It is baseball season, but there are plenty of ways to get your fill of football too. Our own Danny Hobrock is on the beat making his way across the College Football landscape exhaustively covering team after team. These previews will get you up to snuff with everything you need to know about the transition to each 2010 team.
Each team preview covers the team's outlook and projection for the 2010 season. We've got in depth coverage of each team's offense, defense and special teams. We'll cover who's in and who's out, and players from true freshmen to four year starters and pro prospects. Finally, we'll look at strategy and style of play on both sides of the ball, as well detailed information about coaches and players.
Today Danny is previewing the Mountain West Teams - Pittsburgh Panthers, Cincinnati Bearcats, West Virgina Mountaineers, Rutgers Scarlet Nights, Connecticut Huskies, South Florida Bulls, Syracuse Orange, and Louisville Cardinals. Clicking on each team's logo will take you right to the team's preview.
Check back often between now and the September 2nd season kick-off as new team previews are going up almost every day. Clicking here or on the NCAA Football in the right sidebar will take you to the page containing all the previews published to date.
- NCAA Football 2010 Season Previews (Full List)
- Big 12 North 2010 Season Previews (with predictions)
- Big 12 South 2010 Season Previews (with predictions)
- Mountain West Previews (with predictions)
Big East Conference
- Pittsburgh Panthers
- Cincinnati Bearcats
- West Virgina Mountaineers
- Rutgers Scarlet Nights
- Connecticut Huskies
- South Florida Bulls
- Syracuse Orange
- Louisville Cardinals
The Panthers enter 2010 with loads of expectations. Dion Lewis is a Heisman candidate and several players are expected to produce All-American caliber seasons including those at key positions (Lewis, Jonathan Baldwin, Jason Pinkston, Greg Romeus, Dom DeCicco, etc.). The defense led the nation in sacks a season ago and returns what could be the nation's top pass rushing duo in Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard. Both starting cornerbacks are gone, but a talented secondary will be expected to contain the Big East's more talented quarterbacks.
The offense will run the football with Lewis and Ray Graham in their backfield, but Tino Sunseri won't get the 'yeah, but he's new' treatment with Jonathan Baldwin and Mike Shanahan as targets. Sunseri's development will be eased a bit, as the duo of Lewis and Graham can carry the load quite effectively. However, he'll be sink or swim early on with matchups against Utah and Miami in September and senior Pat Bostick on the sidelines ready to take over.
The Panthers had the opportunity to take the conference with a win over Cincinnati in the regular season finale, but saw their chances at a BCS bowl game evaporate when Tony Pike hit Armon Binns for a late touchdown with under a minute remaining. The December 4 rematch may again prove the de facto Big East championship game.
Head coach Butch Jones was impressed with quarterback Zach Collaros' progress this spring. Of Collaros, Jones said, according to GoBearcats.com, "We saw great progress, especially the last week of spring football as the game started to slow down for him. He was able to get to his second, third progressions. He managed the offense extremely well."
The Bearcats do not expect too much of a drop off, if any at all, as Collaros takes over for Tony Pike. Last year's leading receiver, Mardy Gilyard, is gone, but Armon Binns, D.J. Woods and Vidal Hazelton are all very talented wide receivers who will do a fine job of picking up where Gilyard left off. Tight end Ben Guidugli also returns after a productive 2009 season. Expect a good deal of balance in the offense with Isaiah Pead, "a model of consistency day in and day out," according to coach Jones, and Darrin Williams, who Jones thought "really stepped up this spring," in the backfield.
With skill players at every offensive position, the biggest concern becomes the depth of the defense. Staying healthy and rotating fresh bodies in and out of the game will be important for the success of the defense. Improving in the second and third team defense will be a priority of coach Jones and the Bearcats this summer and fall.
For all the promise and experience the Mountaineers hold this season, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati seem to have a leg up on them coming into the season. All three teams enter 2010 with a new quarterback under center, although Cincy's Zach Collaros saw starting time when Tony Pike went down last season, so each team's success could hinge somewhat on the production from the quarterback position.
