Big East Season Projections

Those of you who know me know that I am a big fan of college football. Every year, I buy a bunch of the preseason books and then make a list of points that I think the national media has gotten completely wrong in their predictions (such as Ole Miss being the #3 team two years ago, or Pittsburgh winning the Big East last year). This year, I wanted to try something different. As a big West Virginia fan, I wanted to try my hand at predicting the Big East in football this year.
I started by doing some research and reflection, and came up with the following list.

Big East Projected Finish 2011 (Preliminary)

1. South Florida
2. West Virginia
3. Pittsburgh
4. Rutgers
5. Syracuse
6. Louisville
7. Connecticut
8. Cincinnati

I believe that UConn won the Big East last year off of coaching talent alone, and, just like Cincinnati last year, I predict them to fall hard. Everyone is picking WVU to win the conference (except Phil Steele who likes Pitt), but I feel that with a new coach, both Pitt and WVU will lose a couple games they shouldn’t. Both Louisville and Syracuse have excellent coaches, but both are in rebuilding mode (SU on defense, Louisville on offense). Lastly, I thought that Rutgers bad year last year had to be a fluke, and since they didn’t lose a lot of players this year, they would make up for it this year.

I then decided to take into account conference home/away games. Since the Big East has only 8 teams, four teams have to play four away games each year. This year, those teams are South Florida, West Virginia, Louisville, and Cincinnati. I then made a revised schedule based upon this information.

Big East Projected Finish 2011 Revision #1 (home/away games)

1. Pittsburgh (4-3)
2. South Florida (3-4)
3. West Virginia (3-4)
4. Rutgers (4-3)
5. Syracuse (4-3)
6. Connecticut (4-3)
7. Louisville (3-4)
8. Cincinnati (3-4)

Lastly, I went through the schedules and predicted wins and losses for each team. This modified my rankings slightly, and showed which games were pivotal to which teams. You can find my season predictions with comments below the rankings.

Big East Projected Finish 2011 Revision #2 (overall) (conference)

1. West Virginia      (9-3)  (6-1)
2. Pittsburgh           (8-4)  (6-1)*
3. South Florida     (8-4)  (5-2)
4. Connecticut        (9-3)  (4-3)
5. Syracuse              (7-5)  (3-4)
6. Louisville            (5-7)  (2-5)
7. Rutgers                (4-8)  (1-6)
8. Cincinnati           (4-8)  (1-6)

*Pittsburgh could very easily beat WVU and take the conference at 7-0

Big East Team Projected Records

1. West Virginia (9-3) (6-1)

Marshall               W            1-0
Norfolk St.            W           2-0
@Maryland           L            2-1
LSU                         L            2-2
BGSU                     W           3-2
UConn                   W           4-2 (1-0)
@Syracuse            W           5-2 (2-0)
@Rutgers              W           6-2 (3-0)
Louisville               W          7-2 (4-0)
@Cincinnati          W          8-2 (5-0)
Pitt                          W          9-2 (6-0)
@USF                      L          9-3 (6-1)

Notes: The @Syracuse game is pivotal for WVU. If they win that one, they are 5-0 in the conference heading into the Pitt game. If they beat Pitt, there is a good chance they beat USF as well. I have WVU losing to MD, though I may be the only person who thinks they will. Lastly, for some reason, I have had a feeling that Marshall will beat WVU, and then WVU will turn around and beat LSU. Weird, huh? But not very realistic, so I didn’t officially call for that to happen.

2. Pittsburgh (8-4) (6-1)

Buffalo                     W           1-0
Maine                       W           2-0
@Iowa                       L           2-1
Notre Dame             L           2-2
USF                          W           3-2 (1-0)
@Rutgers                W           4-2 (2-0)
Utah                           L           4-3
UConn                      W           5-3 (3-0)
Cincinnati                W           6-3 (4-0)
@Louisville              W           7-3 (5-0)
@WVU                       L           7-4 (5-1)
Syracuse                   W           8-4 (6-1)

Notes: There is a good chance that Pitt will beat Notre Dame, Utah, or WVU, but I doubt all three. Utah has a brutal schedule, so Pitt could catch them by surprise. Pitt also plays ND regularly, and gets them at home. Other than the WVU game, Pitt gets a tremendously friendly Big East schedule, which is why I have a bad feeling they may win the conference.

3. South Florida (8-4) (5-2)

@Notre Dame          L           0-1
Ball State                  W           1-1
Florida A&M            W           2-1
UTEP                         W           3-1
@Pittsburgh              L           3-2 (0-1)
@UConn                   W           4-2 (1-1)
Cincinnati                 W           5-2 (2-1)
@Rutgers                  W           6-2 (3-1)
@Syracuse                 L           6-3 (3-2)
Miami(FL)                 L           6-4
Louisville                  W           7-4 (4-2)
WVU                          W           8-4 (5-2)

Notes: The @UConn game is pivotal for USF. If they lose that game, it could be the difference between 6-1 and 2-5. I feel like they will lose one of the away games @Rutgers or @Syracuse. Just a gut feeling, but if they win both of those, there could be a 3-way tie at 6-1 for the Big East championship. You may notice the trend that I am picking the Big East to lose all of their BCS non-conference games. Until they prove that they can win high profile games, I will continue to do so (hey, expect the worst and be pleasantly surprise, right?).

