2011 Big East Football Preview and Prediction
As discussed in the ACC Atlantic and Coastal preview and prediction, the Big East gets banged on nationally for being a weak conference. A look at the numbers shows that is not totally true.
The ACC is 2-11 in BCS all-time games and has never had a team selected with an at-large bid. On the other hand the Big East is 6-7 in BCS games all-time with no at-large bids as well.
One thing in the ACC’s favor (if you can call it that) is that the conference did win a BCS game in the 2008-09 season. The last Big East BCS victory came in the 2007-08 season.
A single season separates the last win in a BCS game for these two conferences. The only reason the ACC has a better national profile is because of expansion and living of their reputation from the 1990s.
Also hurting the Big East is no stability at head coach. Think about this: heading into this season only two programs have coaches that have been with the season school for three seasons are more.
Those two coaches are Doug Marrone entering his third year at Syracuse and Greg Schiano entering his 11th season at Rutgers. That means the other six teams in the conference have a coach with two or less seasons with the same school.
With all the talk of conference expansion the Big East got a jump on things inviting TCU into the conference next season. Don’t be surprised if the Big East looks for more teams to join to get to 12 teams for a conference championship game.
Until the Big East decides to expand, we first have to play this season. One thing is for sure, the Big East has parity which has hurt the conference.
Will one team take control of the conference, or will it be status quo again?
Cincinnati was on a heck of a run from 2007 to 2009 under Brian Kelly. The Bearcats won double digit games and reached two straight BCS games.
Kelly jumped ship to Notre Dame before the 2009 Sugar Bowl and Cincinnati hired Butch Jones to replace him. In a strange twist, when Kelly left Central Michigan to take the Bearcats job, he was replaced by Jones.
Now that Kelly has left for the Irish, Jones once again is “Johnny on the spot” at Cincinnati. On subject a bit, but it does not mean when Kelly leaves the Notre Dame job Jones replaces him there. Do these two have some strange contract that says the other one must follow after when the previous job opens up?
In year one of the Jones era, Cincinnati dropped off from double digit wins to a 4-8 record. The Bearcats went from four straight bowls to staying home in the postseason.
To be fair to Jones, a bunch of talent left after the Sugar Bowl and the defense had to be rebuilt. Now the offense has holes to fill, but keeps quarterback Zach Collaros.
Cincinnati’s defense nearly returns intact and should be a very good unit. The offense needs to protect Collaros to put up points, but it will be the defense that could lead this team to a Big East title.
The non-conference schedule for Cincinnati has two tough games and three games that should be wins. Non-conference games at home against Austin Peay and Akron should be wins, but North Carolina State at home will be a test. Road non-conference games have what should be a win against Miami (OH) but a trip to Tennessee that will be tough to win.
In conference, the Bearcats play Louisville (with two weeks to prepare), West Virginia and Connecticut at home. These are all winnable games, and a 2-1 record should be the worst outcome.
On the road in conference is where Cincinnati will make their bowl hopes. Road conference games feature trips to South Florida, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, and Syracuse.
Again, in the parity-driven Big East all of these games are winnable. They are also all losable as well. I think a 2-2 road record might be the worst scenario.
Butch Jones is 31-21 overall and will not get much time to turn this program around. If this season does not produce a bowl team, he might only get one more year.
Cincinnati has to defensive starters returning to garner a winning season and a bowl game. The offense just needs to fill holes and be good unit.
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