In recent years, the Big East has improved from being a joke of a BCS conference (now the Big Ten) to the fourth best conference in college football. Other than Syracuse, every team in this league has a shot at the Big East title.
Winner: West Virginia
Despite losing coach Rich Rodriguez, West Virginia still has loads of talent. Most importantly, they have a Heisman-caliber quarterback in Pat White. His ability as a runner and a thrower can carry a team to a BCS bowl game. Noel Devine will also more than make up for the loss of Steve Slaton.
Cincinnati won ten games last year, yet they are not even close to the top of most projected Big East Standings. The Bearcats return one of the Big East's top defenses while keeping their offense mostly intact except for loss of fifth-year senior quarterback Ben Mauk.
I don't see the hype behind Pitt. They will improve their win total this year due to an easy non-conference schedule, but they will not improve in the Big East standings. This team only won five games last year and struggled until an upset against West Virgina. The talent level for this season (freshman usually do not play, so their top recruiting class will not help immediately) has not increased and Dave Wannstedt has been a perennial underachiever in his coaching career.
Winning their second straight Backyard Brawl can bring Pitt back to Big East and national prominence, while West Virginia needs to win this to hold off South Florida for an Orange Bowl trip. Similar to last year, Dave Wannstedt may need to win this game to save his job.
South Florida vs. West Virginia will decide the Big East championship for either team. Can USF get a big win on the road after winning last year in Tampa?
Rutgers vs. South Florida will be for a BCS at-large bid, South Florida needs to win this game. After a relatively disappointing season last year, Rutgers can make some national noise by winning this game.
Projected Big East Standings
1) West Virginia 11-1 (6-1) Orange Bowl
2) South Florida 10-2 (5-2) Fiesta Bowl
tied 3) Rutgers 8-4 (4-3)
tied 3) Cincinnati 9-4 (4-3)
tied 5) Pitt 8-4 (3-4)
tied 5) UConn 7-5 (3-4)
7) Louisville 6-6 (2-5)
8) Syracuse 2-10 (0-7)