2011 NCAA Football Preview: Big East Conference

August 16, 2011


It looks to be much of the same for the Big East conference in 2011. Although West Virginia looks to be the class of the field, the other seven teams will likely jockey for position in the conference standings with each other the entire year, and one person’s guess is as good as another’s as to which team will end up in second place. Better yet, West Virginia could stumble, and even the coveted automatic BCS bid that goes to the conference champion could be up for grabs. It is highly unlikely that any one of the eight teams in the Big East will legitimately contend for a national championship bid, but what makes the conference so interesting is that anything can happen. The records may not look pretty, but at least you’ll come away from a season of watching the Big East conference with something to talk about.

Team(s) With the Best Shot at a National Championship Bid


It would be putting unrealistic expectations on any Big East team by putting them in this category. While West Virginia is probably the best team in the conference, it would be a major surprise if they got by preseason top five LSU and managed to remain undefeated in-conference. The Mountaineers have a favorable schedule, but must replace a lot of parts on defense, which has been their strength the past few years.

After West Virginia, the conference drops off considerably. South Florida is probably second-in-command, but has been haunted by the inconsistency of quarterback B.J. Daniels in prior years. Unless a team has a magical season, the Big East may not even have a team ranked in the top 10 by the time bowl season rolls around.

Watch Out! (Team That Could Surprise)

South Florida

Both South Florida and Syracuse could surprise people this year, but Syracuse lost a lot of talent on a defense that was one of the best in the Big East last year, so the Bulls seem like the more appropriate candidate. A lot of the Bulls’ success this season will depend on how well junior quarterback B.J. Daniels plays. Daniels has been a work in progress ever since he set foot on campus, but has a couple of years of experience under his belt and should be able to perform well if he is the real deal.

South Florida opens up with a tough game on the road against Notre Dame, but gets to play Miami (Fla.), Cincinnati, and West Virginia at home. With a playmaker like Daniels leading the offense, and a defense that should be strong, the Bulls are a team that could make a serious run at the Big East title.

Hi, My Name Is… (Player To Watch)

Ray Graham (Jr.), Pittsburgh Running Back

Pittsburgh always seems to have a talented running back leading the offensive charge, and this year is no different. Ray Graham will succeed Dion Lewis, who made his mark on the program during his two years at Pitt before leaving early for the NFL.

It will be interesting to see how Graham is implemented in the offensive scheme. New head coach Todd Graham was an offensive genius at Tulsa, but utilized the passing game far more than the rushing attack in his four years with the Golden Hurricane. However, the defenses in the Big East do not compare to those in Conference USA, so it is likely that Graham will get his carries.

Graham is a talented athlete with the ability to contribute both to the rushing attack as well as the short passing game. Regardless of Todd Graham’s plans for the offense this year, Ray will play a big part.

Out-Of-Conference Game To Watch

LSU vs. West Virginia (September 24th)

West Virginia went down to Baton Rouge in late September last season, and almost came away with the win. Now, they will have the chance to ruin LSU’s season early, but it won’t be easy.

The Tigers will come to Morgantown already battle tested, as they play Oregon two weeks earlier on opening weekend. Therefore, they will either have nothing to lose, or will have proved that they are a force to be reckoned with in 2011. Either way, West Virginia has a tough task in taking down the SEC power.

LSU’s offense should be improved, which is not good news for a West Virginia defense that may be taking a step back from last year. The good news for West Virginia is that their offense should also be improved, with new offensive coordinator/head coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen installing an offensive attack that should put up lots of points.

In other words, this game will have an entirely different look from the one featuring the same schools in 2010. West Virginia can only hope that the outcome is entirely different as well.

In-Conference Game To Watch

West Virginia vs. South Florida (December 1st)

This game could end up deciding who is the Big East champion, and is fittingly the last game of the season for both teams.

By this point in the season, we will know whether or not Dana Holgorsen’s offensive attack is paying dividends in Morgantown, and we will also know whether B.J. Daniels can effectively lead South Florida.

An offensive show is always exciting, and this game has the potential to be just that. Having the outcome decide who goes to a BCS bowl would just be icing on the cake.

Conference Predictions

1. West Virginia (9-3, [6-1])

2. South Florida (8-4, [5-2])

3. Pittsburgh (7-5, [5-2])

4. Syracuse (7-5, [3-4])

5. Rutgers (8-4, [3-4])

6. Cincinnati (6-6, [3-4])

7. Connecticut (6-6, [1-6])

8. Louisville (4-8, [1-6])

– K. Becks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *