- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
I am determined to do better at predictions than last year, when I got off to a slow start and never fully recovered. Given the parity in the Big East this season, that's not going to be easy. But I never back down from a challenge.
Presenting the first picks of the 2009 season:
Minnesota 27, Syracuse 14: It would be quite a story if Greg Paulus can lead the Orange to victory at home in his first collegiate appearance. Unfortunately, this isn't a movie, and I don't think this story ends happily for Syracuse.
Connecticut 28, Ohio 17: This road game for the Huskies presents the biggest chance for a Week 1 upset, which the Big East definitely does not need. Randy Edsall probably would rather not have to unveil his new offense on the road. It should be close for a while, but UConn has the better athletes.
South Florida 33, Wofford 12: Wofford's quirky "Wingbone" offense could make this game interesting. But the Bulls are usually really strong out of the gate, especially at home. Matt Grothe will have a big game as South Florida builds a quick early lead and cruises from there.
West Virginia 45, Liberty 14: The Mountaineers' offense shouldn't have any trouble scoring points in this one, and the defense will be motivated to avoid the letdowns it had in last year's opener against Villanova. This will be an easy tuneup for East Carolina.
Pittsburgh 35, Youngstown State 13: Unless Jim Tressel comes back to coach Youngstown State, the Penguins won't have enough firepower to hang with the Panthers. Yes, Pitt sometimes slips up early in the year, but its defense should be overpowering in this one.
Louisville 59, Indiana State 10: Anything less than a six-touchdown win for the Cardinals should be cause for an immediate investigation. No way this one should ever be close.
Rutgers 24, Cincinnati 21: The Bearcats have won three straight against Rutgers, are the defending Big East champions and have an established quarterback while the Scarlet Knights do not. But I'm on the record picking Rutgers to win the league, so I've got to stick with it for at least a week, right? I'm not so sure where the points are going to come from for the Scarlet Knights, but Greg Schiano's defense will slow down Tony Pike and Co. enough to pull out the win before the largest home crowd in school history.