2008 Big East Lookbacks/Recaps
West Virginia QB Pat White
West Virginia QB Pat White
Posted Feb 16, 2009

Taking a look back at every team's 2008 Big East season.

2008 Big East Lookbacks/Recaps

2009 Pages
Cincinnati | Connecticut | Louisville | Pittsburgh
Rutgers | South Florida | Syracuse | West Virginia

2008 Pages
Cincinnati | Connecticut | Louisville | Pittsburgh
Rutgers | South Florida | Syracuse | West Virginia
- 2008 CFN All-Big East Team | 2008 CFN Preseason All-Big East Team
- 2007 Big East Lookbacks & Recaps | 2008 Big East Lookaheads

 - 2009 Big East Lookaheads

Cincinnati Bearcats

CFN Preseason Prediction: 9-4  Final Record: 11-3

: Even an Orange Bowl loss to Virginia Tech can’t dampen what the Bearcats achieved in 2008, winning the Big East and a school-record 11 games. Cincinnati overcame a wave of problems at quarterback, eventually settling on junior Tony Pike, and swept the final six games of the regular season. It was the type of year that could provide a launching point to a new level of perennial success in the Queen City. The school’s biggest victory, however, might have been retaining Brian Kelly, who’s become one of the hottest names in the coaching ranks.

Offensive Player of the Year:
WR Mardy Gilyard
Defensive Player of the Year: CB Mike Mickens

Biggest Surprise: Pike. An afterthought last spring, Pike emerged as a savior for an offense that was looking for someone to replace Ben Mauk under center. Even after breaking his arm at the end of September, he went on to throw 19 touchdown passes, and enters 2009 as a bona fide NFL prospect.

Biggest Disappointment: A 40-16 loss at Connecticut. The one truly bad loss of the season, Cincinnati couldn’t convert a third or fourth down, and was outscored by the Huskies 30-3 in the second half.

Looking Ahead: Are the Bearcats a budding force in the league or a one-hit wonder? The 2009 season will provide some answers. Any dreams of another crown will require a ton of off-season work on defense, where the turnover at every level will be alarming. At least in the early going, Pike and Gilyard might be asked to carry the program.

Connecticut Huskies

CFN Preseason Prediction: 6-6  Final Record: 8-5

: Even at 8-5 with a minor bowl win, Connecticut players felt as if they could have accomplished more in 2008. That’s a sign of progress in East Hartford. Randy Edsall put another brick in the foundation, getting plenty of help from RB Donald Brown, who was this year’s only 2,000-yard rusher out of the FBS or FCS. The program returned to the postseason for the third time in the last five years with a familiar blueprint that included a power running game and one of the nation’s most underrated defensive units.

Offensive Player of the Year
RB Donald Brown
Defensive Player of the Year: DE Cody Brown

Biggest Surprise: Brown. Everyone knew he was good, but no one figured he was 2,000 yards good. This is the same Brown who took a backseat for much of 2007 to teammate Andre Dixon. After rededicating himself in the offseason, he ripped through opposing defenses, never being held below 82 yards in a game.

Biggest Disappointment: The passing game. Considering the complete lack of quality receivers, no one expected miracles in 2008. However, with Tyler Lorenzen back for his second season as the starter, a 116th-place finish in passing efficiency and five touchdown passes left the coaching staff searching for answers.

Looking Ahead: While Brown will certainly be missed, the Huskies should be able to survive with a combination of Dixon and freshman Jordan Todman, who showed flashes of potential. The primary goals in the spring will be to develop a consistent passer out of Zach Frazer and Cody Endres, and plug holes on the  defensive line and in the secondary.

Louisville Cardinals

CFN Preseason Prediction: 7-5  Final Record: 5-7

: Back-to-back seasons without a bowl invitation is not what the program expected when Steve Kragthorpe was brought over from Tulsa to replace Bobby Petrino. That is the reality, however, after the Cardinals inexplicably collapsed down the stretch to finish below .500 for the first time since 1997. After raising expectations with an improbable 5-2 start, Louisville dropped its final five games, including a few clunkers that’ll heap added pressure on the coaching staff next season.

