Pitt picked to win Big East; Bulls picked sixth
NEWPORT, R.I. -- The Big East has released its preseason football media poll, with Pittsburgh a nearly unanimous pick to win the league and USF picked to finish sixth in Skip Holtz' first season.
The Panthers, who barely lost last year's conference crown to Cincinnati on the final weekend of the season, got 22 of 24 first-place votes, with West Virginia and Cincinnati tying for second place. Connecticut and Rutgers follow, then USF in sixth, and in something of an upset, Syracuse edged Louisville by a single vote-point to take seventh.
1. Pittsburgh (22) 190
2t. Cincinnati 142
2t. West Virginia (1) 142
4. Connecticut (1) 131
5. Rutgers 99
6. USF 79
7. Syracuse 41
8. Louisville 40
For USF, the preseason media vote is one spot short of the lowest expectation in the Bulls' six seasons in the Big East. The Bulls were picked fourth last year, second in 2008, fourth in 2007, fifth in 2006 and seventh in 2005. I put USF fourth on my ballot for this poll, anticipating a 4-3 league record, and you guys had the Bulls fourth in your collective preseason picks as well.
The Bulls lost a team-record five draft picks in April, leaving major holes to fill on defense. There is optimism surrounding new coach Skip Holtz, but the league's media members clearly think it will be another year before USF can make a move in the standings. The sixth-place showing is essentially where the Bulls finished in 2009 in Jim Leavitt's final season, ending in a three-way tie for fourth, but having lost head-to-head matchups with the other teams in the tie, Connecticut and Rutgers, who are directly ahead of them in this year's poll.
And for a little perspective, here are the conference records for all eight teams since USF joined the league in 2005: West Virginia 27-8, Cincinnati 23-12, Rutgers 20-15, Pittsburgh 19-16, USF 17-18, Louisville 16-19, Connecticut 14-21 and Syracuse 4-31. USF's fifth there, but if you look at league records the past three seasons, the Bulls drop to sixth, where they're picked for 2010: Cincinnati is 17-4, West Virginia 15-6, Pitt 13-8, UConn 11-10, Rutgers 11-10, USF 9-12, , Louisville 5-16 and Syracuse 3-18.