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The Big East was, and at times still is, the black sheep of the Bowl Championship Series. As we enter the 2010 season, three-quarters of the league could make a bowl game as the conference continues to prove it belongs. It has also proven that it's not a fractured league with a clear top and bottom tier from year-to-year. With the exception of Syracuse, every team in the league has been a legitimate contender for the conference crown and that's once again the case in 2010.
Last year, Cincinnati had the league's first unbeaten conference season since 2005. To get there again, the Bearcats would have to do it with a new head coach, Butch Jones, after Brian Kelly left for Notre Dame. Pitt, which blew a huge lead to Cincinnati last year in the title race, returns the fewest starters in the league, but has enough talent to fill the gaps and contend again. West Virginia brings back eye-popping running back Noel Devine to go along with a defense that returns just about everybody. And watch out for Connecticut, which has a favorable schedule with 16 starters returning, tied for most in the league.
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 July 31st. 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
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.
Neon DionDion Lewis rushed for 1799 yards in 2009
Tony Greco of PantherDigest.com is our Pittsburgh Panther insider:
"The strength of Pitt right now the playmaking ability of running back Dion Lewis (1,799 yards rushing as a freshman last year), and the receiving abilities of Jon Baldwin (1,111 receiving yards as a sophomore last year)," Greco said. "The question on offense is can first-year starter Tino Sunseri get him the ball, and will Lewis be able to run behind a line that is going to include three new starters."
"Pitt returns seven starters on defense. They must find two new defensive tackles, and two new corners. Despite having to fill these voids, they've had enough players in the pipeline for awhile, that there shouldn't be much transition. Myles Caragein and Chas Alecxih--already significant role players in the defensive line rotation last year, now become full-time starters. Antwuan Reed and Saheed Imoru are expected to take over at corner. Any playmaking abilites they have now will be a welcome improvement over last year, as both starting corners in '09 combined for one interception all season."
"In summary, the Panthers need to find a right guard, and the two starting corners. Those are the most glaring weaknesses/question marks, heading into the season."
For more from Tony Greco and the Pitt Panthers check out PantherDigest.com.
2010 Pittsburgh Panthers
|2||New Hampshire Wildcats||95||66-7|
|4||Miami (FL) Hurricanes||51||36-35|
|5||Florida International Golden Panthers||95||55-8|
|6||@Notre Dame Fighting Irish||61||35-34|
|8||Rutgers Scarlet Knights||95||41-19|
|12||@South Florida Bulls||81||39-28|
|13||West Virginia Mountaineers||56||33-29|
In A RutA few years ago, Rutgers football was a hot topic
"Rutgers has enjoyed unprecedented success under Greg Schiano. The Scarlet Knights have five consecutive bowl appearances, and four bowl wins, and yet there's a sense that there's still a ways to go before the program reaches its potential."
"The Scarlet Knights have yet to win the Big East, and most of the time they've struggled and fallen out of the race early. With a fifth-place finish in the preseason poll, not much more is expected in 2010."
"But the seeds are definitely there for a championship-caliber squad. The question is whether that is a year or two away."
- Fox Sports
2010 Rutgers Scarlet Knights
|1||Norfolk State Spartans||95||47-7|
|2||@Florida International Golden Panthers||95||34-9|
|4||North Carolina Tar Heels||19||16-26|
|5||Tulane Green Wave||89||36-16|
|7||Army Black Knights||86||30-13|
|10||@South Florida Bulls||37||26-30|
|14||@West Virginia Mountaineers||23||19-32|
"The play of QB Ryan Nassib is the key. He didn't just sit the bench behind Greg Paulus; he took plenty of snaps as coach Doug Marrone groomed him for the future. When Paulus struggled against West Virginia, Nassib completed 7 of 16 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns."
"All of a sudden, Syracuse could be dangerously thin at tailback. While redshirt senior TB Delone Carter awaits a court appearance on a misdemeanor assault charge -- along with starting the process of having to apply for re-admittance to the university -- coach Doug Marrone said another running back is in danger of missing the season: Sophomore Averin Collier. Collier's struggles apparently involve academics. The Orange also will be without redshirt senior DE Jared Kimmel, junior TE Cody Catalina and junior FB Carl Cutler, who are trying to overcome various knee injuries."
- Fox Sports
2010 Syracuse Orange
|3||Maine Black Bears||95||50-8|
|6||@South Florida Bulls||47||29-32|
|8||@West Virginia Mountaineers||21||23-33|
|11||@Rutgers Scarlet Knights||44||24-28|
|13||Boston College Eagles||61||24-20|
Kevin Kinder of BlueGoldNews.com is our West Virginia Mountaineer insider:
"West Virginia's strength is an aggressive swarming defense that figures to improve on the 21 points per game that it allowed a year ago," Kinder said. "With three linebackers and three safeties, WVU presents a different look for foes. On offense, it has a number of stars at skill positions, including Noel Devine and Jock Sanders, but will be breaking in a first time starter at quarterback in the form of Geno Smith. That, along with an offensive line that must become more consistent, are the keys to a successful season."
