Teddy Bridgewater's play at quarterback is one reason Louisville is the Big East favorite.
NEWPORT, R.I. (WDRB) – This is news that Charlie Strong will try to burn, but the 24 media members who picked Louisville as the Big East football favorite are not the only ones chirping about the Cardinals' considerable talent.
"I don't have a problem with Louisville being picked first," said Ray Graham of Pittsburgh, the league's best running back.
"Not at all. They've got a nice sophomore quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater) coming back, who I've seen do good things. They've got a good defense."
But Strong doesn't want to be picked first. Seventh would be his preference. Unless you ranked the Cardinals eighth. An eighth-place prediction is something Strong would celebrate.
"He doesn't like it?" Graham asked. "Don't be good then. That comes with the territory."
The only other Big East team to draw first-place votes was South Florida. The Bulls received four, which places South Florida several yard markers behind the Cardinals. I asked Strong's friend, South Florida coach Skip Holtz, if that sounded like an accurate call.
"Without a doubt," Holtz said. "He's got more talent, more resources, more everything. They should win every game by 30 points."
Go ahead and insert the laugh track. West Virginia is indeed gone to the Big 12. The absence of the Mountaineers means another program must be moved into the position of Big East heavyweight. That program is Louisville.
"They have a higher card to stand up to now," Cincinnati linebacker Maalik Bomar said. "When you're put in that type of position, you have no choice but to own up to it."
This is my take: There is nothing unreasonable, unexpected or unfair about picking Louisville to win the Big East.
The Cards are the sensible pick.
Let's work this from the bottom up:
Temple is picked eighth. The Owls arrive from the Mid-American Conference. They have lost their four top receivers from a team that lost three MAC games last season. Even Bill Cosby wouldn't pick Temple.
Nobody is going to pick Syracuse. The Orange have not been able to win more than one Big East game once since 2004. They're leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference after this season. Only the presence of Temple keeps the Orange out of last place on their farewell tour.
Connecticut could be a sleeper. The Huskies could also be lucky to finish sixth, which is where they have been picked. UConn doesn't have a first-division quarterback.
Pittsburgh is a disaster. Graham said that if you include interim guys that Paul Chryst, the Panther's new head coach, is the sixth head coach that he has played for at Pitt. Chryst might be a great coach. But that much turnover had to diminish Pitt's recruiting and overall talent.
Cincinnati is looking for a running back to replace Isaiah Pead as well as a quarterback to replace Zach Collaros. Pead ran for a dozen touchdowns. Collaros threw for 15 and ran for eight. That's not the profile of a pre-season conference favorite.
Rutgers is another school with quarterback issues. The Scarlet Knights also have a new head coach. Their best player, receiver Mohammed Sanu, has moved to the NFL. Louisville has defeated Rutgers in back-to-back seasons. I'll pass on Rutgers.
That leaves two contenders – Louisville and South Florida. Those are also the two teams with the best quarterbacks – Bridgewater for Louisville, B.J. Daniels for the Bulls.
"A lot of times you're picked off your quarterback because as your quarterback goes, your team goes," Holtz said.
This is why it is tricky to pick the Bulls. Bridgewater is a better all-around player than Daniels. South Florida also lost six of seven conference games in 2011. The only Big East team that USF defeated was Syracuse. Louisville went to Tampa and won by 10. Not even Holtz, in a more serious moment, can make the case for USF over Louisville.
"Before Charlie got this opportunity I said that when he gets it, he'll make the most of it," Holtz said. "And he has. He's not all the flash and everything else. He's the substance.
"They have a really good football team, and they're young. I really do agree that Louisville is the team to beat."
Even if Charlie Strong doesn't like hearing that.
Copyright 2012 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.
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