Offensive Player of the Year
: RB Victor Anderson
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Jon Dempsey

Biggest Surprise: The Oct. 25 upset of No. 14 South Florida. It was the peak of the season for the Cardinals, who looked for awhile like they might be a surprise contender in the Big East. WR Scott Long was the hero, burning an overrated Bull secondary for 134 yards and two scores on five receptions.

Biggest Disappointment:
 QB Hunter Cantwell. Cantwell was expected to use his only season as the starter to make NFL scouts salivate over his powerful right arm. Instead, he fell completely off their radar, throwing a league-high 16 interceptions and getting routinely exposed when forced to check down to other receivers or read the coverage of a defense.

Looking Ahead: If Kragthorpe thought 2008 was pressure-filled, just wait until 2009. He needs to begin showing signs of improvement, which won’t be easy with a roster that remains light on talent and a schedule that offers few breathers. The battle to replace Cantwell at quarterback will involve holdovers Tyler Wolfe,  Matt Simms, and Zack Stoudt, NC State transfer Justin Burke, and JUCO All-American Andrew Froman.   

Pitt Panthers

CFN Preseason Prediction: 10-2  Final Record: 8-4

: The Panthers finally got over the hump in Dave Wannstedt’s fourth year, winning nine games and making a long-awaited appearance in the postseason. In between an opening day loss to Bowling Green and a dreadful performance in the Sun Bowl were wins over Iowa, Notre Dame, South Florida, and West Virginia. In other words, despite all of the gains in 2008, the program still needs to become more consistent on a week-to-win basis to win a Big East title.

Offensive Player of the Year:
RB LeSean McCoy
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Scott McKillop

Biggest Surprise: While it doesn’t seem like such a big deal now, knocking off No. 10 South Florida in Tampa was a huge upset back in early October. McCoy ran for 142 yards and two scores, including the game-winner with under five minutes left. In a season that could have gone either way, this victory was the turning point for the Panthers.

Biggest Disappointment: The 3-0 loss to Oregon State in the Sun Bowl. The defeat to Bowling Green was rough, but Pitt was able to bounce back from that blunder. Laying an egg in El Paso against a team that was without two of its offensive stars robbed the Panthers of a chance to head into the offseason with the wind at their backs.

Looking Ahead: Now that Pittsburgh has turned the corner, the challenge will be to remain a viable contender in the Big East. As long as McCoy sticks to his intentions to return for his junior year, the Panthers will be in the hunt. He’s got a Heisman ceiling, but needs a lot more help from a passing game that didn’t deliver with Bill Stull at the controls. 

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

CFN Preseason Prediction: 7-5  Final Record: 7-6

: It was a tale of two seasons for the Scarlet Knights, which opened meekly at 1-5 before storming to seven consecutive wins, including a defeat of NC State in the PapaJohns.com Bowl. It was a significant turnaround for a program that proved there was life beyond star RB Ray Rice after all. The poster child for Rutgers’ resiliency was beleaguered senior QB Mike Teel, who got off the mat to throw 22 touchdown passes and just six picks in the final six games.

Offensive Player of the Year: WR Kenny Britt
Defensive Player of the Year: S Courtney Greene

Biggest Surprise: The 54-34 rout of Pittsburgh at the end of October. When these two met at Heinz Field, the Scarlet Knights were reeling and the Panthers were ranked. Teel threw six touchdown passes, twice his season total, and Rutgers coasted to its first win over a Top 25 team in two decades.

Biggest Disappointment: The rancid first half of the season. After finishing so strong, the Scarlet Knights couldn’t help but wonder what might have been had they not stumbled out of the gate. Before catching fire, Rutgers only lost by a combined 10 points in back-to-back road games at West Virginia and Cincinnati. Had those taken place in November instead of October, the Knights might have finished the season in Miami.

Looking Ahead: Rutgers will be riding high into the offseason, courtesy of that seven-game winning streak. The top priority will be finding a replacement for Teel at quarterback. For all of his mishaps, he was a veteran who won more games than any other Knight signal-caller. At least the running game will be in better shape after three young backs got meaningful reps.

South Florida Bulls

CFN Preseason Prediction: 7-5  Final Record: 8-5

: Has South Florida out kicked its coverage? Since making national headlines with a No. 2 ranking last October, the Bulls have only gone 11-9, falling way short of growing expectations. They showed an inability to handle prosperity once again this fall, slumping to a sixth-place finish in the Big East after climbing to No. 10 in the polls. USF did win the inaugural St. Petersburg Bowl over Memphis, but that did little to quiet the rumblings that the program had reached a plateau under Jim Leavitt.

