Big East football preseason picks: Mine, and yours
Here's a sign that football season isn't too far off: I'm disclosing my ballot for the Big East football media poll. The results from the league's panel of 24 media members (three per team) will be announced Aug. 2 at the league's preseason media day in Rhode Island, but here's a look at my ballot, humbly submitted with the concession that something here surely will be awkwardly difficult to explain in December, if not sooner.
1. West Virginia
There you have it. Thought hard about putting USF at the top -- my lingering concern is that the Bulls need to prove themselves as a consistent road winner, and four of their first five Big East games are on the road. If they can be 4-1 or better in those five games, chances are the Big East title will be decided in Tampa on Dec. 1. It'd almost certainly be a sellout under those circumstances. I think USF will be second or third in the media poll when it's released.
Someone will surprise from the bottom half of the league? That's the biggest question I can get a good answer for. Can the talent from Charlie Strong's recruiting class overcome a huge loss of experience, especially on defense? Can Cincinnati find a defense to match its offense? Can Rutgers be relevant again? How far will UConn fall without Randy Edsall and Jordan Todman?
Now for your ballots. Was pleased to get 55 ballots (up from 44 last year) and for calculation purposes, I'm throwing out one ballot that was admittedly submitted randomly. The top and bottom are pretty clear -- USF and West Virginia had the top two spots on 39 of 54 ballots; UConn and Rutgers were in the bottom two on 30 of the ballots. Here's how you guys see the Big East shaking out -- the number is the average position on the 54 ballots.
1. USF (1.43)
2. West Virginia (2.05)
3. Pittsburgh (3.50)
4. (tie) Louisville (4.81)
4. (tie) Syracuse (4.81)
6. Cincinnati (5.26)
7. Connecticut (6.76)
8. Rutgers (7.37)
USF got 39 first-place votes, with West Virginia getting 14 and Syracuse getting one on what I'll call an outlier ballot -- "Stpetefootballfan" had Syracuse and Rutgers 1-2, with USF sixth. That was just one of four ballots that didn't have USF in the top two -- "Taurean" and "coloradobuc" had the Bulls third, with "wvucoop2134" putting them fourth.
It's no real shock that the readers of a USF blog have the Bulls winning the league, but remember, this same group had the Bulls tied for third last season, so there's definitely a higher expectation for success from a year ago. A few other random notes:
-- Louisville and Syracuse tied for fourth, but it's worth mentioning that Syracuse was first and Louisville fifth on that outlier ballot, so officially, I'm breaking the tie alphabetically in listing the Cardinals ahead.
-- About that top three -- West Virginia was in the top three except for three fourths and two fifths; again, USF was in the top two on all but four ballots; Pitt was in the top five of every ballot except three sixth-place showings.
-- Who's finishing last? Rutgers got 31 last-place votes (only six ballots had them higher than 7th) ... defending league champ UConn was last on 15 ballots, with Syracuse last on four, Louisville last on three and Cincinnati one.
-- And two of your ballots were frighteningly close to mine -- "assassin61" had picks identical to mine except for Cincy and UConn being flip-flopped at 5th and 6th, and "reddogbluedog" was identical save for Louisville and Cincy being flipped at 6th and 7th. Scary ...