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Friday mailbag

6/26/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
Happy Friday, everybody. Let's get to some e-mails as I listen to Michael Jackson songs on Pandora.

Manny from East Brunswick, N.J. writes: Taking a look at schedules, I noticed there's a very good chance that both Rutgers and WVU will be favored in all of their out of conference games. I understand Rutgers goes to Maryland and WVU goes to Auburn (the two toughest games), but I still think the Big East teams will be favored in each.This might be a "rebuilding season," but maybe we'll see another 2006-like year where some surprising teams pull off wins in the double digits. Rutgers and WVU seem like prime candidates.

Brian Bennett: I actually think there's a decent chance, assuming that they get off to a good start, that Rutgers will be favored in every game it plays this year, including Big East games. A nine- or 10-win season is a real possibility for the Scarlet Knights. As for West Virginia, I think the Mountaineers' nonconference schedule is a little tougher that you may realize. Winning at Auburn won't be easy even if the Tigers are rebuilding under a new coaching staff. And East Carolina and Colorado, both of which beat West Virginia last year, won't be pushovers, though both games are in Morgantown.


Ken from Philadelphia writes: Why is it that Virginia Tech can get such a high ranking without a passing game but well-rounded Big East teams (WVU, Cincy) can't crack the Top 25? I think people are higher on Jarrett Brown than they should be but he can throw. Cincy might be replacing a lot of defenders, but as we saw last year with UConn, if the quarterback has zero ability to throw and your best reciever is your fullback, even if the rest of your team is very good you can't consistently win much less be ranked in the top 25.

Brian Bennett: Well, first of all, the Hokies return 15 starters off their ACC and Orange Bowl championship team that dusted Cincinnati in Miami. And Frank Beamer has rarely had a high-powered passing game; his teams usually rely on running the ball, stout defense and terrific special teams. Virginia Tech seems to have a lot fewer question marks overall than Cincinnati, West Virginia or any other Big East team right now. So the preseason rankings are fair. That doesn't mean that the Hokies will necessarily be better than those teams in the end, but they've earned the right to some respect.


Ian Sowers from Lone Pine, Pa., writes: As a Pitt fan, there is much concern to everyone about our starting QB position. Do you think Kolby Gray out of Texas could come in and make an impression and start?

Brian Bennett: I don't yet have an impression of Gray since I haven't seen him in a college setting. But, as I've said earlier, I'd be stunned if Dave Wannstedt were to start a true freshman at quarterback over two experienced players and Tino Sunseri. Unless Gray is the next Dan Marino, I don't see it happening.


John from Saylorsburg, Pa., writes: Since the Big 12 and SEC only play eight teams in their own league each year and they say how much the Big East sucks (their term), how about those conferences play the Big East teams on a home-and-home basis each year. ... Make it fun. Tennessee vs. Pitt, LSU vs. WVU, UConn vs. South Carolina, USF vs Florida, Louisville vs. Kentucky, Rutgers vs. Alabama, Syracuse vs. Vanderbilt, and Cincinnati vs. Georgia every year in both sports. ... There is a time in the basketball and football seasons when they overlap. This would be a perfect time to hold this challenge, both basketball and football teams could travel together and have a doubleheader thus making both football and basketball schedules easier to schedule.

Brian Bennett: Sounds great in theory, but most SEC schools aren't going to travel for nonconference games except for maybe one high-profile opponent every other year. The Big East is barely a blip on the SEC's radar screen. Fun to think about, though.


Kit from Morgantown, W.Va. writes: Hey, Brian! I just came up with an idea while reading your mailbag. Everyone knows there is not one dominant team in the Big East. (Well, I would disagree and say WVU is, but I'm a homer like most WVU fans). So what's to stop the Big East with having a tournament, not just a championship game, to decide its champ? The top four teams make it and play it out. It's only two games to win it. You could take away trying to schedule a FCS school, have the extra game playing in the first round then have your championship game as the 13th like the "superconferences" have. ... Heck, you could even put all eight Big East teams in if you wanted. I think this would add excitment to the season and not rely on 15 tiebreaker rules to determine the BCS representative. Maybe it would get the NCAA working on a playoff ... any thoughts?
Brian Bennett: Kit, I think you're living in an alternate universe. But don't stop believing.