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


RUTGERS - The Scarlet Knights are losing the best quarterback in school history by the name of Mike Teel and likewise two of the best receivers in Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood. Ergo, many of the early polls don’t see this team in the Top 25 mix. However, Rutgers does have one of the best offensive and defensive lines in the conference. Rutgers won their last seven games in a row last fall. With some form of steady quarterback play, that trend could easily carry over to 2009.
PITTSBURGH - Pitt was considered to be a front-runner for the Big East this fall and was also expected to push for a Top 25 preseason spot in the polls. Of course, that was before running back LeSean McCoy left early for the NFL. His replacement is a battle between two freshmen and a sophomore. QB remains in the same hands with both Stull and Bostick but that's not necessarily a good thing based on the last two years and the horrible 3-0 Sun Bowl loss from December. The offense has no identity at this point. This season should not be a disappointment by the Panther’s usual recent standard, but many were pointing to 2009 as a year Coach Wannstedt’s recruiting classes started to pay dividends.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: RB Noel Devine - West Virginia
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: DE George Selvie - South Florida
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Mardy Gilyard - Cincinnati
TOP NEWCOMER: RB Dion Lewis - Pittsburgh
TOP BLOCKER: Anthony Davis - Rutgers
TOP PASS RUSHER: George Selvie - South Florida

QB Tony Pike - Sr. - Cincinnati
RB Noel Devine - Jr. - West Virginia
RB Victor Anderson - So. - Louisville
WR Mardy Gilyard - Sr. - Cincinnati
WR Doug Beaumont - Jr. - Louisville
TE Nate Byham - Sr. - Pittsburgh
OL Anthony Davis - Jr. - Rutgers
OL Jeff Linkenbach - Sr. - Cincinnati
OL Jason Pinkston - Jr. - Pittsburgh
OL Ryan Blaszczyk - Sr. - Rutgers
OL Moe Petrus - So. - Connecticut
K   Jake Rogers - Jr. - Cincinnati
KR Mardy Gilyard - Sr. - Cincinnati

DL George Selvie - Sr. - South Florida
DL Arthur Jones - Sr. - Syracuse
DL Greg Romeus - Jr. - Pittsburgh
DL Scooter Berry - Jr. - West Virginia
LB Scott Lutrus - Jr. - Connecticut
LB Ryan D'Imperio - Sr. - Rutgers
LB Reed Williams - Sr. - West Virginia
DB Aaron Berry - Sr. - Pittsburgh
DB Robert Vaughn - Sr. - Connecticut
DB Johnny Patrick - Jr. - Louisville
DB Jerome Murphy - Sr. - South Florida
P   Rob Long - Jr. - Syracuse
PR Jasper Howard - Jr. - Connecticut

1. Tony Pike - Cincinnati
2. Matt Grothe - South Florida
3. Jarrett Brown - West Virginia

West Virginia (Noel Devine, Jock Sanders, Tavon Austin)

South Florida (A.J. Love, Carlton Mitchell, Jessie Hester, Dontavia Bogan, Ben Busbee)

Rutgers (Ryan Blaszczyk, Art Forist, Caleb Ruch, Kevin Haslam, Anthony Davis)

South Florida (George Selvie, Aaron Harris, Terrell McClain, Jason Pierre-Paul, Craig Marshall)

Connecticut (Scott Lutrus, Greg Lloyd, Lawrence Wilson)

Pittsburgh (Jovani Chappel, Aaron Berry, Dom DeCicco, Elijah Fields)


1. West Virginia at Cincinnati (Nov. 13 - Friday)
2. Pittsburgh at West Virginia (Nov. 27 - Friday)
3. Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (Dec. 5)
4. West Virginia at South Florida (Oct. 30 - Friday)
5. Rutgers at Connecticut (Oct. 31)

1. South Florida at Florida State (Sept. 26)
2. West Virginia at Auburn (Sept. 19)
3. Notre Dame at Pittsburgh (Nov. 14)
4. Cincinnati at Oregon State (Sept. 19)
5. Louisville at Utah (Sept. 26)

1. Ryne Giddins DE Seffner, FL South Florida
2. Jason Pierre-Paul DE Fort Scott CC (Kan.) South Florida
3. Tom Savage QB Springfield, PA Rutgers
4. De'Antwan Williams RB Woodbridge, VA Rutgers
5. Eugene Smith QB Miramar, FL West Virginia
6. Todd Thomas WR Beaver Falls, PA Pittsburgh
7. Jack Lippert DE Harrisburg, PA Pittsburgh
8. Bradley Battles ATH Marianna, FL South Florida
9. Chris Williams DB Cincinnati, OH Cincinnati
10. Isaac Holmes DT Hoboken, NJ Rutgers

STRENGTHS: QB Tony Pike came out of nowhere last year to lead one of the nation's most explosive offenses. He has an All-American at receiver with Mardy Gilyard who hauled in over 1200 yards in receptions. Gilyard also doubles as one of the most gifted kick return specialists anywhere. This offensive line is the deepest and most gifted coach Brian Kelly has worked with. OT Jeff Linkenbach is a premier Big East blocker.

