's exciting turnaround. South Florida certainly has the talent to go stride-for-stride with the Cardinals, but can it shake last year's disappointing sub-.500 campaign? Like so many Big East schools, the Bulls are in good shape on defense, now needing QB B.J. Daniels and the rest of the offense to start doing a little more of the heavy lifting.

Rutgers and Connecticut are heading into 2012 like brothers from another mother. Both have ample defensive talent, quality young backs and giant, flashing question marks in the passing game. The play of the special teams units will be critical for a couple of wannabe champs who are going to partake in a lot of close-to-the-vest, low-scoring contests.

Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are wild cards entering the summer. The pair has a lot of talent, yet also a lot of holes, especially the Bearcats. Butch Jones' roster was evacuated, with stars, such as RB Isaiah Pead, QB Zach Collaros and DT Derek Wolfe, leaving cavernous voids on the two-deep. The Panthers begin a new era under head coach Paul Chryst, who hopes to bring some much-needed stability to the sidelines. Pitt will remain shackled to the middle of the pack unless the O-line can do a complete about-face following last year's disastrous performance.

Looking to avoid the cellar are Syracuse and Temple. The Orange and the Owls suffered tough losses on D, a particular concern in a league whose identity is tied so closely to its defenses. Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone really needs to recapture the momentum he had in 2010, or else he might have a hard time finding it for some time. Temple is ecstatic to be back in the Big East. Time will tell how long the glow from the move lasts. The Owls were run out of town a decade ago for a lack of competitiveness, and the current edition will have its hands full as it adjusts to a higher level of competition and a roster dotted with new starters.

Get a snapshot of the Big East while you can. At this time next year, the conference will have a very different look than it does now. For the eight holdovers, they've got a gift sitting in their lap—the least challenging path to a BCS bowl game of any of this year's FBS programs.

Team That'll Surprise
Connecticut – The Huskies are basically Rutgers, without all of the lofty expectations. Connecticut boasts a tremendous amount of talent, enough to silence just about every league opponent on the schedule. They should be able to run the ball behind RB Lyle McCombs, provided the line can gel during the summer. However, the situation at quarterback is as messy as a third world political election. Sound familiar, Scarlet Knights fans? The Huskies figure to have a little more administrative stability now that Paul Pasqualoni & Co. are back for a second year, all of which should add up to a return to the postseason.

Team That'll Disappoint
Rutgers – The defense is going to be fantastic, but will that be enough to finally get this program over the hump, as many have begun to suggest? Even in a watered-down Big East, the Scarlet Knights are going to need more from the offense in order to get beyond the likes of Louisville and South Florida. The quarterback situation remains unsettled, the line is a work-in-progress and the early departure of WR Mohamed Sanu leaves a cavernous void that'll be tough to fill. Oh, and despite the fact that Kyle Flood was an in-house successor on the sidelines, there's no telling how Rutgers is going to react in its first year since 2000 without Greg Schiano in the captain's chair.

Game of the Year
Louisville at Rutgers, Nov. 29 - There are a handful of games that are going to decide the Big East race in 2012. And this regular season finale could very well be one of them. The Scarlet Knights have already hosted the Cardinals on one memorable Thursday night, pulling the most important upset in school history six years ago. This fall's meeting in Piscataway could have even more at stake, with both programs dreaming of a BCS bowl berth. The defenses should dominate since the majority of talent being on that side of the ball. Louisville-Rutgers might not only be the most pivotal game of the year, but also the most physical.

5 Big-Time Players Who Deserve a Bigger Spotlight
1. LB DeDe Lattimore, Jr. South Florida
2. LB Sio Moore, Sr. Connecticut
1. WR Devin Street, Jr. Pittsburgh
4. DE Walter Stewart, Sr. Cincinnati
5. SS Shamarko Thomas, Sr. Syracuse

Coach on the Hot Seat
Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut – Whatever goodwill Pasqualoni had when he returned to the Big East in 2011 was quickly squandered. He inherited a team coming off a signature, Big East championship season, and promptly guided it to its first bowl-less campaign since 2006. On paper, the Huskies had enough talent to at least get to .500, but failed to deliver. Now, it's doubtful that the administration would pull the plug after two years unless the bottom completely fell out. In fact, the odds are good that none of the league's eight coaches gets canned. However, if Pasqualoni can't get the program on track, he'll be playing for his future in 2013.

5 Non-Conference Games the Big East Had Better Take Very, Very Seriously
1. South Florida at Nevada, Sept. 8
2. Connecticut at Western Michigan, Sept. 22
3. Louisville at Southern Miss, Sept. 29
4. Pittsburgh at Buffalo, Oct. 20
5. Miami U. at Cincinnati, Oct. 6

Bold Statements
- After winning the job in the summer, Cincinnati QB Munchie Legaux will emerge as one of the Big East's young offensive stars of the fall.

- Connecticut will be home to one of the nation's top 10 pass defenses. The combination of the speedy ends plus lockdown corners Dwayne Gratz and Blidi Wreh-Wilson will be stifling for opposing quarterbacks.

- Charlie Strong will guide Louisville to a Big East title, but not coach in the BCS bowl game. He'll be flooded with offers in December, at least one of which will be too enticing to pass up.

- Pitt DE Aaron Donald will rank among the nation's leaders in sacks. Now that he's moved outside from tackle, his blend of strength and quick moves will be too much for opposing tackles to handle.

- Rutgers won't allow more than 10 touchdown passes all season. With three starters and two all-stars returning, the Scarlet Knights will force teams to try and run the ball.

- South Florida will rebound quickly from last season's disappointing results. QB B.J. Daniels will have surprisingly little to do with the turnaround.

- In a wide-open competition, Syracuse's Ryan Nassib will be named the All-Big East quarterback. His skills are decent, but he has a good feel for the pocket, and is going to benefit from the return of WR Marcus Sales.

- Temple RB Matt Brown will look like he belongs in the Big East. Most of the Owls roster, however, will not. The program is going to have a tough time in its return to its old stomping grounds.

5 Best Pro Prospects
1. DE Ryne Giddins, Jr. South Florida
2. CB Logan Ryan, Jr. Rutgers
3. RB Ray Graham, Sr. Pittsburgh
4. OT Justin Pugh, Jr. Syracuse
5. CB Adrian Bushell, Sr. Louisville

5 Biggest Shoes to Fill
1. WR Brandon Coleman for Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers
2. DT Camaron Beard for Derek Wolfe, Cincinnati
3. RB George Winn for Isaiah Pead, Cincinnati
4. RB Matt Brown for Bernard Pierce, Temple
5. DE Brandon Sharpe for Chandler Jones, Syracuse

- 2012 Cincinnati Preview | 2012 Connecticut Preview
- 2012 Louisville Preview | 2012 Pitt Preview 
- 2012 Rutgers Preview | 2012 South Florida Preview
- 2012 Syracuse Preview | 2012 Temple Preview 

- 2012 Big East Preview
- 2012 Big East Unit Rankings
- 2012 CFN Schedules & Picks
- 2012 CFN All-Big East Team & Top 30 Players
- 2012 Big East Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish