Andrea Adelson, ESPN’s Big East blogger has published her post-spring Big East power rankings. Not a huge surprise, but Adelson tabs the Cards at #1. The Big East is definitly not one of the better conferences in the country, but I think teams 1-4 will be pretty competitive with each other.
1. Louisville: Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater looked better than ever this spring, giving me renewed confidence the Cardinals are going to be the preseason favorite in the league. The secondary should be exceptionally strong, and the offensive line should be better. Questions remain at running back and with depth in the front seven. But of all the teams in the league, I think the Cardinals have the most stability headed into the season. Plus, it hugely helps to have Charlie Strong entering Year 3.
2. USF: Big jump for the Bulls. I know I said I refused to buy into USF until the Bulls actually do something. But what they have returning is hard to ignore. Generally speaking, teams with 18 returning starters — many of them seniors — do really well. So do teams with veteran starting quarterbacks. While USF still has some major question marks on paper — can B.J. Daniels develop, what happens at running back, where is the depth at linebacker –the Bulls look like they have a shot.
3. Rutgers: At one time, I had Rutgers as my preseason favorite. But I am a little nervous about the situation at quarterback. I thought there would be a resolution this spring, but neither Chas Dodd nor Gary Nova did much to impress. Mohamed Sanu is gone, there are more shifts on the offensive line and the running game has to prove something. I think the defense will be the best in the Big East. The offense is scaring me right now, which is why I moved the Scarlet Knights down.
4. Cincinnati: The Bearcats do return talent, and players who saw some significant action last season. But they also lose 21 seniors, including Big East Offensive Player of the Year Isaiah Pead and Co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year Derek Wolfe. I don’t have any doubts that the Bearcats will have a good season. I just don’t know if they will win another championship.
5. Pitt: If there is any team with “ifs” all over the roster, it is the Panthers. They have a new head coach. They are returning Tino Sunseri at quarterback. Nobody knows how Ray Graham is going to do after major knee surgery. The offensive line has to be better. There is not much depth on the defensive line. If all of these come together, the Panthers could be really good. If they don’t, they could be really bad.
6. UConn: The Huskies will be good on defense. But what about quarterback? I feel like a broken record saying the same thing over again. Quarterback uncertainty always makes me hesitant to rank a team in the top half of the league. I was hesitant last year, and I am hesitant again this year.
7. Syracuse: I have said this before, but it bears repeating: I think Syracuse is the hardest team to gauge in the Big East. The Orange have to be more consistent on offense. They have to find a running game to help ease some of the burden off quarterback Ryan Nassib. Does Ashton Broyld give them enough to get them more explosive plays? The defense still has depth concerns in the front seven.
8. Temple: I worry about how the Owls will make the transition to the Big East in Year 1. I think Temple has a good team, but the Owls also lost a lot of their best players and has depth concerns on the offensive and defensive lines. That is enough to worry any coach in Year 1 in a major conference.