Voila: My Big East preseason football ballot
Here it is, folks. I'm on the media panel for the Big East's preseason football poll, and the Times requires that if any writers vote on anything, we disclose our ballots publicly.
What I can say with the most certainty about the Big East in 2009 is that I expect a ridiculous level of parity. First time I went through the schedule, game by game, I had two teams at 5-2 and three at 4-3; the second time, I had a potential four-way tie at 5-2.
The difference between first and fifth place likely will be two games, so I'm almost positive the league will have a championship day of sorts played out on Dec. 5 with three huge games. Enough already, here's the ballot:
1. West Virginia
Here's how close I had it in my last model -- if Rutgers wins at home Dec. 5 against West Virginia, it sets up a four-way tie at 5-2, but I have West Virginia pulling out that game to win the league crown. Couple of thoughts about how I arrived at the ballot:
-- You guys will be disappointed to see USF third, but I have them going 5-2, making them the most improved team in the league standings. My main concern is that USF is 3-7 on the road in the Big East since 2006, so I have them losing two road games, at Rutgers and Pittsburgh. Win one of those and get things done at home, it could be a Big East crown.
-- For West Virginia to win the league, I'm saying that Jarrett Brown is easily the best of the first-year starting quarterbacks, and that Noel Devine will be good for 1,200 yards and a ton of touchdowns. The Mountaineers have 15 returning starters -- only Louisville has more. Bulls fans need the West Virginia-Pittsburgh winner to lose to Cincinnati, making it plausible for a two-loss league champ ...
-- The league schedule is odd, in that you have Cincy at Rutgers right away on Sept. 7 -- I think Cincy outscores Rutgers in that one before the Knights can get comfy with a new quarterback. But then there's not a significant league game until Oct. 15, when USF gets Cincy at home on a Thursday night.
-- The crux of USF's season? It's a three-game stretch in late October -- home against Cincy, at Pittsburgh and home against West Virginia. If the Bulls swept all three, they'd have huge momentum and a week off before going to Rutgers.
-- Again, that last weekend is huge. West Virginia at Rutgers, USF at Connecticut and Cincinnati at Pittsburgh. I'll be amazed if the league title isn't handed out that day, with USF in contention.