Last year the Big East came within one second of being represented in the National Title game for the first time, and as a Nebraska fan I wish they would have and so too do many Cincinnati fans most likely.
Because if Nebraska won that Big 12 title game, Brian Kelly most likely turns down that Notre Dame job to coach in his first National Championship game.
But alas, as with West Virginia a few years before the breaks didn't go the Big East's way and now the conference lost one of its best coaches and looks to rebuild in 2010.
Since the raid of the Big East by the ACC it has been considered a less than formidable conference even though at 6-6 in the BCS they are above both the Big 10 and Big 12 in winning percentage within BCS games, but that takes into consideration the time before the ACC's raid upon the conference.
Enough of the past though, let's focus on the future. How will the Big East turn out in 2010? Really, without Kelly, it's anybody's guess. Here's how I picture it.
The Steve Kragthorpe era was officially a failure. The former coach of Tulsa took Louisville from Big East power to cellar dweller in just a short three years with a total record of 15-21 and a Big East record of only 5-16.
The truth is that Kragthorpe couldn't recruit BCS talent and if he got it couldn't cultivate it. He is a good assistant or C-USA coach, but not a BCS coach.
Enter Charlie Strong, former defensive coordinator of the Florida Gators who brings with him tenacity and big time experience. The problem is that Louisville is in such disrepair right now that even Urban Meyer himself couldn't turn this team around within one season and with only one proven play maker coming back from a year ago in Victor Anderson and no proven running threat at quarterback it will take Strong at least two or three seasons to get Louisville back to respectability.
The schedule also shapes up poorly for Strong with games at Oregon State and Pittsburgh as well as the one winnable looking game made even more difficult coming away from home at Syracuse. The truth of the matter is, if Strong can must up more than two wins in conference 2010 will be a success.
My take on the Cardinals for 2010? 4-8 (1-6)
The second of three new head coaches in the Big East comes from a background of success at East Carolina and a father that gave the Fighting Irish their last National Championship in the 1980s.
Skip Holtz comes not because South Florida wasn't doing well and needed a change of philosophy but because of the odd smattering of player abuse across the NCAA in 2009.
Holtz comes with talent and ability on his side, but don't expect him to do that well in his first season as head coach. The loss of A.J. Love and George Selvie will be tough to replace as well as Holtz complete retooling of the program's philosophy both on and off the field.
Sometimes a transition after off-the-field issues is harder to come back from than a talent based problem. Holtz not only has to find out why the Bulls more often than not faded down the stretch (something his own team the East Carolina Pirates struggled with recently) but he also has to establish trust, respect and authority that has been lost at the coaching position at USF.
Holtz will have the Bulls fighting for the Big East crown within a few years, especially of B.J. Daniels improves like most think he can, but 2010 is not the year of the Bull.
My take on the Bulls for 2010? 5-7 (2-5)
Sure a 4-8 season isn't exactly a resounding record, but compared to 2-10 I think Syracuse fans like the direction Marrone has started to take the Orange.
First thing I would do in my second season if I was Marrone would be to go back to the all Orange helmets of Syracuse lore. Give the students and fans something to get excited about.
The second thing I would do is take advantage of the three coaching changes that took place in the past year, both in recruiting and in coaching prowess.
The schedule looks easy enough for improvement with games against Akron, Maine, Colgate and Louisville. Ryan Nassib, Delone Carter and Alec Lemon provide enough offensive talent to threaten the Big East, but the lack of depth could be a concern if injuries abound.
Defensively the Orange should be much better with the return of Derrell Smith and almost a complete secondary from a year ago led by Mike Holmes and Max Suter.
With a relatively more conducive schedule the Orange should improve from a year ago but wins against Colgate and Maine won't do much to boost program morale. But with two or more wins in the Big East Marrone could even get a contract extension after year two, but bowl eligibility will only come if the Orange win seven or more games and that's not going to happen.
My take on the Orange for 2010? 5-7 (2-5)
The good news for the Bearcats is that Zach Collaros has more than proven to be able to run the quarterback position. Some more good news? Butch Jones comes from Central Michigan (same as previous head coach Brian Kelly) where he led the Chippewas to a MAC championship and a draft pick for one Dan LeFevour.
All this gives Bearcat fans fighting optimism for 2010. Especially since under Jones the offense won't change much. However, the loss of all-everything receiver Mardy Gilyard could hurt the offense but won't too much with players like Isaiah Pead, Armon Binns, and USC transfer Vidal Hazelton all coming back this year.
