CFB Coaches' Poll and the Big East: Pitt, WVU In While Cincy, UConn Out
If you're a Big East fan, it's probably best to accept that the league—and a number of teams in it—is never really going to get its due respect in preseason polls.
Although the conference continues to exceed expectations nearly every year, there seems to be no changing the perception that the Big East is a bottom feeder.
Sure, a handful of programs like West Virginia and Pittsburgh, each of which has a long and storied history, will occasionally receive some praise from the good ol' boys network. But the programs that've arrived on the scene more recently, like UConn and Cincinnati, might have to have prolonged success for years or even decades until those disrespectful old geezers finally die out.
A year after the polls failed to place a single Big East team in the preseason top 25, the coaches are beginning to show a little more respect this season, with Pittsburgh checking in at No. 15 and West Virginia tied with Utah for No. 24.
However, Cincinnati and Connecticut both enter the season with high hopes (and plenty of reason for them), but are noticeably absent from the poll.
In the case of Cincinnati, I have to wonder how many teams have gone to BCS Bowl Games two years in a row, including one undefeated regular season, only to find themselves unranked the next year?
Cincinnati will have plenty of firepower to once again prove the doubters wrong.
Although they lost coach Brian Kelly and quarterback Tony Pike, they made a solid hire in Butch Jones and they shouldn't miss a beat with Zach Collaros taking over at quarterback.
Beatcats fans got a great look at Collaros last season when Tony Pike got hurt midway through the year.
Pike was out for several games, but, when he got back to full strength, there was actually some question regarding whether he should reclaim the starting job.
Collaros went 93-124 (75%), passing for 1,434 yards, 10 touchdowns, and only two interceptions last season while filling in for Pike.
Unlike Pike, though, he also showed he could be a threat in the running game by earning an additional 344 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. With the return of Armon Binns and the newly eligible Vidal Hazelton, who transferred from USC a year ago, Collaros will have no shortage of targets.
Also returning is tailback Isaiah Pead, who, while extremely talented, has been largely an afterthought in this offense. With a new coach and quarterback taking over, Pead may have the opportunity to showcase his skills more this season.
With 14 total starters (15 if you count Collaros) returning from a team that went 12-1 last year, it's downright silly that Cincy is not receiving more respect going into the 2010 season. However, I'm sure that the Bearcats are used to it by now and are ready to take care of business now that the season is right around the corner.
UConn on the other hand, is perhaps more of a dark horse.
Even so, they may have just as much reason to be optimistic as Cincy does.
Last season, the Huskies went 7-5 in the regular season and flattened South Carolina in the PapaJohns.com Bowl.
The five teams that beat UConn last season were UNC, Pitt, West Virginia, Rutgers, and Cincinnati. All five were at least decent, with Pitt and Cincy being closer to elite, but not even one of those teams managed to beat the Huskies by more than four points. Their average margin of defeat in those games was just three points.
This all took place in a season that the Huskies were forced to deal with the loss of their brother, Jasper Howard, who was tragically killed in October.
A tragedy like that could cripple any team, but the Huskies stayed strong and never showed any signs of giving up.
Although nobody who played with Howard will ever forget what happened, a year removed from the tragedy, the Huskies may be more emotionally ready to go out and shock the world.
With maybe the best coach in the Big East, Randy Edsall, at the helm, the strategy won't change much with eight starters returning on both offense and defense.
The Huskies will win games by dominating on the ground with the electric Jordan Todman running behind a stout offensive line. Notre Dame transfer Zach Frazer is back at quarterback with a couple talented receivers to throw to in Kashif and Isiah Moore.
The defense, led by two all-Big East linebackers in Lawrence Wilson and Scott Lutrus, should be suffocating.
This should be old-school football at its finest, total rushing domination on offense and a defense that should be one of the league's best.
The Huskies and Bearcats are disrespected right now, but, once the season kicks off, they'll have a chance to put on a show that nobody will be able to ignore. Along with Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and the rest of the league, it should be another terrific season for Big East football.
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