Noel Devine is one of the nation's premier running backs and with an experienced offensive line returning, is set for what should be an outstanding senior season. His return will ease the transition for Geno Smith this fall, allowing the young quarterback to adjust to leading the offense. On defense, J.T. Thomas could emerge as one of the nation's top outside linebackers in his senior season, and Robert Sands should continue his development into one of the game's top safeties.
The Mountaineers could surprise a few people and challenge for the Big East crown with the late season matchup with Pitt possibly holding a lot of weight in that respect, but with good seasons expected from Pitt and Cincy, WVU could be left battling for a third place finish with what promises to be a solid Rutgers team.
It probably will not decide the Big East champion, but the December 4 showdown between Rutgers and West Virginia should have some implication near the top of the conference's final standings. Of course, if WVU challenges Pitt and Cincy for conference supremacy, Rutgers would have the opportunity to play spoiler and at the same time end their decade-and-a-half of woes against the Mountaineers. If Rutgers pulls off a surprise season, WVU would represent one final hurdle that has proven insurmountable for the past 15 seasons. At this point, the matchup could decide who finishes third and fourth with Pitt and Cincy expected to battle for the Big East crown.
The offensive line must protect Savage if the Scarlet Knights are to succeed on offense. Letting up an average of three sacks a game is just not acceptable. The wide receivers must give Savage options beyond Sanu and a spark in the backfield would be a nice help. On the defensive side of things, the loss of several key players poses some challenges, but at the same time creates opportunity for some very talented players to shine. The strength of the unit is the defensive line with position battles in the secondary still shaking out in the summer and fall.
The Big East is not exactly wide open, but there is a lot of opportunity for Connecticut to make a splash this season. There's a great deal of depth at most positions and quarterback Zach Frazer returns hoping his strong finish last season carries into his senior year. The secondary will have to step up to avoid getting torched through the air, but an effective pass rush should help ease the process. Games against West Virginia, Pitt and Cincinnati will ultimately decide whether UConn takes that next step in competing for a Big East title that sends them to a BCS bowl game.
What Leavitt did for the Bulls will never, and should never, be forgotten. He is a local guy who grew up in St. Petersburg and guided the Bulls from Division I-AA into Division I-A and put the program into the position it's in today. USF is attracting a higher caliber athlete, regularly plays some of the nation's top programs and has went to a bowl game in every season since joining the Big East in 2005.
This season, though, marks the beginning of the Skip Holtz era and expectations are high. Holtz closed a recruiting class that includes four star defensive tackle Todd Chandler. Cornerback Terrence Mitchell backed out of his commitment to Florida State in late January and instead committed to South Florida, giving Holtz another marquee athlete in his first USF recruiting class.
The Bulls return most of their offense, but lose most of their defense. They are not short of talent, though, and Holtz begins his tenure at USF with enough in the cupboards to compete right away. Keys this season will be maintaining the success on defense with a number of new regular starters and finding a spark on offense, in addition to Daniels, and in the return game.
The defense and a solid group of running backs could lead the Orange out of the Big East basement, but with promise all around the conference it won't be easy. The conference may not field an 'elite' team this season, but Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and West Virginia could be ranked in the preseason top 25, while Rutgers, South Florida and Connecticut fielded good teams a year ago and could do the same this season. Syracuse will have to win the majority of their non-conference games, and then take a few from conference opponents if they want to make the bowl season. While there is reason to believe, outlook, as we stand now, does not look good.
The arrival of Charlie Strong brings hope to Cardinal fans, as well it should, but in the short term, with few proven players on the roster and a question as to who will be leading Louisville under center, success will be hard to come by. The rebuilding project commenced immediately with the arrival of Strong, who is committed to improving Louisville's recruiting classes to put the Cardinals once again in the upper echelons of not only the Big East, but of college football as a whole.
The backfield is solid and the Cardinals will return an experienced offensive line. The running game will be the strength of this team, but would benefit tremendously if either Froman or Burke can take hold of the reins and produce through the air. The defense looks shaky heading into the season, with questions about the effectiveness of the pass rush and the secondary, a lethal combination for many teams. The linebackers should be solid, though, and the Cardinals could improve in run defense. - Danny Hobrock
Danny Hobrock is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.