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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 17th. What you see in the 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.
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.
Jody Demling of CardinalAuthority.com is our Louisville Cardinals insider:
Charlie Strong enters his third season as the Louisville head coach and the school has its highest expectations since Bobby Petrino led the Cardinals to the 2007 Orange Bowl. The Cardinals return 17 players who started a game last season, including standout sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
"The expectations are out there," Strong said. "There’s no way we can hide from it now. You’ve been picked to the win the conference. The key thing for our football team is just to continue to work. Just don’t get caught up in the noise in the system."
The offense also returns five starters on the offensive line, including senior center Mario Benavides and senior left tackle Alex Kupper. Dominique Brown, Senorise Perry and Jeremy Wright have battled all spring and fall for the starting running back slot, while sophomore wide receiver DeVante Parker only had 18 catches as a true freshman, but six of those went for touchdowns.
The defense should be much improved with all four players back in the secondary, including All-Big East performers Adrian Bushell and Hakeem Smith at safety. Junior Brandon Dunn anchors the deep defensive line, while Preston Brown, Daniel Brown and true freshman Keith Brown – all unrelated – are the starting linebackers.
The Cardinals are picked to win the Big East Conference and should improve on its postseason position after the Belk Bowl and the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl the past two seasons.
For more from Jody Demling and the Cardinals, check out CardinalAuthority.com.Absolute Schedule/Records
2012 Louisville Cardinals
|2||Missouri State Bears||95||50-8|
|3||North Carolina Tar Heels||44||24-26|
|4||@FIU Golden Panthers||70||29-20|
|5||@Southern Miss Golden Eagles||70||28-21|
|8||South Florida Bulls||55||23-22|
|14||@Rutgers Scarlet Knights||61||22-19|
Now that the Bulls have improbably veered off course, head coach Skip Holtz and his reconfigured staff plan to work overtime this offseason to make sure that they get back on track as quickly as possible.
South Florida was clearly pointing north when the 2011 season began, and then hit the tarmac with a 4-0 start that included a signature opening day upset of Notre Dame. Unfortunately, though, the program proved unable to handle the prosperity and growing expectations, winning just one of its final eight games to miss the postseason for the first time since 2004.
Encouraging news, though, comes from the return of a slew of starters, more starters in fact than any other team in the Big East. All of that seasoned talent will be getting a good look at a group of coaches that's been tweaked in the hopes of bringing a fresh energy to Tampa. The most prominent newcomer is Chris Cosh, a longtime coordinator who'll be tasked with keeping the defense among the feistiest in the league.
On offense, all eyes will be on B.J. Daniels, as he attempts to finally break through and become the complete quarterback that the Bulls need him to be. He'll be surrounded by an eclectic array of playmakers, especially at wide receiver, but needs to do a better job of employing them.
Don't be hoodwinked by South Florida's aggregate offensive numbers form last fall, a lot of which was accumulated against the likes of Ball State, Florida A&M and UTEP. USF produced at least 37 points versus all three of the aforementioned speed bags, but just once more in its other nine contests. While the D will continue to have a bite, the program has a capped ceiling if Todd Fitch's offensive attack can't begin carrying more of the weight.
It's Year 3 for Holtz, a big one for the coach and his program. South Florida needs to dust itself off, keep 2011 in the past and start acting like the squad that looked like an emerging juggernaut not long ago. With the Big East's automatic bid to a BCS bowl game coming under increasing and intensified scrutiny, the Bulls need to strike now while the opportunity to cash in is at its absolute peak.
- Richard Cirminiello, College Football NewsAbsolute Schedule/Records
2012 South Florida Bulls
|2||@Nevada Wolf Pack||61||25-21|
|3||Rutgers Scarlet Knights||52||21-20|
|4||@Ball State Cardinals||87||30-16|
|5||Florida State Seminoles||35||19-25|
|12||@Miami (FL) Hurricanes||51||25-24|
Having called four different men head coach over the last 18 months, Pittsburgh is desperately seeking a little stability within its football program. Paul Chryst was pried away from Wisconsin to address that very issue.
The former offensive coordinator with the Badgers arrives in Western Pennsylvania with an outstanding resume and an even better reputation. In fact, he was so highly regarded in Big Ten circles that those closest to the Panthers privately feel that the abrupt departure of former coach Todd Graham will wind up being a long-term blessing.
The offseason figures to feature a steep learning curve, not only for the players but also for a coach who has spent his entire career as an assistant. Considering Pitt's struggles in pass protection in recent years, there's cautious optimism that Chryst can share some of the O-line secrets, among others, he picked up while in Madison.
Chryst, by so many measurements, is more quintessential Panthers football than Graham likely ever would have been. The latter was a stark departure from the conservative, blue-collar mentality that once made Pitt Pitt when Johnny Majors and Jackie Sherrill were on the sidelines in the 1970s and 1980s. The former wants to build a bridge to the glory days behind a power ground game, mistake-free quarterbacking and excellence along both lines. Chryst is going to get there, but as is often the case with a new regime, it's going to take some time.
