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Five things to watch in the Big East this season

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Here are five key issues to watch in the Big East this season:

1. Quarterback quandaries: Outside of South Florida, Cincinnati and West Virginia, every Big East team has a pressing quarterback issue. Greg Paulus will draw national attention as he tries to go from the hardwood to the gridiron at Syracuse. Bill Stull will be on a short leash on a talented Pitt team. Rutgers will have to decide if freshman Tom Savage is ready. Louisville has two guys who might battle all season in Justin Burke and Adam Froman. Connecticut needs Zach Frazer to take the reins of a new offense, with Cody Endres right behind. All the situations will be fascinating to watch, and there could be several quarterback controversies during the year.

2. West Virginia's short game: Ever since the 2008 season ended, Bill Stewart has emphasized the need for the Mountaineers to get tougher. That's because they had trouble converting several key short-yardage downs last year that may have cost them a game or two. They've worked on it all spring and summer, and fullback Ryan Clarke might be the power back they've been missing. But West Virginia still needs to prove it can convert a crucial third-and-one. If not, all the speedy skill players in the world won't help.

3. Cincinnati's new 10-spot: The defending Big East champs are in a better position to replace 10 defensive starters than most pundits give them credit for, thanks to solid depth and experienced reserves from last year. Still, there's no guarantee that the new guys perform as well as their predecessors under the lights, especially with a new coordinator and a new 3-4 base formation. We should know pretty early how this will play out, as the Bearcats have to open at Rutgers.

4. UConn's extreme makeover: The last few years, Connecticut has used a buttoned-down, conservative style on offense, heavily relying on the running game and passing only as a change of pace. So it will be a pretty drastic overhaul when the Huskies come out running a no-huddle, high-paced attack under new coordinator Joe Moorhead. It may either work brilliantly, allowing UConn to take the next step in its ascension as a program or the team may prove not to have the adequate weapons at receiver to make it work. Either way, things won't be boring.

5. The quest for respect: With the Big East starting the season with no teams in either Top 25, the pressure is on the league to play well in its nonconference games. There are some big ones this year, including but not limited to South Florida's showdowns with Miami and Florida State; Cincinnati's tussles with Oregon State and Illinois; West Virginia taking on Auburn and Colorado; Pitt playing Notre Dame and NC State; and Connecticut facing North Carolina and Baylor. The Big East simply needs to score some victories in those matchups to keep the critics at bay.