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Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Big East mailblog: Watch for Pitt?

By Andrea Adelson
ESPN.com

Welcome to another midweek mailbag! Lots of questions about the Big East preseason media poll. For the record, here was my ballot. Same order as the official poll.

1. Louisville
2. USF
3. Rutgers
4. Cincinnati
5. Pitt
6. UConn
7. Syracuse
8. Temple

Now on to the questions.

Conj Unto in Pittsburgh writes: According to preseason (media day) votes, Louisville should run away with the Big East title. I really cannot see any team being head and shoulders above my Panthers. Do you think they have a legit shot to win the Big East? We beat them last year.

Patrick in Monterey, Calif., writes:The Big East is way too wide open to call. But I'd say Pitt is severely overlooked because of last year's disaster. Pitt still has one of the bast backfields in the nation. The O-Line can't be anything but improved this year. Same with Tino. And the receivers haven't really changed, so timing should be pretty solid. Pitt's the real sleeper this year and I honestly won't be surprised if they go 10-2 overall and 6-1 or even 7-0 in the Big East.

Andrea Adelson:I have heard from some within the Big East who also believe Pitt is a sleeper team this year. But I did not leave media day overly encouraged that Ray Graham is going to be running with reckless abandon come the season opener. There is now talk of being cautious, taking things slowly. Both he and coach Paul Chryst did say the plan is for Graham to play Week 1, but there are so many unknowns right now. Not only with him but with: 1) Tino Sunseri; 2) the offensive line; 3) the defensive front, with only Aaron Donald returning to the starting lineup; and 4) the linebackers, not the strongest group for the Panthers. Factor in yet another coaching change, and you see all the questions. I have said this a few times throughout the course of the summer: Pitt could be really, really good; or it could be about the same as last year. Having said that, I do agree there is not one team head and shoulders above the rest in the Big East. There are some really good teams, but no one looks elite headed into the season.


Brendan in Annandale, N.J., writes:Andrea, I am a huge Rutgers fan. I have been one all of my life. In the Big East media preseason poll, Rutgers was picked third. One of the reasons they were not first or second is because of starting quarterback. It doesn't make sense to me because we won last year with two. Why is Rutgers predicted third? And why is USF predicted second? All they have is B.J. Daniels, and we have the best defense in the league. We stopped them last year and we will definitely do it again. Please answer me back. Thanks! 

Adelson:Rutgers needed a colossal fourth-quarter collapse to stop USF last year, right? I honestly believe if Greg Schiano had stayed, Rutgers may very well have been the preseason media choice to win the league. But having a first-time head coach, coupled with major questions on offense, has led voters to go with Louisville and USF ahead. Both of those programs are going into the season with third-year head coaches and established starting quarterbacks. Say what you will about Daniels, but he has won games for USF. Has he lived up to his potential? No. But the expectations are there for that to change this year. You are right that Rutgers has the best D in the league coming back. But Rutgers also had the best D last year and finished behind West Virginia, Louisville and Cincinnati.


Gray Avenger in Memphis writes: Is there any chance that the new bowl to be created for the Big East champion might be in Dallas instead of Florida? That would be a lot more centrally located.

Adelson: No decisions have been made on where the Big East champion will go. That includes where the champ will play, and whether the champ will go to an existing bowl game or if a new one will be created. I think a lot of ideas are being tossed around right now. But I can pretty confidently say the new bowl lineup will feature games beyond the East Coast.


Matt in Plant City, Fla., writes: Andrea, I am completely stunned. What does it mean when USF can not secure high-rated recruits in its own backyard? Even more so, how bad is it that Vernon Hargreaves' dad is a USF coach and his son still spurned the Bulls for the Gators? I'm at a loss for words. As always, great job on the blog. I enjoy reading your updates on a daily basis. Keep up the great work.

Adelson: Thank you, Matt. I think it is much more concerning to lose Tampa recruits to UCF than having Hargreaves pick the Gators. I am not going to fault him for choosing to leave home to play. He and his father maintained throughout the recruiting process that family ties would not factor in, and I respect them both for saying that. Florida plays in a better conference, and he has a better chance at playing on national television every week. It is undeniable the exposure is better, and Florida is the top academic university in the state. But USF has lost several local players to UCF -- including four-star receiver Travis Benjamin -- and that has to hurt way more than losing one to Florida.