The Panthers have a good pool of talent with which to work, but not a preponderance of playmakers, even by Big East standards. Oh, and those lines that are expected to be the cornerstones of the program going forward. Yeah, they're going to be works-in-progress. The O-line, which allowed 64 sacks in 2011, needs three new starters. Ditto the D-line, which has ferocious tackle Aaron Donald and a lot of question marks surrounding him.
Pitt is going back to basics, with Chryst as its headmaster. He has a blueprint for a revival on the banks of the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers. Panthers fans are hoping that unlike his last two predecessors, he's around long enough to see it come to fruition.
- Richard Cirminiello, College Football NewsAbsolute Schedule/Records
2012 Pittsburgh Panthers
|1||Youngstown State Penguins||95||46-8|
|3||Virginia Tech Hokies||29||19-25|
|4||Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs||95||46-7|
|10||@Notre Dame Fighting Irish||31||20-26|
|13||Rutgers Scarlet Knights||47||19-20|
|14||@South Florida Bulls||43||20-23|
Sam Hellman of ScarletReport.com is our Rutgers Scarlet Knights insider:
The game on most fans' minds is at Arkansas on Sept. 22, but the clash with South Florida a week earlier is the true barometer for the 2012 Scarlet Knights. Rutgers returns one of the top defenses in the country, highlighted by co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year Khaseem Greene. Greene led the conference with 141 tackles and leads a defense filled with experienced upper-classmen like middle linebacker Steve Beauharnais, safety Duron Harmon and cornerback Logan Ryan. Offensively, Rutgers must find a way to replace wide receiver Mohamed Sanu. Drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals, Sanu broke Larry Fitzgerald's Big East reception record with 115. The biggest change for the Scarlet Knights, however, comes at head coach where Greg Schiano will not lead the team onto the field for the first time in 11 years. Seven-year Rutgers assistant Kyle Flood makes his head-coaching debut Sept. 1 at Tulane.
For more from Sam Hellman and the Scarlet Knights, check out ScarletReport.com.Absolute Schedule/Records
2012 Rutgers Scarlet Knights
|1||@Tulane Green Wave||79||25-16|
|3||@South Florida Bulls||48||20-21|
|9||Kent State Golden Flashes||83||24-11|
|11||Army Black Knights||79||25-17|
Dave Berk of BearcatInsider.com is our Cincinnati Bearcats insider:
Butch Jones got the Bearcats back on track in 2011 with a ten-win season. However, several key members, including the Big East Offensive Player of the Year Isaiah Pead and Defensive Players of the Year Derek Wolfe, have taken their game to the NFL.
On offense Jones must replace quarterback Zach Collaros and is looking for Munchie Legaux to continue the development he showed while replacing Collaros for five games last season. Legaux showed flashes of his talent but needs to show he can deliver in the passing game on a consistent basis. If Legaux fails, look for senior Brendon Kay to finally have a chance to show off his strong arm after suffering multiple injuries during his career. Senior George Winn gets first crack at replacing Pead but could see a push from Jameel Poteat if he falters.
The offensive line should be solid led by senior tackle Sean Hooey who returns from injury. If Legaux can rev up the Bearcats passing attack he'll have two high-level receivers in Anthony McClung and Kenbrell Thompkins, who combined last season for 93 catches for 1,219 yards and eight touchdowns.
If replacing two stars on offense wasn't enough, Jones must replace the gut of his defense as NFL Draft picks Derek Wolfe and John Hughes are gone along with linebacker JK Schaffer, who led the Bearcats with 114 tackles last season. The face of this year's Bearcats defense will be defensive end Walter Stewart, safety Drew Frey and linebacker Maalik Bomar.
The Bearcats enter the season picked to finish in the middle of the conference. However, Jones has some weapons and if he can get his defense to step up their game, the Bearcats could surprise some and be battling for their fourth Big East title in the past five seasons.
For more from Dave Berk and the Bearcats, check out BearcatInsider.com.Absolute Schedule/Records
2012 Cincinnati Bearcats
|3||Delaware State Hornets||95||44-8|
|5||Virginia Tech Hokies||24||18-26|
|6||Miami (OH) RedHawks||64||24-19|
|12||Rutgers Scarlet Knights||47||20-20|
|13||South Florida Bulls||50||21-23|
These are heady times for Temple football, a program that not long ago was on the college football scrap heap.
Temple has played in two bowl games over the last three years, marking a highly improbable resurgence that began with head coach Al Golden, and has been continued with Steve Addazio. Last year's squad went 9-4, capping a season-ending four-game winning streak with its first bowl victory since 1979. And then, the exclamation point occurred in early March, when the Owls were invited back to the same Big East that had exiled them almost a decade ago.
Temple is on an uptick, which has a chance to continue slowly bleeding into the fan base, boosters and prospective recruits. Hey, this is a tough place to win, and everyone close to the school knows it. There's minimal positive history or tradition at Temple, its home stadium is shared with the Philadelphia Eagles and none of the region's best recruits ever wind up wearing the cherry and white.
