The Big East holds its annual football media day beginning today in Newport, R.I., a lovely place for a press junket.
The Big East’s media day seems likely to be less dramatic than the SEC’s, at which Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer bizarrely got served with a subpoena for his testimony in a decade-old recruiting scandal at Alabama. (Or when Kentucky wide receiver Dickie Lyons related a long and rambling dream that involved his finance, Cosmo magazine and Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford.) Or less weird than the Big Ten’s, at which audio-animatronic Joe Paterno (Disney, first-gen, steam-driven) gave spelling lessons to the media.
But you never know.
More than likely, the highlight of the media day will be settling the argument on whether WVU will will the Big East title with zero, one or two losses. Or whether Syracuse will win a single Big East game.
Here’s a look at my projected order of finish for the eight-team Big East this year. Let’s see how it stacks up to the sports writers’s poll:
1) WVU: Okay, I’m way too close to the Mountaineers to be objective about this, but who else do you have winning the conference? If Pat White were at South Florida, they’d be the favorites. If Pat White were at Pitt, they might be the favorites. Add to that Noel Devine and plenty of speed on both sides of the ball. Naysayers will point out how difficult coaching transitions are and that WVU will still have a hangover from the Rodriguez and Pitt debacles of last year. Right. Just like the hangover that caused them to lose the Fiesta Bowl.
2) South Florida: Matt Grothe might be the second-best quarterback in the league, George Selvie is probably the best defensive end in the country and the team has plenty of speed, if no dominant tailback. Can the Bulls handle prosperity better than last year, when they rose to No. 2 but ended up losing four games on the season?
3) Cincinnati: This team won 10 games last year, finished at No. 20 and looks to do nearly that well this year, even if 12th-year senior quarterback Ben Mauk doesn’t win his appeal to play yet another year (seated in a rocking chair in the pocket). The defense has an all-American. I like coach Brian Kelly.
4) Rutgers: It’s either going to be Rutgers or Pitt here. Let’s see: Dave Wannstedt or Greg Schiano. Wannstedt or Schiano. Hmm. Pretty easy: Even with running back Ray Rice gone, I like Rutgers to win at least eight games and finish fourth. The Knights have one tough non-conference game -- Fresno State -- but it’s at home.
5) Pitt: One upset does not a turnaround make. Sure, Pitt beat WVU last year and prevented the Mountaineers from playing in the national championship game. But look closer. This team finished 5-7 last year. The favorable schedule this year will inflate Pitt’s resume -- they face Bowling Green, Buffalo, Iowa and Syracuse before traveling to South Florida. So the Panthers could be 3-1 or 4-0 before they take their first loss. But then they’ve got the meat of the Big East schedule. The Wannstache might have the Panthers back to eight-win respectability, and running back LeSean McCoy is a nice sophomore, but they won’t win the Big East, not this year.
6) UConn: The Huskies finished 9-4 last year on a very, very weak schedule (beating lowly Temple only on a blown call) and all you need to know is that the only way a team scores 66 against you, as the Mountaineers did last year, if you’re a D-1 program, is if you give up in the fourth quarter, as UConn did last year. This year’s schedule has at least five losses on it.
7) Louisville: The Cardinals have no worries at quarterback, where strong-armed Hunter Cantwell, another typical Louisville quarterback, takes over for Brian Brohm. Finding targets will be the hardest part. In the offseason, it seemed like every Louisville wide receiver was either hit with DUI or weapons charges or got himself shot. Also, the defense looks weak again. It would be optimistic to project the Cardinals adding two wins to their 6-6 record last season.
8) Syracuse: Ah, Syracuse. 2-10 last season with one Big East win. And it looks like their coach really, really can’t coach. Four wins would be a big improvement; a .500 record is a pipe dream.