CONCERNS: The defense lost 10 starters! What a major turnover, especially with corners Mike Mickens and DeAngelo Smith now in the NFL. They also bring in a new defensive coordinator in Bob Diaco. Touted prep star (and former Notre Dame QB) Demetrius Jones moves to linebacker to help bring some athletes to this side of the ball. The running game leaves much to be desired (95th nationally) and no one ball carrier stands out.

PROGNOSIS: It's hard to get a read on Cincinnati with the huge player turnover on defense. They are coming off a school record 11 victories and duplicating that total is probably not in the cards. This time around the QB spot at least seems settled and promising with Tony Pike. He will get solid protection and the OL should boost the running game. The defense is switching to a new 3-4 scheme and there are no proven stars on a usually stingy defense. The offense is potent enough to compete for another Big East crown. Coach Brian Kelly continues to work wonders.


STRENGTHS: Led by Scott Lutrus the linebacking trio stacks up with any in the conference as all three starters return. With so many quality bodies lining up at receiver the passing game has more big play ability than recent memory. The offensive scheme under new coordinator Joe Moorhead will move to a fast paced no-huddle direction that affords the playmakers at receiver to make a much bigger difference.

CONCERNS: First, the QB battle has not been settled between Zach Frazer and Cody Endres. Former QB Tyler Lorenzen exemplified the gritty style of this team that now shifts to a completely different approach. Replacing the nation's leading rusher Donald Brown at RB is obviously a difficult chore. There is no workhorse like him currently on the roster. Two All-Big East performers are gone at offensive tackle. The front four on defense was a strength last fall but now gets totally retooled. The secondary in particular is a huge concern according to coaches where a trio of freshman will contend for playing time.

PROGNOSIS: The Huskies have spent the past few seasons hanging around the conference race but failed to win key games in order to take the title. Doing the same in 2009 would be a huge surprise given the major holes. They will operate with a new QB (still undecided), a new RB, a new offensive scheme and there are big questions in the trenches...not a good formula. The two best players in RB Donald Brown and CB Darius Butler are gone. UConn has finished higher in the final polls than most people usually predict which is a sign of good coaching. The non-conference schedule is difficult (UNC, Baylor, Notre Dame). Expect UConn to take a step back in 2009.


STRENGTHS: The running game will be the team strength with Victor Anderson in the backfield. One of the top rushers in the league, Anderson is only going to be a sophomore. The receiving corps has all its starters back and is led by Doug Beaumont who was fourth in the Big East in receptions. They give this offense an ability to stretch the field, which will only help the power game. Headlined by senior Jon Dempsey, the linebackers are all back, but that may be the only good news on defense.

CONCERNS: Five different QBs are in contention for the starting role and the spring offered no relief in terms of finding a replacement for Hunter Cantwell. A starter likely won't be named until Labor Day weekend for the opener. Two All-Big East performers are gone on the OL in longtime stalwarts Eric Wood and George Bussey. A young, inexperienced DL will have to grow quickly. This defense was extremely porous last fall.

PROGNOSIS: This could be a make-or-break season for third year head coach Steve Kragthorpe after missing the post-season in his first two attempts. The QB quandary is one big mess and is a huge factor as to the Louisville plight. The rapid pressure has gotten so tight on Kragthorpe that six new coaches are on staff after a major house cleaning. The defense was so inadequate across the board last year that new defensive coordinator Brent Guy cannot be expected to work miracles right off the bat. After the FCS opponent home opener, the Cardinals won't catch a break on the schedule until Halloween. The issues loom large and another less than mediocre season may be this coaching staff's last.


STRENGTHS: Pitt will win with defense. A ton of playmakers are on board including two quality defensive ends in Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard. They are good enough to apply solid pressure without the need to blitz. Both sides of the line of scrimmage look good on paper, although the OL had some issues this spring that should be fixed by fall. Senior Aaron Berry is a top quality corner. The tight end spot is one of the best positions on offense with All-Big East performer Nate Byham and backup Dorin Dickerson, both are seniors.

CONCERNS: This could have been a Top 25 team had LeSean McCoy not bolted early for the NFL. Now the RB spot gets filled with two freshman and others from parts unknown. QB remains in the same hands with both Stull and Bostick but that's not necessarily a good thing based on the last two years and the horrible 3-0 Sun Bowl loss that finished '08. While the defense looks strong they will need to find another tackling machine to replace those services MLB Scott McKillop leaves behind.

PROGNOSIS: Pitt will contend for coach Wannstedt's first Big East title based on the strength of the defense. But at some point the offense has to carry some of the load. A consistent passing game is sorely missing with the same two quarterbacks and who takes over to help the running game is a wild guess. With 15 starters returning (the most in the league), they have a shot. A tough schedule to close the season includes Notre Dame, WVU and Cincinnati. Ergo, look for Pitt to sit near the top of the standings heading into November. Maybe by then the offense can find an identity and win one of the final two to claim the conference crown.


STRENGTHS: The offensive line returns all five starters and nine of the ten blockers on the two-deep depth chart. OT Anthony Davis has potential to be a future first round draft pick. The depth at running back is impressive with four players that saw time a year ago returning. The depth and size on the DL is about the best Rutgers has seen in a long time. LB Ryan D'Imperio and DE George Johnson are poised for big seasons.

