Big East Media Poll
Big East Announces 2007 Football Television Schedule
At least four teams should compete for the Big East title this year with West Virginia and Louisville in front of the pack. Rutgers trails the leaders by less than 6 power points. South Florida is fewer than 2 points behind the Scarlet Knights. Pitt and Cincinnati will be playing catch-up as they begin the year over 6 points behind the fourth-place pick. The computer looks for UConn and Syracuse to bring up the rear.
No major surprises in that assessment as virtually every preseason prognostication has laid out the same synopsis.
West Virginia's road to a Big East title hits its first possible pothole in a Friday night clash at South Florida on September 28. Rich Rodriguez's crew is only favored by 3.74 and, later in the year, is just a 2.14-point favorite at Rutgers. Survive those traps and the Big East title game should be taking place in Morgantown on Thursday, November 8 when the 'Eers host Louisville as 2.49-point preseason favorites.
The Cardinals face some uncertainty as they embark on the 2007 campaign without head coach Bobby Petrino who moved to the NFL's Atlanta Falcons. But Louisville may have covered their loss well by picking up Steve Kragthorpe from Tulsa. The first thing Kragthorpe did was secure a commitment from star quarterback Brian Brohm to return for his senior season. As a result, the computer thinks the Cards will coast, until the West Virginia game, as they are favored by at least 9.28 points in each of their first 9 contests. If they manage to get past WVU, the last two games are back in the friendly confines of Papa John Stadium where Louisville is favored to dispatch USF (-10.25) and Rutgers (-8.64) by somewhat comfortable margins.
For Rutgers, the home game against West Virginia and the road date at Louisville are the only two times all year that the Scarlet Knights will be the underdog.
Meanwhile, all four of South Florida's projected losses are by margins of just 3.74 to 4.60, including an early non-conference battle at Auburn.
Thanks to an easy slate for the first six weeks of the season, Pitt will have a chance to garner some momentum for a title run by racing to a 6-1 start. But Louisville, Rutgers, South Florida and West Virginia loom on the back-end of the schedule and the computer has the Panthers dropping every one of those contests. Only a home date with the Orange prevents Pitt from looking at an 0-5 stretch run. That scenario is all too familiar to Panther fans who witnessed last year's team start 6-1 and finish 0-5 in a collapse that made them undesirable to the bowl committees despite being eligible at 6-6.
Cincinnati improved from 4-7 in 2005 to 8-5 and a win over Western Michigan in the inaugural International Bowl last year. Unfortunately for the Bearcats, just when things were looking up, they lost head coach Mark Dantonio to Michigan State. Now, all eyes will be on new head coach Brian Kelly whom Cincinnati lured away from Central Michigan.
Kelly has plenty of returning talent to work with and a 6-6 projection seems overly bearish, if you'll pardon the pun. Don't be surprised if Cincinnati becomes more than just a fly in someone else's ointment. Kelly's coaching job with Central Michigan spoke volumes about his abilities and the schedule brings both Louisville and West Virginia to Nippert Stadium.
UConn hardly gets a ringing endorsement from the computer with a season-opening power rating that is over 25 points behind West Virginia and Louisville. But Randy Edsel has a not-so-secret weapon in QB Tyler Lorenzen, a junior college transfer from Palomar, California who can run and throw. The question is whether or not Randy Edsel has enough weapons to avoid a third straight losing season.
Then, there's Syracuse which hasn't suffered through 3 straight losing seasons since Dick MacPherson's first three teams did the futile trick from 1981-1983. The demise of the Orange began with a 51-14 shellacking by Georgia Tech at the 2004 Champs Sports Bowl. That debacle was directly responsible for Paul Pasqualoni's dismissal and Syracuse has won just 5 of their last 24 games.
The beginning of the 2006 season seemed promising as Syracuse hung tough against Wake Forest and Iowa, then ran off three straight victories against a trio of weak non-conference opponents that finished the season a combined 10-26 [Illinois, Miami (Ohio) and Wyoming]. But the Orange didn't win again until they toppled UConn in the next-to-last game of the season for their only conference win in the last two years.
This year, the computer sees no conference wins for Syracuse. In fact, they would be projected to go winless if it weren't for lowly Buffalo's visit on October 20. However, there are three swing games that could provide hope for Greg Robinson's third season. His squad is an underdog by just 4.67 points in the season-opener at home against Washington, by 2.68 points at home versus Illinois, and by 3.54 points at Miami (Ohio). Unfortunately for Syracuse fans, we have to report that their team is a double-digit underdog in every Big East game except the November 17 trip to UConn where the Huskies are favored by 6.33.