Big East Preview: Not great, but improving

The only that most sports fans associate with the Big East is the way that the conference destroyed their March Madness brackets during the college basketball season.

As for college football, West Virginia's the perennial favourite to win, and everyone else is trying to catch up, so we say. But with Rich Rodriguez doing what no man should and go to Ann Arbor for some (financial) love, it's blown the conference wide open.

So what about the couch burners?

Now that Pat White's gone, everyone in Morgantown, West Virginia is talking about Jarrett Brown, who has a cannon and, surprise, surprise, is really, really quick. The team also need a speedster......oh, and running back Noel Devine provides a heck of a lot of that. A big non-conference match-up with Auburn beckons, as does a tough road game at South Florida. This team has the talent to win it all. Prediction: 10-2 (losses to South Florida and Auburn)

And the Penn State pretenders?

Everyone knows the biggest college football in Pennsylvania isn't Pittsburgh. It's Penn State. But one of the NFL's heroes played at Pitt, in the form of one Larry Fitzgerald - probably the best wide receiver in all of football. LeSean McCoy could have been a hero at Pitt, but decided to go pro early, leaving a monster running back-sized hole in the backfield. Now, three people will battle to take McCoy's place - Dion Lewis, Sharriff Harris, and Chris Burns - and all are really quite good. And they'd better pray it is - or it's going to be a long season. Prediction: 9-3

Speaking of poor in-state relations....

There's only one college football team in Ohio in recent years, and it ain't been Cincinnati. But now, the Bearcats are much improved, wowing many with a 9-4 record last year. Retooled and ready to rumble, the Bearcats quarterback/wide receiver combo of Tony Pike and Mardy Gilyard will frighten many-a-secondary. The problem is the 'D'. You don't replace 10 starters and expect to be brilliant. And to be honest, we'll see the fruits of the 'D' when they go to Corvallis to get it on with 26th ranked Oregon State and then play Big Ten dark horses Illinois. Prediction: 8-4

And down somewhere nice and warm....

There's the South Florida Bulls, who haven't come back from the heady heights of a No.2 ranking in 2007. Jim Leavitt's team has constantly threatened to win a Big East title, and now quarterback Matt Groethe and defensive end George Selvie are in their final years, the time is now. They'll have to prove themselves with in-state games at Florida State and at home against Miami during their out-of-conference schedule (as well as monster home games against West Virginia and Cincinnati). If they come through all four, then the Bulls are laughing to the BCS.
Prediction: 10-2

Will Rutgers light up the Empire State Building again?

Remember when Rutgers knocked off Louisville on a Thursday night with the Empire State Building glowing red in honour of the Scarlet Knights in 2007? In our humble opinion, Rutgers have lost too much offensive talent to compete for a Big East title this year, but watch out for 2010, will ya? Prediction: 6-6

And the rest?

Syracuse's season's going to be ugly (yet again), while Louisville is still in rebuilding mode. Connecticut will be tricky for some teams, but they won't win a title (although they'll be bowl worthy).

And the most important bit:

Best-looking students: The University of Louisville. It's something about Southern girls wearing red. Cheerleaders most likely to get drunk with you - West Virginia (they may well throw in a ceremonial couch-burning, too).

Here's a couch-burning commentary.....(seriously!)