Picking favorites in the Big East


With the 2012 football season days away, two Oracle writers predict the final standings of the new-look Big East conference.

Mike Manganello

1. Louisville
The Cardinals enter 2012 as the heavy favorite in the Big East, having received 24 first-place votes in the Big East Preseason Media Poll. Coach Charlie Strong and sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater face a schedule where four of seven league games will be played at home, including a visit from USF.
2. USF
The Bulls have never won the Big East before, but are firm contenders this season with an improved offense. If USF can survive its Thursday night Big East opener against Rutgers, the Bulls will likely be favored in every Big East game except at Louisville.
3. Rutgers
Rutgers hits the field with first-year head coach Kyle Flood and sophomore quarterback Gary Nova, but if things mesh well early, the Scarlet Knights will be in the running for a league crown due to their talented defense.
4. Pittsburgh
Former coach Todd Graham’s abrupt departure unsettled the Panthers this offseason, so new coach Paul Chryst has his work cut out for him. If running back Ray Graham comes back healthy from a torn ACL, he could boost the Panthers’ final run through the Big East.
5. Cincinnati
Coach Butch Jones has a tough job in replacing quarterback Zach Collaros and running back Isaiah Pead, but with four Big East home games, the Bearcats should comfortably make a bowl game. Cincinnati’s  Thursday night season opener against Pittsburgh will be key.
6. Connecticut
Connecticut’s presumed starting quarterback Johnny McEntee is more famous for a trick shot video on youtube than for his on-field prowess. If not for running back Lyle McCombs, the Huskies could finish even lower.
7. Syracuse
The Orange will be happy to see Temple playing in the Big East this year, if only so they don’t finish in the  basement.
8. Temple
In their first year in the Big East, the Owls simply haven’t had enough time to adjust from their old life in the MAC. 

Rames Ali

1. USF
In a season of transition, the Bulls will have a golden opportunity to win their first Big East title.  With an offense led by senior BJ Daniels and the twoheaded backfield of DeMarco Murray and Marcus Shaw and 
a strong defense that includes Lombardi Award candidate Ryne Giddins, the Bulls are ripe for a conference championship.
2. Louisville
With a head coach coming into his own in Charlie Strong, and a sophomore quarterback who grew on the job last season in Teddy Bridgewater, the Cardinals will be a favorite going into the season. The Big East title will likely come down to their Oct. 20 date with the Bulls.
3. Pittsburgh
Despite the departure of head coach Todd Graham, the return of running back Ray Graham and continued maturing of quarterback Tino Sunseri will keep the Panthers in the thick of the Big East race in their final season in the Big East.
4. Syracuse
After a year in which they became the only team to lose a Big East game to USF, the Orange look to be a dark horse in the Big East race. Quarterback Ryan Nassib returns after a strong 2011 campaign, and he will appreciate the return of wide receiver Marcus Sales.
5. Cincinnati
Despite the departure of quarterback Zach Collaros and running back Isiah Pead, the Bearcats return seven starters from a unit that ranked third in scoring defense with 20.3 points per game in 2011. The 
Bearcats have the benefit of playing both Pittsburgh and USF at home.
6. Rutgers
The loss of head coach Greg Schiano will hurt the Scarlet Knights, and traveling to Tampa, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh will make the road to Big East contention more difficult. Quarterback Gary Nova takes the reigns as starter, and holds the key to the teams’ success.
7. Connecticut
The Huskies have been unable to recreate the magic of their 2010 campaign, when a last second field goal at Raymond James Stadium punched their tickets to the Fiesta Bowl, their first BCS bowl appearance.
Look for another tough season for an undermanned Uconn team.
8. Temple
The first year in any conference is a difficult situation for any team, and it will not be any different for the Owls, formerly of the Mid-American Conference.