- Andrea Adelson, College Football
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Plenty can happen in a month. Just ask Rutgers. So with that, we are taking another stab at our way-too-early 2012 power rankings. These are subject to change after spring practice and again before the season starts, but it's never too early to let the debate begin.
Only one change since the first version after the national championship game -- I swapped Louisville and Rutgers.
1. West Virginia:* Every day it seems more apparent that the Mountaineers will do whatever it takes to get into the Big 12 for the 2012 season. But if they are held up in the Big East, they'll be the consensus preseason pick to win the league.
2. Louisville: I moved the Cardinals up from No. 3 to No. 2 based primarily on the upheaval with the Scarlet Knights. As you have seen me say already many times, I think Louisville and Rutgers will be the top two contenders to win the Big East if West Virginia leaves.
3. Rutgers: I still think the Scarlet Knights have an excellent shot to contend for a title, but now there is more uncertainty surrounding this team than there was in January with former coach Greg Schiano gone. I think Kyle Flood can keep the train going, but there are still questions at quarterback and about who will run the defense -- and whether he will be as good as Schiano was in 2011.
4. Cincinnati: I know Bearcats fans continue to harp on the "keep doubting us" mantra, but there is no denying this team is losing a good chunk of its starters and will be one of the least experienced teams in all of college football next season. There is talent, but how does everybody come together?
5. South Florida: The Bulls will have one of the most experienced teams in college football. This should be the year they seriously contend for a Big East title because of all the players coming back. Plus, they made some good junior college pickups and signed several players who can contribute immediately. But they have to show me something before I start bragging about them.
6. Pittsburgh: There are many question marks, even with a terrific signing class. Who is going to be quarterback? Will the offensive line be better? How will the young defense do? How does Ray Graham look in his return from a major knee injury? How will a first-year coach do? The Panthers will be very interesting to watch during the spring and fall.
7. Connecticut: Of all the teams in the league, I think the Huskies have the potential to surprise. They should be better on defense; they get D.J. Shoemate back; and they have signed the best player in Connecticut at quarterback. But relying on a true freshman is always a mixed bag. I will watch this team closely to see how it does in Year 2 under Paul Pasqualoni.
8. Syracuse: The Orange ended on the bottom at 2011, so they start at the bottom for 2012. You will remember I did that with Rutgers and was dead wrong. But this team has many more questions -- receiving depth looks thin; how will the running back rotation go; who steps up in the secondary and defensive line? I want to see those questions answered in the spring and fall.