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2010 NCAA Football: Big East

2009 Standings
Cincinnati 12-1 (7-0)
Pittsburgh 10-3 (5-2)
West Virginia 9-4 (5-2)
Rutgers 9-4 (3-4)
Connecticut 8-5 (3-4)
South Florida (8-5 (3-4)
Louisville 4-8 (1-6)
Syracuse 4-8 (1-6)

Returning Leaders: Passing
Tom Savage, Rutgers, Soph (149 of 285 for 2211 yds, 14 TD, 7 INT)
B.J. Daniels, USF, Soph (122 of 227 for 1983, 14 TD, 9 INT)
Zach Collaros, Cincy, Jr (93 of 124 for 1434, 10 TD, 2 INT)

Returning Leaders: Rushing
Dion Lewis, Pitt, Soph (325 carries for 1799 yds, 17 TD, 5.5 ypc)
Noel Devine, WVU, Sr (241 carries for 1465 yds, 13 TD, 6.0 ypc)
Jordan Todman, UConn, Jr (235 carries for 1188 yds, 14 TD, 5.0 ypc)
Delone Carter, Syracuse, Sr (236 carries for 1021 yds, 11 TD, 4.3 ypc)
Joe Martinek, Rutgers, Jr (206 carries for 967 yds, 4.6 ypc)

Returning Leaders: Receiving
Jock Sanders, WVU, Sr (72 rec for 688 yds, 3 TD, 5.5 rec/game)
Armon Binns, Cincy, Sr (61 rec for 888 yds, 11 TD, 4.7 rec/game)
Jonathan Baldwin, Pitt, Jr (57 rec for 1111 yds, 8 TD, 4.4 rec/game)
D.J. Woods, Cincy, Jr (51 rec for 640 yds, 4 TD, 4.3 rec/game)
Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers, Soph (51 Rec for 639 yds, 3 TD, 3.9 rec/game)

Returning Leaders: Tackles
Lawrence Wilson, UConn, Sr, LB (140 total, 10.77 tackles/game)
J.K. Schaffer, Cincy, Jr, LB (100 total, 7.69 tackles/game)
Max Gruder, Pitt, Jr, LB (91 total, 7.00 tackles/game)
Greg Lloyd, UConn, Sr, LB (91 total, 8.27 tackles/game)
Dom DeCicco, Pitt, Sr, DB (88 total, 6.7 tackles/game)

Returning Leaders: Sacks
Doug Hogue, Syracuse, Sr, LB (9.5 sacks)
Jonathan Freeny, Rutgers, Sr, DL (9.5)
Julian Miller, WVU, Jr, DL (8.0)
Greg Romeus, Pitt, Sr, DL (8.0)

Returning Leaders: Interceptions
Robert Sands, WVU, Jr, DB (5 interceptions)
Elijah Fields, Pitt, Sr, DB (3)
Michael Holmes, Syracuse, Sr, DB (3)
J.K. Schaffer, Cincy, Jr, LB (3)
Keith Tandy, WVU, Jr, DB (3)
Jarred Holley, Pitt, Soph, DB (3)
Dom DeCicco, Pitt, Sr, DB (3)

Around the Blogosphere

Who is your pick to win the Big East?

Brian Harrison of the Syracuse based blog Orange 44:

I’m picking Pittsburgh.

What could hurt Pitt is their losses on the offensive line. As much as Pitt likes to pound the ball, they will have to recover. They will have another solid offensive year, with new QB sophomore Tino Sunseri behind center. Pitt likes to run the ball more though and they have some great running backs in Dion Lewis, who despite not starting, earned 1,799 yards. Pitt’s fullback, Henry Hynoski, is a straight beast and will give defensive lines and linebackers some nightmares. He doesn’t carry the ball that often, but what he does do is plow the road for running backs. The defense meanwhile has a strong nuclease around Greg Romeus, Greg Williams and Dom Decicco, and should be just fine in stopping both the run and the pass fairly effectively this coming season. They are my pick to win the league.

USF Blogger The Bull Gator:

I'll go with Pitt for the 2010 conference title.  This isn't an easy year to pick at all, but I have to go with the Panthers.  Louisville and USF challenging for a title is a year or two away and Cincy could take a step back with a new coach.  I think the Big East is Pitt's to lose in 2010.

West Virginia Blogger John Radcliff of Eers To You:

I really do think it's WVU's to lose. With 18/19 starters returning, there's no reason this shouldn't be a much more consistent team. Yes, the QB position is still an unknown. But I think this offensive line is going to be much improved and the running backs are going to have a field day with anyone that doesn't put 8 or nine in the box.

