In conjunction with the Big East Blogger All Conference team each of the 8 SB Nation Big East sites has been asked to formulate a ranking of all the teams heading into the fall camp. The whole lot of them will be collected by Big East Coast Bias, tabulated and published later this afternoon. Here are my picks and the reasoning behind them.
1) West Virginia
Even with all of the drama that has enveloped Morgantown this off season I can't think of a reason not to pick them at the top of the conference. They bring back a good deal of talent and experience on the defensive side of the ball. There is no way that this defense replicates the feats of last years group. But they won't have to because the offense will be much improved under Dana Holgorsen who is basically the King Midas of offensive coordinators.
2) South Florida
I might be falling into a trap here. I know it is very foolish to banking on a USF QB to progress from one year to the next. It seems like Matt Grothe never did and B.J. Daniels didn't last year. But this pick is about the defense which I think might end up being the best in the conference when all is said and done.
UC is going to bounce back big time. The depth is better this year, the defensive line should be one of the best in the conference. That should dramatically effect the entire defense in a positive way. The offense will put up yards and points in bunches and if Zach Collaros can keep the turnovers in check this team can win 9 games.
I don't trust Todd Graham. That's all this really comes down to. Todd Graham had a great run at Tulsa, he hired some great coordinators and really lit up the score board. But I don't know if he can handle this job. On pure talent this is probably the 2nd best team in the conference, but I don't think there is a chance they finish there.
I am taking a flier on Doug Marrone. Syracuse has been built back up and as far as I can tell it is imminently sustainable. There is massive turnover on the defensive side of the ball and odds are they won't be anywhere near as stout as they were last year, but they still should be good, particularly against the run. The ball control offense is back, though I imagine that things will be opened up a little bit more for Ryan Nassib in his Senior season. I have a hard time thinking this team won't go bowling again.
I can't explain why but I think this Paul Pasqualoni thing is going to work out. The offense will be a bit of a mess, as always. But the defense should be there. They might end up going 6-6 but a bowl is a bowl.
Ultimately the attrition will be too much to bear. The Cards relied on one of the deepest senior classes in the country last year to make the season a success. This year they have to start over again. While there is talent there, and a lot of it, it is wrapped up in younger guys for the first part. Younger guys who will be starting and playing big minutes for the first time. In a couple of years those young guys will be the nucleus of teams that will contend for the conference crown. But right now they will take their lumps.
They have a ways to go. In Savon Huggins and Chas Dodd they have a good 1-2 punch for the future but in the present there are major issues. Everywhere. This all comes down to the offensive line because the defense is always at the very least solid under Schiano. But last years line was the worst on record, not just for Rutgers, but nationally for the last decade. That's not getting better in one offseason.
Don't forget to head over the Big East Coast Bias to check out the full power rankings later today.