Tuesday, August 15, 2006
With the ACC in the books, let's move on to the Big East.
Player of the Year: For the most part, we can probably be reasonably certain that this is coming from West Virginia or Louisville, can't we? Tyler Palko of Pittsburgh might be able to make a competition of it if he gets back to 2004 form, otherwise it looks like the candidates will be Pat White and Steve Slaton of West Virginia or Brian Brohm and Michael Bush of Louisville. Which is really symbolic of the Big East as a whole, because all indications are that these two teams are miles above the competition.
For the Mountaineers, White is perhaps the best dual-threat QB in the nation. He wasn't a great throw last year, but improved as it went along, and he's certainly a threat to run for 1000 yards. Steve Slaton didn't even start until the 6th game, and he finished with 1,128 yards and 19 TD. In the Sugar Bowl? Try 204 yards and 2 TD. Brian Brohm is probably the best pure passer in the conference, but he is recovering from injury Michael Bush is a big but athletic back who's great in the redzone, as evidenced by his 23 TD. But overall, I think that with the offense West Virginia runs, and the explosiveness of Steve Slaton, he will be the Player of the Year in the Big East.
Freshmen to Watch: On the surface, it doesn't look like there will be many freshman with huge impacts, and certainly nothing like Pat White or Steve Slaton last year, but there are some playmakers. Probably the biggest one right away is WR Dorin Dickerson, who should get some nice playing time early on at Pittsburgh. With Tyler Palko at QB, and not a whole lot of great options, Dickerson could be a force early on. For Lousiville, Deantwan Whitehead should help to ease the loss of Elvis Dumervil. He's a great athlete at DE, and should be a very nice player.
Breakout Players: When looking for some breakout players, I think we have to look at Rutgers, who, after many years of suckiness, is establishing itself as a quality program. They lost in a bowl game last year, but should be even better this year. One reason is Brian Leonard, who's a running and receiving threat out of the backfield. Leonard ran for 740 yards last year and caught 55 balls, so he should be one of the top players in the conference. Another guy from Rutgers is Mike Teel. He's always had talent, but if he can improve the decision-making, he'll be a very solid QB for Rutgers. Moving away from Rutgers to Louisville, a lot of the pass-catching responsibilities will fall to sophomore Mario Urrutia. He's 6'66, and caught 7 TD last year. With Brian Brohm throwing him the ball, big things could be in store.
Other things to watch: Is there much to watch here other than West Virginia and Louisville? Sure, Rutgers is improving, and Pittsburgh is bringing in some good recruits, but WVU and Louisville are far and away the top 2 teams in the conference. I guess the one thing to watch is if either of them gets upset like Lousiville did when they got mauled by South Florida early last year.
- West Virginia at Louisville - This is basically the one that really matters. Last year was a triple OT classic, and both teams should be strong again this year. Should be a high-scoring affair that will decide the Big East champion. (November 2nd)
Projected Order of Finish
2. West Virginia
5. South Florida