TSL Round Table #7
by TechSideline.com, 7/30/02
For our "TSL Round Table" feature, we have selected a small panel of site fans and message board posters completely at random and without rhyme or reason (so don't be offended if you're not one of them), and each week, we'll pose them a question and run their answers here on TSL.
This week's TSL Round Table question: What are your predictions for the Big East this season?
Sandy Cormack (Baltimore Hokie): Predicted order of finish:
Overall, I think the middle of the Big East pack is catching up with us. Pitt gets my vote out of respect. It seems to me they've finally gotten our defensive package down, plus Walt Harris's offense can put up the points when they've got it all together. I think we could lose to SU, considering it's the Jiffy-Pop dome. Beamer and Co. have will have had two years to think of a way to counteract that noise level - I think that's adequate. But there's no more Nunes to make us look good. The upside to all this - more out-of-conference wins for the Big East members (enhancing our SOS), and more bowl bids (although they still need to teach their fans to travel).
I picked VT second because Miami's talent level, plus solid coaching, trumps us right now. We play them in Miami. We could lose this one. Overall, I think we're looking at 10-3 tops.
I am not sure why everyone is picking BC to do so well. They lost 17 seniors, including Green. We've taken their best shot repeatedly. We are too athletic for them. I don't think they merit being ranked above us, or Pitt, for that matter.
Miami has as much if not more talent than anyone in the country. With Dorsey back and key conference games at home, they should win the league again, although I think that VT could challenge them if things break right. We should have beaten them last year.
VT, if we get a passing attack to balance our running game and take some pressure off our defense, could be very good this year and possibly challenge Miami for the conference's BCS spot.
I see BC and Pittsburgh in a real dogfight for third place. BC has made some great strides, however, they did lose RB William Green to the NFL and I don't know if they've got anybody as good to replace him. Their O-line will be very good, as usual. On defense, the issue, as it always seems to be with BC, is speed (or more precisely, the lack thereof) With Pittsburgh, on the plus side they have recruited well and Walt Harris runs a very, very good passing attack. However, they've lost Antonio Bryant (thank God HE'S gone!) as well as those two QB's who used to absolutely shred our defense (Priestley and Turman). We get them at home this year and we will be primed for some serious payback for the smackdown they put on us last year. I should say that I see Pitt, BC, and VT bunched pretty tightly at the 2-3-4 spots.
Then there's Syracuse, who I simply think is going to drop a level now that almost all of that excellent front seven on defense is gone. I don't think that they have recruited as well the last few years as they have in the past, and their new QB really didn't impress me all that much last year. (There is simply no way in hell that we should have lost to those guys last year. No way.) And they consistently have, in my opinion, the conference's worst game day coaching staff. So, I see them slipping into the lower half of the conference this year with Pasqualoni being shown the door at year's end. However, I also note that they signed some kid this year at QB who's supposed to be the next coming of Michael Vick, so maybe I'm selling them short. I'll have to admit that I don't like Syracuse, so maybe that colors my expectations somewhat.
As for the overall Big East conference, in my opinion it's clearly getting tougher, top-to-bottom. VT will have to keep working very hard and keep recruiting on the level we've recruited at the past few years if we hope to be able to stay at the top of the league.
Overall, I believe the league will be stronger this year. Miami is clearly the most talented and probably the best team; Temple will win the "Battle of the Basement", edging out Rutgers.
Why Pitt second?...because they return 15 starters and will have a very good defense; offensively, Walt Harris knows how to score points, certainly against us. BC returns 17 starters and will also have a good defense (probably their best in years), but they lack creativity on offense so I have to put Pitt ahead of them. Next, our Hokies, deep in talent but inexperienced in too many critical places. I think we'll be better than most think, but our schedule is brutal, with our toughest conference games on the road (Watch out though, the 2003 edition of the Hokies is going to be spectacular and might be picked pre-season Top 10 and #1 in Big East). Syracuse will also have a good defense, but they have to completely re-tool the offense. WVU, better, but not quite there yet. Rutgers will be improved but they have such a long way to come back.
The team that I think will surprise many (and the road game that I'm the most nervous about) is BC. They're due and they're experienced. We are a "circled" team on their schedule next year...we'd better be ready to play.
