Here is Campus Confidential's Big East preview.
Opening kickoff: The Big East will get significantly better in 2012 when TCU joins as a full-time member. The best thing about the Big East in 2011 is that there is no clear-cut favorite. South Florida, West Virginia, Pittsburgh and maybe even Cincinnati will battle for the conference title. West Virginia (offensive guru Dana Holgorsen), Pittsburgh (Todd Graham, formerly of Tulsa) and Connecticut (Paul Pasqualoni) all have new coaches. Skip Holtz (South Florida), Charlie Strong (Louisville) and Butch Jones (Cincinnati) begin their second seasons with their schools. Doug Marrone, set to begin his third season, led Syracuse to a bowl win last December. Greg Schiano, who begins his 11th season at Rutgers and is now the longest-tenured Big East coach, will look to get the Scarlet Knights back to a bowl game. On the field, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith could have a huge year in Holgorsen’s offense. Cincinnati quarterback Zach Collaros is also capable of having a big year and has some good skill players around him. It will be interesting to see what Pittsburgh’s offense can do with Graham, who knows plenty about offense. Plus, the Panthers return a good portion of their defense. But I think South Florida is the team to beat. Why? Quarterback B.J. Daniels will have the type of season that puts the Bulls in a BCS bowl.
CC’s predicted order of finish
- South Florida
- West Virginia
CC’s preseason offensive player of the year: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
CC’s preseason defensive player of the year: Brandon Lindsey, DE, Pittsburgh
Best game: West Virginia at South Florida, Dec. 1
Why South Florida will win the Big East: Skip Holtz. Holtz will continue to move the program forward and meet the lofty expectations, which means a Big East title and BCS bowl berth. The quarterback position will be a huge key. Daniels has talent, but has been erratic in the past. I think he puts it all together this season. Bobby Eveld played well in stretches last season, leading the Bulls to a win over Miami (Fla.). Between Daniels and Eveld, South Florida should get good quarterback play and has plenty of overall talent to win the conference.