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2008 CFN Big East Preview

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 14, 2008


This is the year when the Big East explodes. With LeSean McCoy and Pitt looking ready to break through, Mike Mickens and Cincinnati growing into a power, and Noel Devine's West Virginia the star of the show once again. Check out the predictions, All-Big East team, unit rankings and more in the 2008 CFN Big East preview

2008 CFN Big East Preview

Team Previews & Predictions
- Cincinnati | Connecticut | Louisville | Pitt
- Rutgers | South Florida | Syracuse | West Virginia

- CFN All-Big East Team & Top 30 Players
- Big East Team-by-Team Capsules

-
Big Ten Unit Rankings

- Big East Schedules & Predictions

By Richard Cirminiello

Put the shovel down. West Virginia is far from dead.

Yeah, Rich Rodriguez is now coaching Michigan, and offensive sparkplugs Steve Slaton, Owen Schmitt, and Darius Reynaud are gone, but the Mountaineers are still the class of the Big East. The one constant amid all the change in Morgantown is QB Pat White, the dynamic dual-threat that’s capable of carrying the program to a third BCS bowl game in the last four years. That said, the ‘eers have too many question marks on defense and on the sidelines to be considered a legitimate threat to run the table and play for a national title. Oh, and if White ever winds up on the shelf, there are a half-dozen opportunistic schools eagerly lurking behind the frontrunners.

The pack forming behind West Virginia is deep, upwardly mobile, and evenly matched. At the head of the line is South Florida, a rising force in the league that ascended to No. 2 nationally last October before acting its age with an inconsistent stretch run. The Bulls return their most valuable player on offense and defense along with a coach, Jim Leavitt, who’s obsessed with proving last year’s fast start was no fluke.

Cincinnati is moving in the right direction under Brian Kelly, who milked 10 wins out of a program that’ll only get better as it spends more time in the coach’s system. Ditto Randy Edsall, who led Connecticut to an improbable 9-4 record and a first place tie with the Mountaineers. His Huskies welcome back 19 starters from a young team with an old school mentality. Even without RB Ray Rice, Rutgers will be a tough out as long as Greg Schiano resists the temptation to leave New Jersey.

The sleeper in the league is Pitt, a school that’s amassed as much talent as anyone, yet hasn’t put together a complete season in Dave Wannstedt’s three seasons. That’s about to change, provided the rebuilt offensive line holds up and injuries don’t become a factor. At the opposite spectrum are Louisville, which will get worse before it gets better, and conference doormat Syracuse, who’s still struggling to find something positive under head coach Greg Robinson. 

Team That'll Surprise

Pittsburgh – After delivering a couple of poorly-received dress rehearsals for this moment, Pitt is finally ready to break through and get to the postseason under Wannstedt. The confluence of consecutive years of good recruiting and the emergence of RB LeSean McCoy has the Panthers as confident as they’ve been under this staff.  If the program can actually avoid the injury bug for a change, a Big East title isn’t out of reach.

Team That'll Disappoint
West Virginia – Yes, the Mountaineers remain the Big East power broker, but the program lost too much personnel—on and off the field—to still be considered a darkhorse for a national championship. With a number of holes to be filled on both sides of the ball, and one-game wonder Bill Stewart replacing Rich Rodriguez, West Virginia is as vulnerable as its been in years. Remember, being a disappointment is all relative. The Mountaineers are shooting for the national title, but could end up losing two games.

Offensive Player of the Year
QB Pat White, Sr. West Virginia 

Defensive Player of the Year
LB Scott McKillop, Sr. Pitt

Game of the Year … West Virginia at Pittsburgh, Nov. 28. There’ll be no shortage of storylines when these two bitter rivals meet in the Backyard Brawl. The Panthers ruined the Mountaineers’ national championship dreams last December, adding a layer of revenge into the equation. If, as expected, Pitt’s good enough to contend for a Big East title, West Virginia will have a chance to return the favor.

5 Big-Time Players Who Deserve a Bigger Spotlight ...
1. LB Scott McKillop, Sr. Pittsburgh
2. CB Mike Mickens, Sr. Cincinnati
3. . DT Terrill Byrd, Sr. Cincinnati
4. LB Mortty Ivy, Sr. West Virginia
5. LB Tyrone McKenzie, Sr. South Florida

Bold Prediction … Connecticut will be just as scrappy as last year, when it tied West Virginia atop the conference. As much as everyone wants to dismiss the Huskies as a one-year fluke, they could be even better this fall, returning a slew of starters on both sides of the ball. The offense will be even better, while the defense won’t likely fall off any, if at all.

Coach on the Hot Seat
Steve Kragthorpe, Louisville – While Syracuse’s Greg Robinson and Pitt’s Dave Wannstedt are clearly facing must-win situations, no one has a warmer fanny than Kragthorpe. After delivering one of the worst coaching performances of 2007, he reshuffled the Cards’ staff in the hopes of resuscitating a program that’s two years removed from a league title and an Orange Bowl victory. If the moves don’t pay off, Kragthorpe could be looking for work after just two seasons.  

5 Non-Conference Games the Big East had better take very, very seriously
1. Fresno State at Rutgers, Sept. 1
2. West Virginia at Colorado, Sept. 18
3. Connecticut at Temple, Sept. 6
4. South Florida at UCF, Sept. 6
5. Buffalo at Pittsburgh, Sept. 6

5 Best Pro Prospects
1. RB LeSean McCoy, Soph. Pitt
2. CB Mike Mickens, Sr. Cincinnati
3. DE George Selvie, Jr. USF
4. SS Courtney Greene, Sr. Rutgers
5. QB Hunter Cantwell, Sr. Louisville

5 Biggest Shoes to Fill
1.
RB Mason Robinson for Ray Rice, Rutgers
2. QB Hunter Cantwell for Brian Brohm, Louisville
3. QB Dustin Grutza for Ben Mauk, Cincinnati
4. RB Noel Devine for Steve Slaton, West Virginia
5. CBs Tyller Roberts and Jerome Murphy, for Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams, USF

Team Previews & Predictions
- Cincinnati | Connecticut | Louisville | Pitt
- Rutgers | South Florida | Syracuse | West Virginia

- CFN All-Big East Team & Top 30 Players
- Big East Team-by-Team Capsules

-
Big Ten Unit Rankings

- Big East Schedules & Predictions