Oh, and as if the task of being an Owl isn't already tough enough, the university is located in a decidedly pro town, making it next to impossible to generate much local buzz, or make many headlines.
Temple has a limited ceiling, yet Golden and now Addazio have found ways to somehow raise it with good old-fashioned player development, a tireless work ethic and an attention to detail on both sides of the ball. The Owls have not been particularly sexy on their journey to respectability, using quality line play, a rock-solid defense and a disciplined ground game to buck the odds. And it has been working beyond anyone's wildest expectations.
Temple lost a lot of talent from last season's New Mexico Bowl-champion squad. Obviously, the school is determined to leave no doubts in Year 1 of its return to the Big East that it belongs in a more formidable conference that will send its winner to a BCS bowl game in 2012 and 2013. If successful, the Owls will have made their biggest stride to date, exorcising recent demons that had it wondering if it would ever again be competitive in football.
- Richard Cirminiello, College Football NewsAbsolute Schedule/Records
2012 Temple Owls
|4||@Penn State Nittany Lions||51||22-21|
|6||South Florida Bulls||40||19-24|
|8||Rutgers Scarlet Knights||49||20-21|
|12||@Army Black Knights||71||25-18|
John Garcia of CuseNation.com is our Syracuse Orange insider:
As far as the 2012 team is concerned, the Orange fate may be determined in the first month of the campaign. The non-conference opener against Northwestern is followed by the team's toughest test against Southern Cal before Stony Brook and a trip to Minnesota. If redshirt-senior quarterback Ryan Nassib is to cement his Syracuse legacy, he will need to guide the team to a notable start despite inexperience at the running back position and along the offensive line before SU begins play in the so/so Big East. The tweaked offense implemented this spring should help Nassib get the ball to experienced senior wideouts Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales quickly, which may be the best way for the team to move the football. Defensively, the front-seven may be the team's best group of guys in a decade. While replacing first round pick Chandler Jones may not be a one-man job, several talented defensive ends will rotate off the edge while each starting linebacker from 2011 returns behind the line equipped with a slew of 300-plus pounders on the interior. The secondary, and defensive unit, is led by senior safety Shamarko Thomas - who returned for one last go-round despite some NFL looks in order to lead a talented stable of corners in the team's final season before the jump to the ACC.
For more from John Garcia and the Orange, check out CuseNation.com.Absolute Schedule/Records
2012 Syracuse Orange
|3||Stony Brook Seawolves||95||44-8|
|4||@Minnesota Golden Gophers||58||23-21|
|7||@Rutgers Scarlet Knights||45||20-22|
|9||@South Florida Bulls||43||21-24|
Ken Davis of UConnPlaybook.com is our Connecticut Huskies insider:
Paul Pasqualoni's return to the Big East and first season as coach at Connecticut got off to a rough start as the Huskies lost four of their first six games in 2011. Injuries on defense and the lack of a reliable passing game prevented the Huskies from stringing together consecutive victories at any point in the season.
More importantly, UConn's streak of four straight bowl game appearances ended with a 5-7 season. But the Huskies used that disappointment as motivation in the off-season and they enter 2012 determined to exceed the expectations of the conference's preseason media poll, which forecast a sixth place finish.
Chandler Whitmer, a transfer from Butler (Kan.) Community College, grabbed the starting quarterback role away from Johnny McEntee with a solid performance in the spring Blue and White game. Scott McCummings is back to run Pasqualoni's “wildcat” package and sophomore tailback Lyle McCombs, a Freshman All-American after rushing for 1,151 yards, will continue to be the focal point of the offense. Receivers Kashif Moore and Isiah Moore are gone but the return of Mike Smith and Nick Williams headlines a deep receiving unit that should make Whitmer's job easier. The Huskies must rebuild their offensive line after losing center Moe Petrus and tackle Mike Ryan. Better pass protection is a must.
Senior Trevardo Williams, who finished second in the nation in sacks last season, should become the new star of a defensive unit that must replace Kendall Reyes and Twyon Martin along the line. The Huskies will have depth up front and – unlike last season – are deep at linebacker where Sio Moore, Yawin Smallwood and Jory Johnson will start. Safety Blidi Wreh-Wilson is healthy again and he leads a talented and tested secondary that includes Dwayne Gratz, Ty-Meer Brown and Byron Jones.
"I think this defense is going to be Top 10 or Top 5 – nationally," said Moore, who is on the preseason watch list for both the Butkus Award and the Lombardi Award. "Right there with the Floridas, the Alabamas, whatever – you name it. There's no way around it."
For more from Ken Davis and the Huskies, check out UConnPlaybook.com.Absolute Schedule/Records
2012 Connecticut Huskies
|2||North Carolina State Wolfpack||30||16-22|
|4||@Western Michigan Broncos||50||24-23|
|6||@Rutgers Scarlet Knights||46||19-21|
|10||@South Florida Bulls||27||16-23|
Jake Westrich is the Digital Content Coordinator for WhatIfSports.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.