Ridiculously Early Big East Preview

Frank AhrensSenior Writer IMay 28, 2008

Okay, it’s not even June. But it’s hitting earlier this year than last.

That itch.

That itch!

Gotta scratch.

Scratch, scratch, scratch.

What the heck—EDSBS tells us it’s only 91 days till the first 2008 college football game.

Let’s take a look at the Big East.

And, to maintain just a bit of sanity and credibility, we’re not going to do predictions. They’re pretty useless, generally, but three months before a season starts? Before we know if key recruits are going to be academically eligible or star players aren’t going to be hit by a bus or a coach isn’t going to up and leave? No thanks.

Instead, we’ll take a look at the eight Big East teams coming out of spring and heading into summer school, in alphabetical order:

- Cincinnati: I personally am happy that the NCAA denied QB Ben Mauk a 17th year of eligibility. Man, that battle-scarred, bionic-armed dude nearly killed WVU last year. So, go apply for Medicare now Ben, I’m sure you’re eligible for that, and God speed.

I thought the team would lose something when Mark Dantonio bolted for Michigan State because it looked like he was building up a nice program from virtually nothing. But new coach Brian Kelly picked up and ran with what Dantonio left him.

Cornerback Mike Mickens landed on the Playboy All-America team, so that gives Cincy exactly as many of those as WVU: one.  On a recurring theme: Have you ever seen a picture of a bearcat? Weird little thing. Makes the platypus look well-thought-out.

- UConn: Hmm. What was last year for the Huskies? A nice 9-4 season and building block to the future? Or an aberration, fueled by a canny coach (Randy Edsall) and a bowl-eligibility-built schedule, with wins over Duke, Main, and Temple (which they won on a bad call)? Was UConn the wins over Pitt, South Florida and Louisville or one 66-21 loss to WVU?

We know most of that team is back this season—nine on offense and eight on defense. We know they have two proven running backs in Donald Brown and Andre Dixon. And, according to one ESPN story, they were recruiting for speed this offseason to keep up with the WVUs of the league.

- Louisville: No Brian Brohm? No problem! Backup Hunter Cantwell looks like another slinger; Mel Kiper actually has the cat projected as the top QB in the 2009 draft. We love ya Mel, but back to your basement until next April, OK?

Here’s the problem: Top running back George Stripling, who did damage against WVU in the past two years, was kicked off the team for violating unspecified team rules. It’s unconfirmed, and I’ve read it nowhere, but I suspect he violated the team rule forbidding cannibalism (Of team members; the Cardinals’s rule book makes no mention of eating Big East rivals).

Oh, right: And Louisville still has a defense full of what legendary tough-guy Doug Flutie called “arm-tacklers.”

- Pittsburgh: After four TD underdog Pitt’s shocking upset of WVU in the last game of last season, the Panthers have become a trendy pick to make some noise in the Big East this year. 

And as much as my unerring belief in The Pornstache that has been proved over and over again—that the nice guy next door will take good recruits, pros, and a positive situation and coach it all straight down to mediocrity. All those highly touted recruits he’s been getting at Pitt have to take some time, don’t they?

Last year, we saw running back LeSean McCoy steal some of the Big East true freshman headlines from Noel Devine. And we saw the Pornstache devise a defensive game plan to stifle the one-dimensional Mountaineer attack.

- Rutgers: It’s Mike Teel’s team now that Ray Rice has left. Fine, you say. Who? Teel is the Knights’s quarterback, and the one who very nearly beat the Mountaineers two years ago when his two-point conversion overtime pass was knocked away by Vaughn Rivers.

Plus, he got zero help from his receivers in last year’s Rutgers loss to WVU, as they dropped approximately 57 on-the-money passes. So, knowing what he now know, maybe it shouldn’t be Teel’s team. Obviously his teammates hate him. He must not know when to knock off the towel-snapping in the locker room.

- South Florida: OK, I admit it: I hate these guys. I hate these fast-running, second-class citizens of Florida, these "go to a really big community college that masquerades as a university" guys. I hate their quarterback, who looks like more of a hillbilly than anyone I’ve seen in my beloved home state, and I hate their defensive end, who seems to have a personal vendetta against my beloved Pat White.

I hate their swampy, gritty, dirty ways and I hate the way they’ve hurt WVU’s season each of the last two years. And I hope they die and go to blazes this year, but only after they’re beaten by 50 at Mountaineer Field on December 6. If you want a thorough, dispassionate preview of the South Florida Bulls, brother, you better go to the Tampa Tribune.

- Syracuse: Let’s see, last three seasons under coach Greg Robinson: 1-10, 4-8, and 2-10. Do you see a trend here? No, because it’s a bell curve: he peaked in his second season. Last season, in a Big East preview, I wrote that UConn actually seemed to be regressing since moving up to Div. 1-A. The Huskies’s 9-4 record proved what I know about college football.

So this year, I’ll wish the ‘Cuse a little luck, as well: Clearly, this team is going backward and can look forward to another dismal season. Or, as my friend Rob is fond of saying, “You can’t spell s-u-c-k without S and U.”

- WVU: On the downside, the Mountaineers lost Steve Slaton, Darius Reynaud, Owen Schmitt, and much of the a top-ranked defense from last year. On the upside, they still have Pat White, the best player in college football.

Wanna debate that? Fine. Come up with a stronger name. And don’t sling that Tebow gimmick show up here. How many losses did Superman have last year? Oh, right: four, including one to a lame duck-led mediocre Michigan in a second-tier bowl.

White? That would be two losses, NOT including a blowout BCS bowl win over No. 3 Oklahoma. I’m talking to YOU, Orson! Wait, I almost forgot: Little dude by the name of Devine? Yeah, he’s back, too.