All that being said the leagues worst defense from a year ago won't be much better with only five starters returning from a year ago which will most likely be the Bearcat's achilles heal in 2010. A tough OOC (out of conference) schedule will most likely hurt the confidence under a new coach for the Bearcats.
My take on the Bearcats for 2010? 7-5 (4-3)
With the most experienced quarterback in the Big East coming back in 2010 (as a sophomore no less) it might be crazy to put the Knights in the middle of the pack of a changing Big East but with four of their best tacklers from a season ago gone from the Big East's best defensive unit it will be hard to rely on the defense as much as they did a year ago.
A tougher non-conference schedule than a year ago, featuring a game against ACC up and comer North Carolina might discourage a quick start from the Scarlet Nights.
Savage, Martinek, and Sanu could take the Big East by storm and could prove me an idiot by making their first BCS bowl in school history. However, I don't see that happening for at least one year. Next season could be the year of the Knight but in 2010 we'll most likely see the Scarlet Knights finishing fourth or third in the Big East.
My take on the Scarlet Knights for 2010? 8-4 (4-3)
The fact that Noel Devine is returning should make Bill Stewart and Mountaineers' fans hearts leap for joy.
The speedy back has proven to be durable over a season and can win games almost single handedly with almost 1,500 yards rushing from a year ago. Devine can break free at any moment and without him the Mountaineers might fall to fourth or fifth on this list.
Some might see the loss at quarterback as enough to drop this team to the lower echelon on this list but it looks like Geno Smith could be better on the run and through the air more accurate completing 32 of 49 (65%) a year ago in limited duty. The receiving corps looks to be deep and more experienced and the Mountaineers return the thunder to Devine's lightening in Ryan Clarke.
With ten starters returning on the fourth best defense from a year ago it looks like West Virginia could be the most well balanced team in the Big East in 2010. As a result I have them as third on my list and no higher because of Bill Stewart's propensity for dropping key games in the season.
My take on the Mountaineers for 2010? 9-3 (5-2)
Sure, the Huskies finished 8-5 a year ago, but they crushed South Carolina in the PapaJohns.com Bowl 20-7, also, all five of their losses came by single digits: 2, 3, 4, 4, and 2. In other words UConn was 20 points away from being perfect all together losing to conference champ Cincinnati by only two, 47-45.
All this being said, it's still odd to think of UConn as a football powerhouse and not a basketball powerhouse. That's exactly what they have become though, quietly but certainly the Huskies have turned from non-BCS sluff to Big East power and this next season they could pick up their first Big East title, and with the amount of experience coming back that's a total possibility.
The UConn offense is loaded with experience including returning starter Zach Frazer at quarterback and super-back Jordan Todman in the backfield. Not to mention four returning offensive lineman as well as stud wide out Junior Kashif Moore as well as tight end Ryan Griffin.
Defensively the Huskies return eight starters from an average defense a year ago, but with experience they should be much better in 2010. Scott Lutrus and Lawrence Wilson will anchor the defense and they will be relying on sophomore Jerome Junior for leadership in a relatively inexperienced secondary.
With an OOC schedule that slants to the easy and with the Pitt Panthers at home the Huskies could most definitely compete for the top spot in the Big East and a BCS berth. However, with the questions at secondary it will be difficult to get through the Big East unscathed and even with beating Pitt they might drop a few road games on the way to second.
My take on the Huskies for 2010? 9-3 [5-2]
Dion Lewis came out of nowhere in 2009 to become one of the nations best freshman running backs, amassing 1,800 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2009 and he will be the key to the Panther's success this fall.
Even with a new quarterback it seems that Wannstedt's Panthers have become a main stay in the Big East and with the loss of Brian Kelly from Cincinnati they now take the role of king of the mountain.
In spite of who the signal caller might be (most likely to be Sophomore Tino Sunseri) he has two skill players to lean on with All Big East talent in Dion Lewis and Jonathan Baldwin (Baldwin yet another of the Panther's talented receivers with NFL size and speed).
On defense Pittsburgh returns six starters from a team that gave up the second least amount of points in the Big East. Even though they lost five starters they return both Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard who combined for 13 sacks a season ago on a team that led the nation in sacks in 2009.
Pittsburgh will be talented and seasoned in the right areas next season and with the loss of Cincinatti's head coach to the Fighting Irish look for Wannstedt to finally make his move in the Big East.
My take on the Panthers for 2010? 9-3 (6-1)