"West Virginia has the talent to win the Big East. If the offensive line comes together and Smith shows the ability he flashed in relief last year as a true freshman, the Mountaineers will win the league."
For more information from Kevin Kinder and West Virginia football check out BlueGoldNews.com.
2010 West Virginia Mountaineers
|1||Coastal Carolina Chanticleers||95||62-6|
|2||@Marshall Thundering Herd||93||35-20|
|7||South Florida Bulls||70||36-24|
|14||Rutgers Scarlet Knights||77||32-19|
"The season will be a success if ... the Bulls move up in the Big East pecking order. The program had nearly as much talent as anyone in the league the past few seasons, yet struggled to escape the middle of the pack.
"After coming in fifth place last season and going 3-4 in league play, South Florida is bucking to move up a rung or two on the ladder, while nabbing enough wins to remain a part of the postseason parade. While upsets aren't required, remaining competitive with Florida in September and Miami in November could create an lot of in-state goodwill."
2010 South Florida Bulls
|1||Stony Brook Seawolves||95||52-6|
|4||Western Kentucky Hilltoppers||95||44-11|
|5||Florida Atlantic Owls||88||42-27|
|7||@West Virginia Mountaineers||30||24-36|
|10||Rutgers Scarlet Knights||63||30-26|
|13||@Miami (FL) Hurricanes||14||26-42|
"Charlie Strong was considered one of the top defensive assistants in the country at Florida, but his second team in Gainesville might be able to start over the players he'll be working with in his new job."
"Louisville had just 21 sacks as a team in 2009, and lacks depth all across that side of the ball. That's partly the result of Kragthorope's junior-college focused recruiting strategy, and part the fact that the Cardinals under his watch were not often in the mix for elite recruits."
"Strong isn't going to be able to make this an elite unit in his first year, but he will definitely make it more aggressive. The new staff has promised to attack opposing offenses more in 2010, which should at least keep things interesting in Louisville."
- Fox Sports
2010 Louisville Cardinals
|2||Eastern Kentucky Colonels||95||46-9|
|3||@Oregon State Beavers||7||18-38|
|5||@Arkansas State Red Wolves||86||29-19|
|11||South Florida Bulls||37||25-31|
|12||West Virginia Mountaineers||12||19-33|
|13||@Rutgers Scarlet Knights||26||20-27|
Bear in MindThe cupboard isn't completely empty in Cincinnati
"Butch Jones inherits a championship-caliber team that is coming off a 12-1 season and Sugar Bowl appearance. But, there are skeptics. UC has been picked as low as fifth in the Big East, largely due to Kelly's departure and a porous defense that ranked 67th in the nation last year."
"Jones, a Kelly protege from Central Michigan, also is known for a wide-open offense. And, the Bearcats are not lacking for offensive firepower. Zach Collaros, who passed for 1,434 yards and 10 touchdowns in 12 games -- including four starts for the injured Tony Pike -- will lead an offense that ranked 11th nationally."
- Fox Sports
2010 Cincinnati Bearcats
|1||@Fresno State Bulldogs||63||38-36|
|2||Indiana State Sycamores||95||62-8|
|3||@North Carolina State Wolfpack||89||41-28|
|6||Miami (OH) RedHawks||95||56-7|
|8||South Florida Bulls||74||42-29|
|11||@West Virginia Mountaineers||54||36-33|
|12||Rutgers Scarlet Knights||86||38-23|
UConn Do ItRandy Edsall has built a strong program in Storrs
"Usually the Huskies find themselves in sixth place in those polls, and can play the "nobody gives us a chance" card to surprise teams during the season. But even with a strong Pittsburgh team leading the conference, and squads like West Virginia and Cincinnati expected to contend, nobody was as willing to count out Connecticut."
"That's because things are setting up for the Huskies to make a serious run at the Big East, which it shared back in 2007 but has never won outright. With eight starters returning on offense and eight more on defense, plus what looks to the best incoming class of the Randy Edsall era, UConn has the talent to match up."
- Fox Sports
2010 Connecticut Huskies
|2||Texas Southern Tigers||95||60-6|
|6||@Rutgers Scarlet Knights||75||35-25|
|9||West Virginia Mountaineers||58||33-30|
|14||@South Florida Bulls||79||37-30|
Ryan Fowler is the Content Manager for Whatifsports.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.