2012 NCAA Football Preview: Big East Conference

August 15, 2012

Moving right along through the FBS conferences, here is the Big East Conference preview.


The Big East Conference has a new look this year. Gone is perennial power West Virginia, and the conference will lose Syracuse and Pittsburgh by 2013. Add in the fact that TCU bolted for the supposed greener pastures of the Big 12 after agreeing to join the Big East, and it seems like a very disappointing offseason for the oft mocked conference. While this is true to an extent, the addition of Temple after a seven-year absence from the conference and Boise State beginning in 2013 gives the conference hope of staying relevant in the years to come.

Once again, it appears that the Big East is stacking up to be a conference that could come down to the last couple of weekends to decide who will play in a BCS game. No one team is head and shoulders above the rest, which should make for some very entertaining conference games. At the same time, it almost assures that the conference and its teams will endure another year of relative disregard from casual fans.

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


With the loss of West Virginia, the Big East lost its only legitimate national title contender for this season. New Commissioner Mike Aresco’s job of rebuilding the conference starts by regaining some of the interest in it from fans. Unfortunately, touting a team capable of playing for the national championship is not in his arsenal of weapons.

While the conference doesn’t have any teams that have a great shot of running the table and ending up in the national title game, it does have the opportunity to play spoiler during the early part of the season. Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and South Florida all play teams in their non-conference schedules with national title aspirations. The best part for the Big East? Its teams are capable of winning those games.

Watch Out! (Team That Could Surprise)


Replacing former head coach Greg Schiano will be tough. Getting eight new assistants to gel with each other could be even tougher. But new head coach Kyle Flood has a lot to look forward to with this team. The Scarlet Knights will be the class of the conference on defense with eight starters returning, all of which are capable of achieving first or second team All-Big East status this season. Led by Khaseem Greene, the defense will keep Rutgers in every game it plays this year.

The key to whether the Scarlet Knights are a threat to win the Big East crown or finish with a mediocre record lies with the offense. Relatively young and inexperienced, this squad will attempt to improve on what was the league’s worst rushing attack last season. Thanks to an offensive line transfer from Maryland and the tailback duo of Jawon Jamison and Savon Huggins, Rutgers has the ability to hit unprepared defenses in the mouth with the running game. If the Scarlet Knights can do that, it should be a very successful first season for Flood & Co.

Hi, My Name Is… (Player To Watch)

Teddy Bridgewater (So.), Louisville quarterback

Second year coach Charlie Strong wants to take the next step with this Louisville program, and Teddy Bridgewater will play a big part if that step is to be taken this year. Bridgewater quietly emerged as one of the better young quarterbacks in the nation last season, and should be much improved this year with an offseason of watching game tape under his belt. The 6’3” 218 pound sophomore has the arm and leg speed to be a dangerous threat through both the air and on the ground.

If Bridgewater’s offensive line gives him some more time to work (he was sacked 41 times last season), their effort will pay dividends. In a year where expectations at Louisville are fairly high, Bridgewater has the ability to become a star on the national level.

Out-Of-Conference Game To Watch

Florida State vs. South Florida (September 29th)

Both South Florida and coach Skip Holtz (with East Carolina) have made a habit out of shocking teams in the first month of the season. This is a prime opportunity for the Bulls and Holtz to do what they do best once again, this time to an in-state rival and national title hopeful. There will be little home field advantage in this one, but the Bulls still have a chance to pull a major upset in this one.

The play of B.J. Daniels will dictate South Florida’s success on offense all season, and he has been known to fluctuate between great and terrible throughout his tenure in Tampa. If the Bulls want to win this game though, they will need a huge effort from Daniels. Florida State’s defense is scary good, and South Florida doesn’t have the defense itself to make up for a poor performance by the offense. If this game turns out to be a good one, expect Daniels to have his share of highlights on SportsCenter the next morning.

In-Conference Game To Watch

South Florida vs. Louisville (October 20th)

This game should decide who wins the Big East Conference. Louisville is projected to take the crown by most prognosticators, but South Florida will not simply lie down and roll over for the Cardinals. Both teams are well-equipped offensively, so a tight game with a score in the high 30s is not out of the realm of possibilities.

As will be the case in almost all big games this year for these two teams, the production at quarterback will be key to winning this one. Last year B.J. Daniels didn’t play for the Bulls against Louisville due to a shoulder injury, but was struggling at that point in the season anyways. If South Florida wants to surprise, Daniels will need to outplay Bridgewater, which is going to be an increasingly difficult task.

Conference Predictions

1. South Florida (9-3, [6-1])

2. Louisville (10-2, [5-2])

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

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

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

6. Connecticut (4-8, [3-4])

7. Syracuse (4-8, [2-5])

8. Temple (3-8, [2-5])

Questions from the Readers

Q. Even with the addition of Boise State (in 2013), how much longer do you give the Big East to be a “real”, automatic qualifying conference, especially after losing traditional power West Virginia? (Submitted by Keegan F.)

A. With the institution of the four team playoff beginning in 2014, it is difficult to tell how the Big East will fare with regards to the prestigious postseason bowl games. The term “BCS bowl” will cease to exist starting with the 2014-2015 season, and be replaced with “contract bowls”. There are three contract bowls, which are associated with the Big 10, Big 12, SEC, ACC and Pac-12 conferences. The Big East was not awarded a “contract bowl” to which one of its teams will play for each year, but there is still a chance that a team from the conference could play in one of three other “access bowls” after New Year’s Day starting in 2015. In other words, a Big East team will need to play well enough during the regular season to earn a spot in one of the six top tier bowls.

So, the Big East can be considered a “real”, automatic qualifying conference for as long as the word “automatic bid” still exists (which is until the 2014-2015 season). Most likely, what you were really asking was “how long will the Big East be relevant without a power such as West Virginia in the conference?”

The answer to that question remains to be seen, as well. With the inclusion of Boise State starting next year, I think the conference has a viable threat to run the table every year, which should give the conference the attention they lost with the departure of West Virginia. The bigger question is whether Boise State could ever climb high enough to snag one of the four playoff spots. History has shown that the voters are resistant to the Broncos because of the strength of the conference they play in, and the same issues will arise in the new-look Big East.

My forecast is that when the playoff structure is underway and Boise State is part of the Big East, the same arguments that haunted them as a member of the WAC and Mountain West will continue to come back. That will make it hard for the Big East to be considered a “power conference” in the future, unless other teams in the conference step up as well.

– K. Becks

One Response to 2012 NCAA Football Preview: Big East Conference

  1. ManColePig on August 16, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Hey Kyle I got some questions about later conferences:

    With the Ohio State and Penn State suspensions affecting bowl eligibility for both teams this upcoming seasons, do you think a team from the southwest division (I REFUSE to call it the “Leaders” division) could surprise the Big 10 and make a run to the Big 10 championship game and beyond?

    How do you think the loss of Tyrann Mathieu will affect LSU’s chances of winning a title?

    I’ve heard all about USC’s potent offense but is their defense any good? And can teams like Oregon and Washington challenge them for the Pac 12 title?

    Which new head coach do you think will make the biggest immediate impact?

    Which freshman will make the biggest immediate impact?

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