4. Connecticut (9-3) (4-3)

Fordham                 W           1-0
@Vanderbilt           W           2-0
Iowa St.                   W           3-0
@Buffalo                 W           4-0
W. Michigan           W           5-0
@WVU                      L           5-1 (0-1)
USF                            L           5-2 (0-2)
@Pitt                          L           5-3 (0-3)
Syracuse                   W           6-3 (1-3)
Louisville                 W           7-3 (2-3)
Rutgers                     W           8-3 (3-3)
@Cincinnati            W           9-3 (4-3)

Notes: Vanderbilt is so bad, that they don’t count as a BCS team. The @WVU game is pivotal. There is a good chance that UConn could be 5-0 heading to West Virginia, which scares me, but I think WVU will be hungry for revenge.  UConn gets Syracuse, Louisville, and Rutgers at home, which pushes them above those guys in the standings. I originally thought they would lose to Cincinnati, where they are 0-4, but changed my mind. It is possible, but I can’t in good faith predict that.

5. Syracuse (7-5) (3-4)

Wake Forest            W           1-0
Rhode Island           W           2-0
@USC                         L           2-1
Toledo                       W           3-1
Rutgers                     W           4-1 (1-0)
@Tulane                   W           5-1
WVU                           L           5-2 (1-1)
@Louisville               L           5-3 (1-2)
@UConn                    L           5-4 (1-3)
USF                           W           6-4 (2-3)
Cincinnati                W           7-4 (3-3)
@Pitt                          L           7-5 (3-4)

Notes: There is a good chance they will be 5-1 heading into a home game with WVU. I think there is a 49% chance they win that game, which scares me a lot. After all, they beat WVU at home last year. If that happens, Pitt gets the title and Syracuse might even end up 5-2 in the conference, ahead of WVU. With tremendous losses on defense, however, I am picking WVU.

6. Louisville (5-7) (2-5)

Murray St.                W           1-0
FIU                            W           2-0
@UK                          L           2-1
Marshall                   W           3-1
@UNC                        L           3-2
@Cincinnati              L           3-3 (0-1)
Rutgers                     W           4-3 (1-1)
Syracuse                   W           5-3 (2-1)
@WVU                       L           5-4 (2-2)
Pittsburgh                 L           5-5 (2-3)
@UConn                    L           5-6 (2-4)
@USF                         L           5-7 (2-5)

Notes: This is a tough schedule. Hopefully Marshall beats them. It seems like the WVU game on everyone’s schedule is pivotal. They will be 5-3, 2-1 heading into that game. If they pull the upset, which they have the coach to do it, then the Pittsburgh game becomes much more important (especially if they win at Cincinnati earlier). Speaking of Cincinnati, Louisville is 11-10 @Cincy, so a good chance for a win there that would make them 3-0 heading into WVU.

7. Rutgers (4-8) (1-6)

NC Central                W           1-0
@UNC                         L           1-1
Ohio                           W           2-1
@Syracuse                 L           2-2 (0-1)
Pittsburgh                  L           2-3 (0-2)
Navy                            L           2-4
@Louisville                L           2-5 (0-3)
WVU                            L           2-6 (0-4)
USF                              L           2-7 (0-5)
Army                          W           3-7
Cincinnati                 W           3-8 (1-5)
@UConn                     L           4-8 (1-6)

Notes: I thought Rutgers would rebound until I looked at the schedule. They have to go to Syracuse, Louisville, and UConn. Great that they get WVU, Pitt, and USF at home, but I doubt they win any of those games. Rutgers is 1-6 all time vs. Cincy. I don’t think they can make it 2-6 this year.

8. Cincinnati (4-8) (1-6)

Austin Peay             W           1-0
@Tennessee             L           1-1
Akron                       W           2-1
NC State                   L            2-2
@Miami (OH)        W           3-2
Louisville                 W          4-2 (1-0)
@USF                        L           4-3 (1-1)
@Pitt                         L           4-4 (1-2)
WVU                          L          4-5 (1-3)
@Rutgers                  L          4-6 (1-4)
@Syracuse               L           4-7 (1-5)
UConn                      L           4-8 (1-6)

Notes: This is as brutal a Big East schedule as you can get. All of the winnable games are away, but at least they get Louisville at home. I could also see them knocking off UConn, whom they are 4-0 at home against, which would allow them to jump Rutgers in the standings.

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