CONCERNS: Gone is the best QB in school history with Mike Teel. Seniors Domenic Natale (best arm) and Jabu Lovelace (best feet) take over behind center and hold the keys to how good the Scarlet Knights can be. Also gone are two of the best receivers ever in Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood. This means that Tim Brown, who has been waiting his turn, takes the spotlight. But there is a shortage of qualified players around him on the outside. Head coach Greg Schiano finally gives up his dual role as defensive coordinator…a spot that he has held since 2005.

PROGNOSIS: Can Rutgers win its first ever Big East title? Not likely depending on what kind of play they get with a new QB. Rutgers won't be as bad as many people think though despite losing Teel, Britt and Underwood in their offensive arsenal because they have potential on defense and the offensive line appears to be stellar. The top rated talent in 2009 is not as glaring as it was in 2008 where the brutal start of the season killed this squad. But Rutgers won their last seven games in a row, which carries a ton of optimism heading into the fall. Newly found expectations however, can begin to irritate the fans if the QB position fails to produce.


STRENGTHS: George Selvie is everyone's First Team All-American at defensive end. The sack monster is good enough to disrupt any offense single-handed. Four-year starter Matt Grothe is back for his finale at QB. He has led the team in rushing for three straight seasons and he has a large array of quality receivers at his disposal in Jessie Hester and A.J. Love. USF is going to operate with more of a spread look offense in '09 and they have all the skill position tools to make it work big time.

CONCERNS: The offensive line is in shambles. Gone are four full-time starters plus big tight end Cedric Hill and injuries have wreaked major havoc all spring. Newcomers had better play a huge role. USF will be the only team in the Big East with a new offensive and defensive coordinator. The running backs are far too talented to be left behind in this offense, as has been the case since Grothe has been here.

PROGNOSIS: While the Bulls will not enter the season ranked, they will be by the time they head off to Tallahassee to face FSU in the fourth week due to a pitiful non-conference slate. This is just what the Tampa doctor ordered, as the offensive line needs a ton of work to be respectable. The offensive skill positions are as good as any coach Leavitt has worked with. Matt Grothe is primed to break most of the Big East QB records held by Pat White but he needs to stop forcing things and let the skilled athletes around him do more. Sunshine State speed will continue to make this defense rank in the top 30 nationally as it has the past five of six seasons.


STRENGTHS: For the first time in many moons the Orange actually has some legitimate Big East talent at the offensive skill positions. Three running backs (Carter, Bailey and Collier) have distinguished themselves where they each will play a role. The return of Mike Williams at receiver is huge after sitting out because of academic problems. He is the closest thing to a star player. The rushing defense was not actually that bad last fall and defensive tackle Arthur Jones is All-American caliber.

CONCERNS: Redshirt frosh Ryan Nassib has won the QB job for now unless Duke hoops transfer Greg Paulus can wrestle it away. The passing game is no threat with either. The No. 1 concern is with the pass defense after giving up 27 touchdown passes last fall in a year where Big East QB play was not so grand. Doug Marrone has been hired in the latest attempt to find someone capable of resurrecting the program. He has no head coaching experience whatsoever and eight players quit this spring.

PROGNOSIS: Syracuse is so far behind in terms of talent numbers that it will obviously take more than one or two years to see the light at the end of the tunnel if ever. They can ill-afford the injury bug to creep into the fall and the ‘Cuse is still not set at the most important position of QB where a frosh likely takes over. While the season ahead has potential to be a better effort with improved ball carriers and receivers, it's a far cry from getting anywhere near the .500 level. If the leaky secondary does not make any strides the record won't either.


STRENGTHS: RB Noel Devine is making fans forget about Steve Slaton. His burst of speed is good enough to take him for six points every time he touches the ball. People might assume that since Pat White is finally gone that WVU will struggle at QB. That's not the case as senior Jarrett Brown is one of the most underrated signal callers after having to ride the pine for so long. The receivers are stacked led by Jock Sanders and 6'8 Wes Lyons who has potential to be a physical stud. The defense is loaded with players, more so than former coach Rich Rodriguez ever had. The front seven has huge potential especially at linebacker.

CONCERNS: The offensive line lost all but one starter although the WVU faithful says that may not be a bad thing. But it's certainly an unknown commodity. The depth behind Brown at QB is slim to none. The secondary made huge improvements as last season progressed. Safety Quintin Andrews has left the team and there is still plenty of room to grow. Replacing now-NFL kicker/punter Pat McAfee should be an interesting adventure.

PROGNOSIS: WVU is usually synonymous with offense and running out of the spread. They won't get the same QB rushing results out of Jarrett Brown as this offense under second year coordinator Jeff Mullen continues to move toward a more pass oriented approach. This offense still has all the tools to be the best in the conference. Defense is the cry for 2009 and this front seven with super quality LB play is going to make life tough on opponents. The Mountaineers won't come in ranked to start the season but they will finish here. WVU is going to surprise people based on the lower preseason rankings, something new in Morgantown.



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