2011 Big East Football Simulated Preview From WhatIfSports.com image

2011 Big East Football Simulated Preview

We simulate the Big East football season

By Joel Beall - WhatIfSports.com
Aug. 26, 2011

The "Big Least" took a step toward football relevancy by accepting TCU into the conference commencing in 2012. Although some may question why a school in Fort Worth is associated with the eastern seaboard, the league is in desperate need of an adrenaline shot after three-straight embarrassing BCS showings.

West Virginia heads into the season as the favorite with new coach Dana Holgorsen at the helm. Holgorsen was the mastermind behind Oklahoma State's offensive onslaught in 2010 and previously worked his magic with Houston and Texas Tech. Holgorsen inherits weapons in quarterback Geno Smith and receiver Tavon Austin on offense, while defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel brings back most of the integral parts from a defense that ranked third in the nation in points per game (13.5). Holgorsen will see what his Mountaineers are made of when LSU visits Morgantown on September 24.

Holgorsen isn't the only newcomer looking to make noise in the conference. Todd Graham seeks to take Pittsburgh to the next level after the disappointing era of Dave Wannstedt. Graham is noted for his offensive prowess, but the Pitt D, highlighted by LB Brandon Lindsey, is what will push the Panthers to the top of the league.

Other teams to watch out for in the Big East this season are South Florida, which will need a better effort out of B.J. Daniels, and Louisville, which made strides in Charlie Strong's first season.

Using our college football simulation engine, WhatIfSports.com simulated thousands of college football games to create this Big East Preview. Team ratings, player ratings and depth charts are accurate as of August 19th. What you see in the WIS-Big East Predictions table is the most likely outcome based on the computer simulations. The team-by-team schedules use Absolute Records, which you can learn more about below. Those same game-by-game simulations also generate average points per game for both teams.

WIS-Big East Predictions
TeamWLOverall Record
West Virginia529-3
Pittsburgh529-3
Cincinnati437-5
South Florida347-5
Syracuse347-5
Connecticut347-5
Louisville346-6
Rutgers164-8

To hide the details, click here.

For this analysis, thousands of college football games are simulated, with the sum of the winning percentages of those games being our final predicted record. As can be noted, sometimes a team is "favored" (wins more than 50% of the time) in a different number of our games than the expected record shows. We list this record as the Absolute Record. The assumption of the Absolute Record is that the more likely scenario always happens. Since we know that it does not, our expected record (in the table above) is far more accurate. Also, especially since we are rounding, it is possible for a team to win a game more often, yet score the same or fewer points on average. In those cases, for Absolute Records, we always take higher winning percentage and are not predicting a tie or a win by an underdog. This is another reason why the expected records are more accurate, as the teams are so evenly matched, the game could easily go either way.


West Virginia

Bruce Irvin

From an administrative standpoint, the defense will be far more stable. Jeff Casteel has been the coordinator for almost a decade, perennially frustrating opposing offenses with his unique 3-3-5 stack alignment. The personnel, however, is in a state of flux, losing seven talented starters, most of whom finished their Mountaineer careers as all-stars. The D will still be ornery and quick to the ball, led by DE Bruce Irvin, DT Julian Miller, and CB Keith Tandy, but matching last year's pristine results is improbable.

- CFN, Scout.com

Absolute Schedule/Records

2011 West Virginia Mountaineers
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Marshall Thundering Herd9537-10
2Norfolk State Spartans9559-7
3@Maryland Terrapins6027-23
4LSU Tigers4325-27
5Bowling Green Falcons9539-9
6Connecticut Huskies7828-19
8@Syracuse Orange7828-18
9@Rutgers Scarlet Knights9234-15
10Louisville Cardinals8629-16
11@Cincinnati Bearcats7333-25
13Pittsburgh Panthers5328-26
14@South Florida Bulls7930-19

Pittsburgh

Tino Sunseri

At face value, Todd Graham looks to be an awkward marriage with Pitt, the school that brought you Mike Ditka, Hugh Green, and Bill Fralic, to name just a few. He's definitely a 21st century coach, inventive and attacking on both sides of the ball. However, he also operates with a no-nonsense work ethic that fans and recruits in this area of the country will respect and appreciate. For him, this is a destination job after earning his stripes in Conference USA, and he's determined to be the guy that gets the Panthers to a new level of recognition.

