Athlon's 2011 Big East Predictions
B.J. Daniels looks to lead South Florida to a Big East title.
By: Steven Lassan | 6/20/11, 6:08 AM EDT
Big East Predictions
Get ready for another unpredictable year in the Big East. West Virginia is the favorite, despite changing head coaches in early June. Bill Stewart resigned, elevating offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen to the top spot. Holgorsen has produced instant results in his career as an offensive coordinator, but this will be his first head coaching gig.
With Holgorsen at the controls, the Mountaineers should be able to solve some of the offensive issues that have plagued them since Pat White departed. Quarterback Geno Smith should be the conference’s top quarterback and the junior will have plenty of talented options to choose from at receiver. Improving the offense will be critical to West Virginia’s success, especially with seven new starters taking over on defense.
Although the Mountaineers seem to be the clear favorite, South Florida, Pittsburgh and Syracuse aren’t far behind. The Bulls have a loaded backfield with returning quarterback B.J. Daniels, team rushing leader Demetris Murray and transfers Darrell Scott (Colorado) and Dontae Aycock (Auburn). New Pitt coach Todd Graham should help jumpstart a Panther attack that ranked 72nd in the nation in total offense. The Orange return seven offensive starters and five on defense. Quarterback Ryan Nassib, running back Antwon Bailey and receiver Van Chew will benefit from a veteran offensive line.
Cincinnati struggled with the transition from Brian Kelly to Butch Jones and a rash of turnovers, which resulted in the program’s first losing season since 2005. The Bearcats have a few concerns on offense, but should be near the top in scoring with quarterback Zach Collaros and running back Isaiah Pead returning. If the turnover problems from last year are gone, Cincinnati should return to the postseason.
Connecticut is the Big East’s defending champ, but will take a step back in 2011. The Huskies have to replace one of the nation’s top backs in Jordan Todman and has to find a quarterback. Although the defense should be stout, the offense could be the worst in the conference.
Rutgers has plenty of weapons to work with on offense – receivers Mohamed Sanu and Mark Harrison – but has a shaky offensive line and the jury is still out on quarterback Chas Dodd. The Scarlet Knights regressed last season, but the talent is in place to make another run at a bowl.
Charlie Strong was one of the nation’s top first-year coaches last season, getting Louisville back into a bowl and posting a winning record. The Cardinals suffered heavy losses and a new starting quarterback must be found. Strong has recruited well, so Louisville has some young talent waiting in the wings. Although the Cardinals have a lot of turnover, getting back to a bowl isn’t out of the question.
Athlon's 2011 Big East Previews
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2011 Transfers To Watch
Despite Controversy, WVU Remains the Favorite
Click here for all our college football team previews, rankings and predictions.
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