Many people, including myself, were surprised that Cincinnati represented the Big East in the BCS instead of West Virginia, USF, or Rutgers.
It may be another wild year for the Big East in '09.
Cincinnati, Rutgers, USF, and West Virginia are the top contenders for the Big East crown for now, but who knows what team will be atop the standings when it's all said and done?
2008: 9-4, 5-2
Key Games: Nov 13—Cincinnati
Pat White led the Mountaineers to four straight bowl victories in his college career. Now the Mountaineers will try to duplicate that success without one of the greatest QBs in school history.
Senior QB Jarrett Brown will try to fill the very big shoes left behind by White. I think he can do it.
He'll have plenty of time to get comfortable with the starting job.
The last five weeks in the Mountaineers schedule looks like a Murderer's Row of potential Big East contenders.
Here's what the last five games look like.
Oct. 30—at USF
Nov. 7—Louisville (probably not a contender this year but it's a tough rivalry game.)
Nov. 13—at Cincinnati
Dec. 5—at Rutgers
If they can win three or four out of those five games, they should be in good position to take another Big East crown.
Rutgers was once a team, much like former Big East foe Temple (now playing in the MAC), that finished in the Big East basement almost regularly.
Their season win totals from 1999-2002 were one, three, two, one. But then they started to turn things around.
They had two more losing seasons in '03 and '04, but you could see they were improving. The wins started to increase.
Five wins in 2003, back to four in '04, shot up to seven in '05, 11 in 2006, and eight wins each of the last two seasons.
Greg Schiano has gotten much praise for this turnaround. But he still hasn't helped lead Rutgers to a BCS bowl. They're definitely a contender this year.
2008: 8-5, 2-5
Key Games: Sept. 26—Florida State
Oct. 30—West Virginia
The Bulls have worked their way to national prominence. Much like Rutgers, they worked their way up to be a contender in the Big East.
This may be the best chance they've had so far. QB Matt Grothe is a senior, as is DE George Selvie.
Selvie is also considered by many to be one the best defensive players in the country. Will they be enough to help USF get a BCS berth?
I don't know, but it might help their recruiting process for prospects in Florida. USF plays in-state rivals Florida State and Miami.
Wins over both schools would help put USF in the minds of many Florida recruits.
2008: 11-3, 6-1
Key Games: Sept. 19—Oregon State
Nov. 13—West Virginia
Cincinnati suprised many people last year, making it to their first ever BCS bowl. Now, with QB Tony Pike and All Big East receiver Mardy Gilyard back, the Bearcats are poised to make another run at the BCS.
They'll have plenty of tests, though. Their first game is on Labor Day at Rutgers.
Aside from the tough Big East schedule, they also have non—conference games against Oregon State, Fresno State, and Illinois.
2008: 9-4, 5-2
Key Games: Sept. 26—North Carolina State
Nov. 27—West Virginia
The Panthers had a good 2008 season.
They beat my beloved Hawkeyes in non conference action, and in conference play, they took the Backyard Brawl for the second straight year as they beat West Virginia 19-15.
Head coach Dave Wannstedt has the Panthers headed in the right direction. They should be 3-0 when they have they first real test against NC St.
However, the Panthers could slip up before then like they did in last season's opener against Bowling Green.
Look for the Panthers to have a seven or eight—win season and get to a respectable bowl game.
2008: 8-5, 3-4
Key Games: Sept. 12—UNC
The Huskies began the '08 season 5-0, but had a disappointing finish, losing five of their last eight games.
Although two of those wins come against eventual Big East champ Cincinnati, and their bowl game against Buffalo, they would have hoped for a little better after that 5-0 start.
This year they have to replace their leading rusher in Donald Brown, so don't expect another 5-0 start from the Huskies.
They have tough non conference games against North Carolina, and an improving Baylor team. I do think that Uconn will get into one of the pre—Christmas bowls.
2008: 5-7, 1-6
Key Games: Sept. 26—Utah
Nov. 7—West Virginia
What's happened to the Louisville Cardinals? After a 12 win season that was topped off by an Orange Bowl victory in 2006, the Cards have gone down since.
They only won one conference game last year, and the lone victim was USF. They even got beat by Syracuse 28-21.
Unless the Cardinals get back to their winning ways, coach Steve Kragthorpe's seat might get very hot at the end of the season.
2008: 3-9, 1-6
Key Games: Sept. 5—Minnesota
Syracuse, one of the more storied programs in college football history has now become the cellar dwellar of the Big East.
If Jim Brown was dead, he'd be turning over in his grave to see how far the Orangemen have fallen.
They start the season with three games against Big 10 foes: Minnesota, Penn State, and Northwestern.
Look for only two or three wins out of Syracuse this year, and in all likelihood another last place finish in the Big East.