- CFN, Scout.com

Absolute Schedule/Records

2011 Pittsburgh Panthers
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Buffalo Bulls9537-13
2Maine Black Bears9557-7
3@Iowa Hawkeyes6528-22
4Notre Dame Fighting Irish5530-28
5South Florida Bulls7530-23
6@Rutgers Scarlet Knights8634-19
7Utah Utes5029-30
9Connecticut Huskies7931-21
10Cincinnati Bearcats7134-29
11@Louisville Cardinals8132-19
13@West Virginia Mountaineers4726-28
14Syracuse Orange6929-23

Cincinnati

Zach Collaros

J. Ameer Rasheed of BearCatInsider.com is our Cincinnati Bearcats insider:

After back-to-back Big East titles, Cincinnati stumbled to a 4-8 record and finished 2-5 in the conference. Despite having one of the best offenses in the conference, a young defense struggled to make key plays. The Bearcats return all 11 starters on that defense that will improve. Offensively, most of the key components return. Keeping Collaros upright needs to be a priority as Cincinnati was next to last in sacks, yielding 33 last season.

With an improved defense, the Bearcats will rebound in 2011.

For more from J. Ameer Rasheed and the Bearcats, check out BearCatInsider.com.

Absolute Schedule/Records

2011 Cincinnati Bearcats
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Austin Peay Governors9554-6
2@Tennessee Volunteers5027-28
3Akron Zips9538-13
4North Carolina State Wolfpack5030-29
5@Miami (OH) RedHawks7832-22
7Louisville Cardinals6130-24
8@South Florida Bulls5729-27
10@Pittsburgh Panthers2929-34
11West Virginia Mountaineers2725-33
12@Rutgers Scarlet Knights7632-21
13@Syracuse Orange5129-28
14Connecticut Huskies6129-26

South Florida

B.J. Daniels

Larry Weisbaum of USFNation.com is our South Florida Bulls insider:

The Bulls aren't returning a lot of starters, but are returning a lot of players with experience, and have the potential to vie for the Big East title.

South Florida finished last season ranked 17th nationally in total defense and the unit should be a strong point again this year in D-coordinator Mark Snyder's second year. Although the Bulls suffered many key losses on defense, they return quite a few players with meaningful playing experience. They are anchored by one of the best linebacker units in the conference and although losing Jaquian Williams was big, the Bulls have a good amount of depth at the position and should see an improvement over what was already a very good unit.

If QB B.J. Daniels, who will have the same coordinator in successive seasons for the first time in his career, can build upon his bowl game performance, the Bulls will have a shot to go far within the conference.

For more from Larry Weisbaum and the Bulls, check out USFNation.com.

Absolute Schedule/Records

2011 South Florida Bulls
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1@Notre Dame Fighting Irish2822-29
2Ball State Cardinals9535-10
3Florida A&M Rattlers9548-8
4UTEP Miners9533-14
5@Pittsburgh Panthers2523-30
7@Connecticut Huskies5024-23
8Cincinnati Bearcats4327-29
10@Rutgers Scarlet Knights8129-17
11@Syracuse Orange5424-23
12Miami (FL) Hurricanes3018-28
13Louisville Cardinals6525-20
14West Virginia Mountaineers2119-30

Syracuse

Doug Marrone and Ryan Nassib

Never one to rest on his accomplishments, Doug Marrone is forging ahead, constantly teaching and always preaching the fundamentals of being a winner. While his depth and talent remain a cut below the league's best teams, his system and philosophy have been fully implemented, which is a huge part of the blueprint. Maintaining last year's level of competitiveness, though, will come with tall hurdles. A bunch of starters from the 8-5 squad are gone, like the center, 1,000-yard rusher, and more than half of an underrated defense. Good news comes from the fact that Ryan Nassib is back at quarterback, four starting offensive linemen return, and the new Syracuse program is never going to be about an individual player. It's a team thing going forward.

