The Saturday Edge helped break down the 2012 Big East Conference title race with the guys over at College Football Zealots. Below is my predicted order of finish:
1. Louisville - I’m going to give Louisville the nod over Rutgers as the best team in the Big East this year mainly because I believe the Louisville offense and QB Teddy Bridgewater have more upside (We return 16 players on offense who started games last season – HC Charlie Strong) then Rutgers and either of their QB options. The defensive front seven looks salty and the secondary returns a wealth of breakthrough candidates.
2. Rutgers - With 8 returning starters, the Big East’s best defense should only get better this season. However, with the loss of their best offensive player Mohamed Sanu, I think the offense will continue to hold the Scarlett Knight’s back.
3. USF - If QB BJ Daniels can show more consistency the USF offense has the potential to be very good. They are loaded at the skill positions and the offensive line has three starters returning. USF was 37th in the nation in scoring defense last year, but with the return of eight starters, the Bulls defense should be even better this fall.
4. Pittsburgh - I think new HC Paul Chryst’s offensive and defensive schemes are better suited for Pitt’s player personnel then Todd Graham’s were, but this is still Pit’ts third system in as many years, so it may be difficult for the Panthers to grasp it right away. QB play should be improved and Ray Graham’s return from injury will help. The defense lost seven players with starting experience, but the secondary will be stout.
5. Cincinnati - The Bearcat defense was surprisingly good last season finishing 2nd in the Big East in points allowed despite allowing over 360 ypg. They return 7 starters from that defense, but must replace their best player, NFL 2nd round draft pick Derek Wolfe at DT. Replacing QB Zach Collaros and RB Isaiah Pead may be even more difficult on the offensive side.
6. UCONN - The Huskies could be a sleeper team in the Big East this year. JC transfer Chandler Whitmer should improve the QB position and the Huskies also return 2011 Freshman All-American running back Lyle McCombs. If UCONN can find some answers at defensive tackle, where they lose two multi-year starters (85 career starts), this defense could be one of the best in the Big East.
7. Syracuse - Ryan Nassib may be the best quarterback in the Big East. Unfortunately for the Orange they don’t have much in way of a support cast for their QB. They lose three Big East 1st teamers (RB Antwon Bailey, TE Nick Provo and RG Andrew Tiller) and the returning position groups appear to be average at best. The linebacker group ranks among the best in the Big East, but overall there are too many concerns to lead me to believe that Syracuse will finish any better than they did last year.
8. Temple - After spending the last seven years in non-FBS exile, Temple returns to the Big East. Unfortunately the Owls enter their old/new conference with a very inexperienced team. Temple lost seven starters on offense including RB Bernard Pierce (NFL 3rd round draft choice) and six on D including four who earned all-MAC honors.
Please check out the entire article and a lot more information on each team here.
Please leave me your thoughts and questions on the 2012 Big East Conference race below. Thanks.