The Big East Conference has undergone some major football changes with West Virginia replaced by Temple, and even more changes are coming next season.
The West Virginia loss was a big one as arguably the best team over the past decade, while Temple is projected to finish at the bottom of the conference the next couple of years.
Let’s start our analysis with coaching. Cincinnati’s Butch Jones is the reigning Coach of the Year and there are new head men this season at Rutgers (Kyle Flood) and Pittsburgh (Paul Chryst).
Chryst takes over at Pitt after being the successful Wisconsin offensive coordinator. He is the fifth Panthers coach over the last two years if you include interim guys, but Chryst should bring stability as he mimics the successful Badgers program.
Second-year coaches are Connecticut’s Paul Pasqualoni and Temple’s Steve Addazio who did a good job taking over for Al Golden last year. The Owls went 9-4 straight up and against the spread out of the MAC, winning the New Mexico Bowl.
Don Best’s Kenny White thinks the three best coaches are entering their third year. South Florida’s Skip Holtz always overachieves, including going 38-25 ATS while previously at East Carolina. Jones is another third-year coach and he helped Cincy to a 10-win season after just four in 2010.
Louisville’s Charlie Strong has improved the defense by six points per game and has the team’s most returning defensive starters in the last seven years. The Cardinals opened at eight for a win total this year and shaded to the ‘over’, but it’s now up to 9½ in some shops. White likes sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, but the strong ‘D’ could lead to a lot of ‘unders’ after going 7-4 in that category last year.
Bridgewater was the Big East Rookie of the Year with a 65 percent completion percentage. Another quarterback is senior B.J. Daniels with over 6,000 career passing yards and 1,600 rushing yards. He could have his best year yet with 33 starts under his belt.
Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib is another senior with a 62 percent completion rate, and 22 TDs versus just nine picks. He also has good size to go along with the experience.
A final senior is Pittsburgh Tino Sunseri, but he needs to improve after 10 TDs and 11 interceptions last year. He will benefit from the more run-based offense of Chryst and two very good running backs in Ray Graham and expected freshman phenom Rushel Shell.
Connecticut’s Lyle McCombs is a running back to watch besides the Pittsburgh duo. He is small at 5-foot-8 and 166 pounds, but he rushed for 1,151 yards as a freshman last year.
Turning our attention to wideout, Syracuse senior Alec Lemon is on the preseason Biletnikoff award list. He had 68 catches last year and is expected to have another big season. Rutgers’ Brandon Coleman is a 6-foot-6 redshirt sophomore and averaged an incredible 32.5 yards per catch on just 17 receptions last season (552 yards).
Defense will again play a big part for the eventual conference champ. Rutgers has a tackling machine in weakside linebacker Khaseem Greene, the co-Defensive Player of the Year. Connecticut has three linebackers who can all help stop the run and defensive end Trevardo Williams can really get after the quarterback with 12.5 sacks last season (19 in his career). UConn’s defense will be solid.
White predicts that this conference will come down to South Florida and Louisville. They meet October 20th at Louisville. Coach Holtz was just 1-6 in the conference last year, but five of those losses came after leading in the second half. South Florida has nine guys back on both offense and defense.
One betting trend to keep an eye on is Syracuse and the ‘over.’ The defense is suspect and the offense will put up points, especially in the perfect conditions of the Carrier Dome.
Below are the odds to win the conference this season, with the numbers showing consensus figures as of Tuesday, July 24:
||BIG EAST ODDS
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