- CFN, Scout.com

Absolute Schedule/Records

2011 Syracuse Orange
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Wake Forest Demon Deacons7829-18
2Rhode Island Rams9550-6
3@USC Trojans2621-30
4Toledo Rockets6430-24
5Rutgers Scarlet Knights7928-18
6@Tulane Green Wave8832-14
8West Virginia Mountaineers2218-28
9@Louisville Cardinals5525-21
10@Connecticut Huskies5424-23
11South Florida Bulls4523-24
13Cincinnati Bearcats4928-29
14@Pittsburgh Panthers3023-29

Connecticut

D.J. Shoemate

These are interesting times in the Nutmeg State. Connecticut is the defending Big East champ, yet is without Edsall on the sidelines for the first time since 1998. New coach Paul Pasqualoni is preparing to stare down his critics, the throngs who've questioned this hire since January. He inherits a program that's won at least eight games in each of the past four seasons, so elevated expectations will afford him a short honeymoon period in his return back home.

- CFN, Scout.com

Absolute Schedule/Records

2011 Connecticut Huskies
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Fordham Rams9550-7
2@Vanderbilt Commodores7227-18
3Iowa State Cyclones7928-18
4@Buffalo Bulls8630-14
5Western Michigan Broncos6330-24
6@West Virginia Mountaineers2219-28
7South Florida Bulls5023-24
9@Pittsburgh Panthers2121-31
10Syracuse Orange4523-24
12Louisville Cardinals5624-22
13Rutgers Scarlet Knights7326-19
14@Cincinnati Bearcats3926-29

Louisville

Victor Anderson

With only modest talent, Louisville gutted out the necessary victories to qualify for a bonus game. It then built a head of steam for 2011 by defeating Southern Miss in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl. Go ahead and call it the ground floor of Strong's rebuilding plan. It's a good thing the Cardinals are learning how to do more with less because the overall talent level won't improve overnight. There are still plenty of question marks on offense, mainly at quarterback and along the depleted line.

- CFN, Scout.com

Absolute Schedule/Records

2011 Louisville Cardinals
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1Murray State Racers9545-9
2FIU Golden Panthers7331-22
3@Kentucky Wildcats5321-20
5Marshall Thundering Herd7726-16
6@North Carolina Tar Heels2420-27
7@Cincinnati Bearcats3824-30
8Rutgers Scarlet Knights7326-19
9Syracuse Orange4321-25
10@West Virginia Mountaineers1416-29
11Pittsburgh Panthers1919-32
12@Connecticut Huskies4322-24
13@South Florida Bulls3520-25

Rutgers

Chas Dodd

This is a big year for Rutgers, which has to rebound quickly. With the bar now higher than ever, the Knights can ill-afford a reprisal of the gory days, when nine-loss seasons were the norm. The concern, however, is that the problems that plagued the team last fall will not be easily resolved by the returning talent. Chas Dodd is a raw second-year quarterback and both lines have serious concerns. The defense needs another full season of reps in order to correct its problems, especially when the ball is in the air.

- CFN, Scout.com

Absolute Schedule/Records

2011 Rutgers Scarlet Knights
WeekOpponentWin%Avg Score
1North Carolina Central Eagles9543-9
2@North Carolina Tar Heels1617-31
4Ohio Bobcats4022-26
5@Syracuse Orange2118-28
6Pittsburgh Panthers1419-34
7Navy Midshipmen3620-25
8@Louisville Cardinals2719-26
9West Virginia Mountaineers815-34
10South Florida Bulls1817-29
11@Army Black Knights6122-20
12Cincinnati Bearcats2321-32
13@Connecticut Huskies2719-26

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Joel Beall is the assistant content manager for WhatIfSports.com. He can be reached at jbeall@whatifsports.com.

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