BOZICH: Big East Football Two-Minute Drill
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Big East coaches and players gather in Newport, R.I, Monday and Tuesday for Football Media Day. That makes it the perfect time for Big East Football Two-Minute Drill. Huddle up:
*The league will announce the results of its pre-season media poll at 8:55 a.m. Tuesday, ranking all eight teams. How will the teams shake out?
Sorry, Charlie Strong, but if you calculate the collective results from the pre-season magazines, the University of Louisville will not be able to play the ‘No Respect' card this season – at least not within conference play. The Cards are my prediction to be the program voted the pre-season favorite, a sign of respect for Strong, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and the other young talent Strong and his staff have assembled.
I'll predict that the projected league standings shake out this way: 1. Louisville; 2. South Florida; 3. Rutgers; 4. Pittsburgh; 5. UConn; 6. Cincinnati; 7. Syracuse; 8. Temple.
*Which team has the most talented players? If Louisville, South Florida and Rutgers were ranked 1-2-3, you'd think the Cardinals, Bulls and Scarlet Knights would be ranked 1-2-3 in this category, too.
Slow down. By one measurement, Strong's team is no better than the fourth most talented squad. AthlonSports.com ranked the Top 50 players in the Big East. Guess which team had the most players ranked in the Top 50.
Connecticut. The Huskies have 10.
Here is the team-by-team breakdown – top 10 players, top 25 players, top 50 players.
UConn – 1-4-10
Rutgers – 2-4-9
South Florida – 3-6-8
Louisville – 2-4-7
Pittsburgh – 2-3-7
Syracuse – 0-2-4
Cincinnati – 0-1-3
Temple – 0-1-2
*West Virginia is gone to the Big 12, talking smack about the Big East on its way out the door. The Mountaineers have been replaced by Temple, which went 9-4 in 2011 as a member of the Mid-American Conference.
How large is the hole left by the absence of West Virginia? Bigger than the potholes on the Kennedy Bridge. You can see it by looking at the in-conference only records of the seven returning Big East programs over the last five seasons:
1. Cincinnati 24-11 .686
2. Pittsburgh 22-13 .629
3. UConn 19-16 .543
4. Rutgers 16-19. .457
5. Louisville 13-22 .371
6. USF 13-22 .371
7. Syracuse 8-27 .229
Total: 115-130 .469 (Note: West Virginia was 25-10, .714)
*Who is the Big Dog of Big East football coaches? The league is currently taking applications. The talent drain on the sidelines has hurt the Big East. Over the last decade, guys like Bobby Petrino (Louisville to Atlanta/Arkansas/unemployed), Rich Rodriguez (WVU to Michigan/Arizona), Brian Kelly (Cincinnati to Notre Dame); Greg Schiano (Rutgers to Tampa Bay) and Randy Edsall (UConn to Maryland) have turned the league upside down by jumping at some of the first available openings.
The league is left with eight guys who have a combined 11 years of experience in their current programs. Doug Marrone of Syracuse is the dean of Big East coaches – and he's starting his fourth season in The Carrier Dome.
Welcome three newcomers to the Big East this season – Steve Addazio of Temple, Paul Chryst of Pitt and Kyle Flood of Rutgers. Addazio made his name as one of Urban Meyer's assistants at Florida. Chryst ran the offense at Wisconsin. Flood steps up from offensive coordinator at Rutgers.
I guess offensive rules.
*Fan Up! Big East fans have squawked about the way the league has been discussed in the media as well as by the bowl ties the league has been able to secure and develop. They're worried about what happens to the Big East after the BCS system is eliminated after the 2013 season.
There is one other issue Big East football fans need to squawk about – how well they fill their stadiums. According to NCAA statistics from last season, 18 FBS programs filled their stadiums to 100 percent capacity or more (standing room tickets get you over 100 percent, I'm guessing). Here is how many of those programs are in the Big East:
Zero. None. Nobody.
Cincinnati is the leader at 92.27 percent capacity, raking 45th nationally. And that's in compact Nippert Stadium, which seats 35,097. Here is the rest of the Big East list:
2. UConn 91.67 percent, No. 47 in percentage of seats filled.
3. Louisville, 88.25 percent, No. 51.
4. Rutgers, 83.43, No 59.
5. Syracuse, 82.22, No. 64.
6. Pittsburgh, 70.77, No 83.
7. South Florida, 67.65, No. 89.
8. Temple, 41.94, No. 115.
The Southeastern Conference -- surprise, surprise -- is the leader in keeping its football stadiums packed. Five programs operated at 100 percent capacity in 2011. The Big Ten and Big 12 each had four.
*Who is The Next Big Thing? Plenty of talented players have passed through the Big East. Just check your favorite NFL rosters. Ray Rice, Larry Fitzgerald, Darrelle Revis, LeSean McCoy, Dwight Freeney, Mike Jenkins, Jason-Pierre Paul, Amobi Okoye, Eric Wood.
Who are the front-runners for the Big East Player of the Year award this season? Consider this list a starter set:
1. Ray Graham, Pittsburgh, halfback.
2. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville, quarterback.
3. Khaseem Greene, Rutgers, linebacker.
4. Scott Vallone, Rutgers, defensive tackle.
5. Sio Moore, UConn, linebacker.
6. Mario Benavides, Louisville, center.
7. Justin Pugh, Syracuse, offensive line.
8. Devin Street, Pittsburgh, receiver.
9. Matt Brown, Temple, halfback.
10. Ryan Griffin, UConn, tight end.