Big East Preseason Media Poll
A year ago, CollegeFootballPoll.com's Congrove Computer Rankings offered the only major preseason forecast that correctly picked UConn as the Big East's automatic BCS bowl qualifier. The Huskies went on to lose 48-20 to Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl after tying Pittsburgh and West Virginia for the conference title. All three schools made head coaching changes.
Former Syracuse head coach Paul Pasqualoni (1991-2004) is the new man at Connecticut after Randy Edsall left Storrs for Maryland. Pitt ran off Dave Wannstedt to hire Michael Haywood from Miami (Ohio), but finally settled on Tulsa's Todd Graham after Haywood was arrested on New Year's Day on a domestic violence charge. And West Virginia hired Dana Holgorsen to replace Bill Stewart after the 2011 season, but eventually made the switch on June 10th instead.
Given the computer's 2011 forecast, those coaching changes will seemingly have very little impact on the conference title race as West Virginia, Pitt and UConn are expected to once again be the top three teams. And once again, the conference is expected to be extremely tight from top-to-bottom with only 8.83 power points separating first from last. The top five teams are separated by no more than 3.28 points, and the top six by 4.39 points.
It is the tremendous parity among its members that reduces the perceived strength of the conference. But while Big East teams seem to beat up each other during the season, this year's expected trio of frontrunners are among the conference's most-frequent contenders. West Virginia has won or shared the title five times since 2004. UConn and Pitt are joined by Cincinnati as the only other teams to have won or shared the title at least twice in that same time span.
Louisville has one Big East title (2006) and Syracuse hasn't been at the top since 2004. Rutgers and USF have never won the title.
If there's any lack of respect for the Big East, it's simply because the conference hasn't produced a team with fewer than 3 losses in two of the last three seasons. And when Cincinnati emerged with a 12-1 record in 2009, the Bearcats were routed by Florida in the Sugar Bowl after head coach Brian Kelly had already left for Notre Dame.
2011 provides several shots at redemption for the Big East. USF opens at Notre Dame, West Virginia entertains LSU on September 24, Pitt hosts Notre Dame and Utah, and Syracuse visits USC.