Offensive Player of the Year:
QB Matt Grothe
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Tyrone McKenzie

Biggest Surprise: Rallying from 17 points back to beat Kansas on Sept. 12. It’s the closest thing to a surprise that the Bulls delivered in an otherwise disappointing season. Not known for a quick-strike offense, South Florida shook off a poor first half, scoring 31 unanswered points and getting a game-winning field goal from rookie Maikon Bonani as time expired.

Biggest Disappointment: In a second half of the season that was marked by disappointments, none was bigger than a 24-20 loss to Louisville on Oct. 25. At the time, the Bulls were still a viable contender in the conference, but after committing 14 penalties and gaining just eight yards on the ground, the early signs of a swoon were emerging.

Looking Ahead
: There’s still enough talent for the Bulls to compete for a Big East title, especially if All-America DE George Selvie puts off the NFL and Grothe stops being so generous with the ball. This program needs to take a long look in the mirror over the next eight months, and decide what it wants to become. The players are in place to be a whole lot more than 2-5 in league play.

Syracuse Orange

CFN Preseason Prediction: 3-9  Final Record: 3-9

: As expected, Syracuse once again occupied the Big East basement, winning just one conference game and finishing under .500 for the fourth year in-a-row. It was enough for the administration to pull the plug on head coach Greg Robinson, who probably should have been sacked a year ago. Despite an obvious lack of talent compared to the rest of the league, the Orange showed no quit, actually playing its best ball of the year in November.

Offensive Player of the Year:
RB Curtis Brinkley
Defensive Player of the Year: NT Arthur Jones

Biggest Surprise: Stunning Notre Dame in South Bend as a 20-point underdog. While the Orange didn’t qualify for the postseason, it did enjoy a bowl-like atmosphere on Nov. 22. With nothing but pride to play for, Syracuse rose up against the Irish, getting the go-ahead touchdown with 42 seconds left and rejoicing when a Brandon Walker field goal attempt fell well short of its mark.

Biggest Disappointment: QB Andrew Robinson. The starter at the beginning of the season, an ineffective Robinson was replaced by Cameron Dantley and went the entire year without throwing a touchdown pass. Considered the franchise when he was plucked out of Maryland a few years ago, he has one more season to approach his expectations.

Looking Ahead: The job of gradually turning things around at Syracuse now belongs to Doug Marrone, who, like Robinson, arrives as an NFL coordinator. He inherits a slew of problems on both sides of the ball, making this a complete reclamation project. While the defense will be anchored by Jones, an all-leaguer at the nose, the offense could be turned over to true freshman RB Antwon Bailey.

West Virginia Mountaineers

CFN Preseason Prediction: 10-2  Final Record: 9-4

: Mountaineer fans don’t like to admit it, but former coach Rich Rodriguez was sorely missed in 2008. It was a different team under popular head man Bill Stewart, one that strived for more offensive balance and lost four games in a season for the first time since 2004. Yeah, West Virginia got past North Carolina for a fourth straight postseason win, but much more was expected in the final chapter of QB Pat White’s illustrious Mountie career than a trip to the Meineke Car Care Bowl.              
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Pat White
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Mortty Ivy
Biggest Surprise: CB Brandon Hogan. A slot receiver before the season began, Hogan made his switch to the secondary look like a stroke of genius. Sure, the sophomore made some mistakes and got burned occasionally, but he also had enough nice stops to feel good about his future on the defensive side of the ball. With more time at the position, he could grow into the Mountaineers’ best pass defender.  
Biggest Disappointment: Losing to East Carolina, 24-3, in Week 2. This was the first visible sign that West Virginia would have problems defending its Big East crown in 2008. The No. 8 Mountaineers were held to just 251 total yards and their lowest point total in seven years. Although they did find their footing, things were never quite the same after this performance.      
Looking Ahead: Life after White promises to be difficult. He had the uncanny ability to mask some of the school’s weaknesses with his quick feet and accurate left arm. It’s a good thing junior Jarrett Brown has some practical experience because he’ll be asked to hit the ground running. RB Noel Devine figures to step out of White’s shadow and become the new star of the offense.