The Big East Conference enters 2012 season with more questions than answers as conference realignment saw the West Virginia Mountaineers move to the Big 12 and the return of the Temple Owls. (In 2013, Pittsburgh and Syracuse will leave for the ACC. Boise State, Houston, Central Florida, SMU, San Diego State and Memphis will join the conference.)
Only the Louisville Cardinals cracked the preseason AP Top 25 (ranked 25th) as the conference tries to prove its worth to doubters around the nation.
One thing is for certain: the Big East is wide open heading into this season, with no team finishing worse than 5-7 in 2011.
Here are 10 statistics that may help sort out the top of the conference:
1. Temple returns to the Big East after leaving the conference in 2004. In 14 seasons in the Big East from 1991-2004, Temple managed just 30 wins in 156 games.
2. Despite finishing 5-7 last season, the South Florida Bulls outgained their opponents by an average of 81.4 yards per game, tops among all current Big East teams.
3. The team with the worst yards per game margin was the Connecticut Huskies (-53.5). After ranking at the top of the Big East in rushing yards per game from 2008-2010 (187.3), the Huskies managed just 118.5 per game in 2011. That ranked seventh in the eight-team conference.
4. After starting the season 4-0, USF lost seven of its last eight games. Four of South Florida’s losses (Cincinnati, Rutgers, Miami and West Virginia) occurred in the final seconds or overtime. According to the number of points that South Florida scored and allowed throughout the season, the Bulls should have won 2.6 more games using the logic based upon Bill James' "Pythagorean Win Percentage" for baseball.
5. Louisville also struggled in close games. All six of the Cardinals’ losses last season came by nine points or fewer, tied for the most losses by single digits last season with Central Florida, Miami (FL) and Ohio State.
6. Since 2007, the Cincinnati Bearcats have had four seasons of at least 10 wins. The rest of the teams in the Big East have combined for three.
7. Over the last three seasons, Cincinnati ranked first in the Big East in points per game, total yards per game, yards per play and touchdowns.
8. Despite Cincinnati’s offensive dominance, the Pittsburgh Panthers are the only current Big East team with a winning conference record in each of the last four seasons.
9. Over the last seven years, the Syracuse Orange are 5-22 in regular-season games played in November and December (0-4 last season). That is the worst win percentage among current Big East teams, and the seventh-worst in FBS.
10. The Rutgers Scarlet Knights are the beneficiary of one of the best schedule stretches of any team in college football this season. Following a Sept. 22 game at Arkansas, Rutgers will play on the road just once over the next 55 days. That's nearly two months! And that one road game is at Temple, which is approximately 65 miles from the Rutgers campus.