There are going to be a lot of good teams in the Big East this year. Good enough that one or two losses in conference might be good enough to win the conference. In my mind, the winner of the WVU-Pitt game will win the Big East.

What is the pivotal game this year?

Brian Harrison of the Syracuse based blog Orange 44:

West Virginia v. Pittsburgh

While UConn thinks they have a great chance to win the league this year, I just don’t see them doing better than really talented Pittsburgh and the always dangerous West Virginia. While Bill Stewart seems like a country buffoon (and he may be), he’s still winning games. He’s 19-8 at WVU and while they have a new QB in the works, they still have running back Noel Devine. For Pittsburgh they have a solid replacement coming out of spring in Tino Sunseri. He’s athletic and has a good arm. I think they have the most talent currently and this game, the “Backyard Brawl”, should decide the outcome of the season for the Big East.

USF Blogger The Bull Gator:

Any game Pitt plays.  There are 4 or 5 teams that could win the Big East and if I'm going with Pitt then every game they play is the most pivotal.  It's hard to predict the Big East any year.  This year is no different.  Pitt could lose it any weekend.  A two-game losing streak and suddenly someone else is the favorite.

CFBZ Players of the Year

1. Noel Devine, Sr, RB, West Virgina
2. Dion Lewis, Soph, RB, Pittsburgh
3. Zach Collaros, Jr, QB, Cincinnati
4. BJ Daniels, Soph, QB, USF
5. Tom Savage, Soph, QB, Rutgers

Also receiving votes: Greg Romeus/Pitt, Jordan Todman/UConn, Delone Carter/Syracuse, Jonathan Baldwin/Pitt

Breaking Down The Big East

Cincinnati Bearcats

Chris- While only returning 12 starters, we're talking about returning 12 starters from a team that was an Alabama or Texas loss away from playing in the National Championship. This team is not just going to drop off of a cliff one year later. Brian Kelly did a fantastic job in his time there, and his players were so well coached that I don't expect it to just wear off under the new regime. With second and third leading receivers back (Armon Binns and D.J. Woods) from an ABSOLUTELY LOADED receiving core (how many 2nd wide receivers do you know that have an 888-yard 11-TD season?), and adding another difference maker in Vidal Hazelton, a USC transfer, to the mix, the Bearcats should be sufficiently reloaded to keep opponents from exploiting their defense. They will play in shootout games, but they will have the offensive firepower to win them. Isaiah Pead will surprise people at running back, and should definitely be considered another weapon on a stocked skill position team. Also, anyone who doesn't have complete faith in Zach Collaros, who calmly stepped in to replace Tony Pike for four games during the middle of an undefeated season, wasn't paying attention. This kid was so efficient that the coaches were forced to consider benching their 5th-year senior quarterback on an undefeated team for the sophomore. That's moxie. He didn't just win, he did so efficiently...while etching his name into the school annals for yards in a game...efficiently. Truth be told, this team is a true sleeper and could end up in a BCS bowl representing the Big East at the end of the year...they can be that good.

Ross- Sure, they lost Brian Kelly, Tony Pike, and Mardy Gilyard.  Butch Jones already replaced Brian Kelly once -- and in a conference that's only marginally easier than the Big East (I kid, I kid...).  Zach Collaros looked tremendous as Pike's fill-in a year ago -- and he's precisely the sort of mobile QB that Jones worked wonders with at Central Michigan (see: LeFevour, Dan).  Gilyard will be tricky to replace, but still.  The Big East is an utter crapshoot; there's no hugely compelling reason why Cincy couldn't win it for the third straight year.

Connecticut Huskies

Chris-  Returning 16 starters from an 8-5 which won its last four games in convincing fashion should merit more than 5th place in a middle of the road conference, no? Despite their hot streak at the end of '09, I'm not sold on their QB Zach Frazer, especially with a completely new receiving core. My bet is that while they will be going bowling, the Huskies won't do anything to stand out from the pack in the Big East.

Ross- UConn's been on the cusp of Big East greatness for a few years, and as a team fairly loaded with returning starters and one of the most hard luck outfits around in 2009 (they lost five games by a combined 15 points), I figure they might just be due a good run here.  Plus, I trust Randy Edsall a hell of a lot more than I do the Wannstache.

Louisville Cardinals

Chris- Oh how things have changed at Louisville since the days of defect-o-matic Bobby Petrino. The good news for the Cardinals is that there is always 2011!

