Thursday, August 14, 2008

College Football 2008 Conference Preview: Big East

We finally begin our College Football Conference Preview, starting with the Big East.

Predicted Order of Finish
1. West Virginia
The Mountaineers return an electrifying and fast offense. They may have lost starting RB Steve Slaton but they return one of the most explosive players in the nation in Noel Devine. Heisman Candidate Pat White is back for one last time. They lose their top WR but they return some capable ones in Alric Arnett, Wes Lyons, and Tito Gonzales. The offensive line should be solid as 4 starters return there and plenty of depth as well. The defense is the big question mark for this team and they need them to step up if they want to return to a BCS Bowl. Only 4 starters return overall. Only one starter is back on the line and they need to find some guys to step up, that could be a problem. The LB unit looks to be the strongest on the defensive side as 2 starters return there. There's plenty of problems in the secondary as Charles Pugh was kicked off the team and the rest have limited experience.

2. South Florida
The Bulls started off strong last season but drastically struggled near the end. You would have to think it was because of lack of experience and depth; but the Bulls return plenty of talent and players. QB Matt Grothe is back along with 2 very good RBs in sophomore Mike Ford and senior Ben Williams. Plenty of WRs return but none are specifically outstanding, but they do have some depth there. Taurus Jackson should emerge as Grothe's go-to receiver. 4 lineman return which should help bolster the already solid running game. The defense was pretty inconsistent last year but they have more experience and depth than ever. George Selvie leads a fast defensive line as he was a first-team All-American. They only have 1 starter back at LB but they're fast and deep there. They will need to find 2 CBs to step up as they lost arguably the best DB tandem in Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams.

3. Pittsburgh
Pitt returns 15 starters from a team that blossomed late in the 2007 season. There's a lot of potential and they could give West Virginia a run for their money. Billy Stull will be the QB under center. He is a very capable QB but was injured last season. Their RB tandem is one of the best in the Big East, which includes LeSean McCoy and Conredge Collins. McCoy rushed for 1,328 yards last season. The WR unit has Derek Kinder back after missing all of last season. He should be one of the top WRs out there. The offensive line loses 3 starters so it's tough to tell how they will pan out there. The defensive line ranked 5th nationally last season which returns nearly everybody, plus plenty of depth. All 3 LBs return and if they can play like they did vs. WVA last season, they should be stellar. The secondary ranked 5th in the nation in pass defense. With continued pressure from the defensive front look for the secondary to be very efficient again.

4. Cincinnati
Cincy surprised me last season after making a bowl game. They need to break-in another QB which could be a problem. They must improve the running game as they have minimal depth there. They do return a few linemen but they need to find some depth because of the lack of experience. The top 3 pass catchers return which should only help the new QB. Look for the defense to make some plays again and help put up some points. 2nd team All-American DT Terrill Byrd returns along with DT Adam Hoppel. The LB unit return 2 starters but they must find some depth. Look for the secondary to be one of the best in the country as All-Big East selections Mike Mickens and DeAngelo Smith are back at CB.

5. Rutgers
QB Mike Teel returns as he looks to become Rutgers' career passing leader. They do lose one of the most productive RBs in Ray Rice but they do have a few capable backs to step up. With 4 good pass catchers back look for the Knights to have one of the most prolific pass offenses in the nation. They only have a handle full of experienced OL back but they have plenty of size and the last 2 recruiting classes have accumulated some depth. The defensive front is very experienced and deep. The LB unit needs some guys to step up but they do have Ryan D'Imperio. The secondary will be strong with Courtney Greene, Jason and Devin McCourty.

6. UConn
QB Tyler Lorenzen is back and should be one of the best in the conference. Donald Brown and Andre Dixon are 2 emerging RBs. WR is an area for concern as they lose their top wideout and 2 returners are injured. The offensive line is deep as they have all 5 starters back, but 2 of them will be back-ups this year. The defensive front returns 3 starters, and the LB unit and secondary return 2 apiece. The defense looks to be a little improved but also a little untested in some areas.

7. Louisville
The Cards have dropped to nearly the cellar after high expectations last season. Hunter Cantwell takes over for Brian Brohm. Cantwell is a veteran and his big arm could help a struggling offense. Their looking for someone to step up at RB. They have some speed back at WR but not much experience or superior talent. Two solid linemen return but they do not have much after that; The stable is pretty thin there. They do have 3 experienced d-linemen back but they struggled to stop the run last season as they gave up 4.4 ypc. The LB unit will be one of the worst units in the nation. They do not return anybody of significance there. This unit struggled drastically last year. Play makers are bare in the secondary.

8. Syracuse
The offense couldn't get anything going last season and the defense was one of the worst. They've been working on the running game all off-season as they try to improve there. But don't expect the Cuse to any better after a dreadful 2007 season.

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