In general, it looks like the Big East is about where it is normally, strong on top, weak on the bottom. Miami will remain a national power for sometime now, although a 2 and maybe even 3 loss season would not surprise me this year. BC, Pitt, WVU, and SU are a toss up and should be about 4-3, 3-4 in conference. BC's the strongest, but their lack of speed will again keep them from climbing higher.
Look for WVU to surprise some this year, mostly because of Rasheed Marshall. He could end up being the 2nd best QB in the BE. Brian St. Pierre (BC) is lacking WR's, R.J. Anderson (Syracuse) doesn't throw the ball that well, Rod Rutherford seems to be disappointing his own coach, and who knows who will handle the spot for VT. Look for WVU to upset Maryland early (WVU will benefit greatly from former 'Neer Scott McBrien QB'ing the Terps), and Syracuse later in the year, but still get beat pretty solidly by the better teams on their schedule like VT, Miami, and Wisconsin.
VT is a solid #2 pick this year w/ the OOC schedule and the numerous questions. The loss of Eric Green is substantial but I'm not sure there are more than four teams (LSU, Marshall, Pitt and Miami) that can exploit Green's loss. Hardee, Robinson, Kevin Lewis, the WR's and the TE's should all step in and play pretty well. My concern is with the other DT position, the Mike LB spot, Fullback and backup CB. And of course, the QB spot. All things considered, we'll probably go 10-3 or 9-4, losing to Miami and maybe LSU, aTm and BC/SU.
1.) Miami (11-1,7-0)
Wow. Some Big East non-conference opponents this year: Tennessee (twice), Florida, FSU, LSU, Texas A&M, Notre Dame (three times), Auburn, BYU, UNC, Wisconsin, Maryland, Stanford, and Oregon St. I know the Big East has done well in bowl games the last two years, but I don't think the league is strong enough to put up a good record against these kinds of teams this year. The Big East will mop up the little guys, but won't get it done -as a whole- against the big boys.
Not the Gator, again. I think VT has the best chance of all Big East teams to beat Miami, but I had to put us in second place because I can't see it happening in Miami. And I think we'll lose one game to the Pitt/BC/Cuse trio. Fortunately, they'll be busy knocking each other off, so that will let us stay in second behind Miami all by ourselves. Now, let's talk about those bowl switching possibilities.....please.
The surprise of the Big East this year will be Rutgers, if for no other reason than a .500 record. I think Dave Braine called the Rutgers AD and gave him some tips. They start out with Villanova, Buffalo, and Army, all at home. Throw in wins against WVU and Temple - also at home - and a fluke win against a third Big East team and they finish....gulp....bowl eligible at 6-6.
Finishing second is a tall order for Virginia Tech, with road games against Miami, Syracuse, and BC, but I think the Hokies will do it. I think the Virginia Tech offense is going to surprise some people this year, with a receiver, most likely Ernest Wilford, stepping up and Bryan Randall getting the nod at QB and having a stronger-than expected season (I predict that last year aside, Randall is one of those guys that is a better game player than practice player).
BC will step up into the top three for the first time since 1999, and they'll do it largely because their QB, Brian St. Pierre, is better than what Pitt and Syracuse will offer, plus he's a senior with a strong O-line. BC will have to hunt for receivers and a tailback, but if you've got a good QB and a good offensive line, that's most of the battle on offense. That will carry them to victory on the road against Pittsburgh and at home over Syracuse. I predict that Syracuse, by the way, will pull off a hideous loss at some point, a la their 24-21 loss to Rutgers in 1999, and the reprieve that Coach P. earned for himself last year will vanish faster than quality programming on network TV.
And for absolutely no reason at all, at the risk of becoming an object of scorn and ridicule, I'm predicting that Rutgers will climb out of the cellar for the first time since 1998, when they went 5-6 (2-5) and finished sixth. The Scarlet Knights have WVU and Temple at home, and the snake pit that is Rutgers Stadium will claim at least one of them. My bet is Temple.
Here's how our panel members pegged it (taking liberties with some of the picks when panel members predicted a tie):
Here's how the averages of the Round Table members compared to the Big East media picks on July 24th:
The picks are comparable, although the BE media thinks much more highly of the Syracuse Orangemen than the TSL Round Table members do.
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