Louisville- Charlie Strong can't be any worse than Steve Kragthorpe... but it's going to take some time to get some talent in that program.

Pittsburgh Panthers

Chris- Despite the fact that the Panthers return one of the nation's leading rushers and budding receivers in Dion Lewis and Jonathan Baldwin, nothing about the rest of this team resembles championship (and I meant Big East). So why am I not buying the Panthers' Kool-Aid? First off Dave Wannstedt is one of the most underwhelming coaches I have ever seen. I have never seen a coach closer to a Butch Davis clone. Secondly, Dion Lewis is vastly overrated. Despite the fact he walked over some pretty bad defenses last year, pundits went gaga over the diminutive back, proclaiming him the best freshman back in the county. I've got news for you guys...Lewis would be lucky to be the fourth best in that group (comfortably behind Trent Richardson, Ryan Williams and LaMichael James in that order). And I'm not sold on a quarterback who as a rising sophomore has thrown only 17 passes. You don't hand championship teams to sophomores with that kind of experience and have it stay that way. I may be wrong, but Pitt could end up as far down as 5 if things turn south with the QB situation, or if the upperclassmen slated to replace big holes on defense don't live up.

Ross- there's talent here; as always, the biggest question is whether or not their continued exposure to the Wannstache will doom them yet again.  They had the Big East title in their grasp against Cincinnati a year ago, only to collapse in spectacular fashion.  That sort of thing just seems to happen to Wannstedt-coached teams, which is why it's difficult to put much faith in them.  Also, I'm half-convinced that Wannstedt is going to kill Dion Lewis with his workload this year.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Chris- The Scarlet Knights should not be taken lightly in 2010. Greg Schiano has built a VERY solid program at Rutgers, and despite falling a little in the last couple of years in the national limelight, Schiano's team is another team capable of capturing the Big East crown. It is unlikely however that it will be this year, but with a playmaker like Mohamed Sanu at the dispense of QB Tom Savage (Both yeah, watch out Big East) it is impossible to count them out. Also, Rutgers returns one of the nations' top defenses pretty well intact. The Scarlet Knights are probably a year away, but you have been given notice Big East...sweat them.

Ross- Keep chopping that wood, Rutgers.  They feel like a team that's about a year away.

South Florida Bulls

Chris- This was a hard call, because between spots 1-6 in the Big East, there is not going to be much separation. It will be a competitive league until the very end of the season. I love what B.J. Daniels brings, but talk to me in a year or two before I really start to sing the Bulls' praises.

Ross- Skip Holtz will be successful there... just not right away.  The Leavitt mess is going to need some time to settle.

Syracuse Orange

Chris- The only reason that I am able to separate the degrees of bad between the 'Cuse and the Cardinals is that the Orange return 10 starters on an experienced defense. The D will have to be really good to make up for the 2 starters that return on O. If not, they will be the Big East cellar dweller.

Ross-  Someone send Doug Marrone a life preserver.

West Virginia Mountaineers

Chris- Despite my obvious objections (hello, I'm a Virginia Tech fan and the Tech-WVU rivalry is still VERY much alive no matter what any school official will lead you to believe), the Mountaineers have a veteran defense that will keep them in every game this season. Then the Mountaineers will just be content to hand the ball off to Noel Devine, college football's closest Dexter McCluster this season (although Devine is actually a more talented running back than McCluster strictly speaking). It doesn't matter that the Mountaineers find themselves in the same quarterback quandary as do the Panthers, because for him the pressure is off. Good defense, and the guy who will be the best playmaker every time they take the field this season. Just hand the ball to him as much as you can and things should take care of themselves. But, if for some reason Devine goes down, I'd expect to see Cincy or Rutgers to be hoisting the Big East trophy in the Mountaineers stead. I have nothing personally against Pitt, but they are a solid team and no more. Cincy and Rutgers both have the ability to be Big East middle-of-the-road and something special.

Ross- They have the most electrifying player in the Big East (Noel Devine), but they also have one of its most baffling head coaches (Bill Stewart). That's not often a recipe for success.

CFBZ Predicted Big East Finish
1. Pittsburgh Panthers
2. West Virginia Mountaineers
3 (tie). Cincinnati Bearcats
3 (tie). UConn Huskies
5. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
6. South Florida Bulls
7. Louisville Cardinals
8. Syracuse Orange

note: out of 5 people voting West Virginia received the most first place votes (2) but they also received 2 4th place votes. Cincy, UConn and Pitt all received 1 first place vote. The Big East should be wide open and fun this year.

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