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Thursday, February 14, 2013
Meet the new Big East members

By Andrea Adelson

Conference switch-over day is here for the Big East blog. Even though UCF, Houston, Memphis and SMU won't become official league members until July 1, we are going to begin covering them in this space starting today. Syracuse and Pitt already have been welcomed to the ACC blog.

Now, this configuration is good only for 2013. In 2014, East Carolina and Tulane join, while Louisville (ACC) and Rutgers (Big Ten) are expected to depart. Navy joins as a football-only member in 2015.

So now it's our turn to welcome the four teams that will join Cincinnati, UConn, Louisville, Rutgers, USF and Temple in 2013.

Here is a brief snapshot of each.

UCF Knights

2012 record: 10-4

Bowl appearances: Five

Key losses: Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year Kemal Ishmael (124 tackles, three INTs); C-USA Special Teams Player of the Year Quincy McDuffie (1,102 all-purpose yards, nine TDs); running back Latavius Murray (1,106 yards, 15 TDs); center Jordan Rae; defensive lineman Troy Davis (eight sacks, 11.5 TFL)

Key returners: Quarterback Blake Bortles (3,059 yards passing, 25 TDs, 7 INTs); running back Storm Johnson (507 yards rushing, four TDs); receiver Breshad Perriman (388 yards, three TDs, C-USA all-freshman team); safety Clayton Geathers (117 tackles); defensive tackle Thomas Niles (five sacks, seven TFL)

What they bring to the Big East: UCF adds another presence in Florida and perhaps just as important, brings an automatic rivalry headliner to a league in desperate need of one. USF and UCF will revive their "War on I-4" rivalry in Orlando, with the Knights hoping to beat the Bulls for the first time.

Did you know: UCF's fall 2012 enrollment was 59,767, making it the second-largest university in the country behind Arizona State.

Houston Cougars

2012 record: 5-7

Bowl appearances: 21

Key losses: Offensive lineman Jacolby Ashworth; linebacker Phillip Steward (128 tackles, 11 sacks, 19.5 TFL); defensive back D.J. Hayden (61 tackles, 4 INTs, 12 passes defended); linebacker Everett Daniels (112 tackles, 5 sacks, 10.5 TFL)

Key returners: Quarterback David Piland (2,944 yards passing, 16 TDs, 12 INTs); running back Charles Sims (851 yards rushing, 11 TDs; 373 yards receiving, 3 TDs); receiver Deontay Greenberry (569 yards receiving, three TDs); receiver Dewayne Peace (603 yards receiving, two TDs); linebacker Derrick Mathews (126 tackles, 17 TFL)

What they bring to the Big East: Entry into Texas, and also one of the more solid non-automatic qualifying conference programs. Though last season was a down one, Houston nearly got into the BCS in 2011, finishing with 13 wins. The Cougars made five straight bowl trips (2005-09).

Did you know: Houston returns 43 of its 71 letter winners from the 2012 roster, 21 each on offense and defense and one on special teams.

Memphis Tigers

2012 record: 4-8

Bowl appearances: Six

Key losses: Left tackle Jordan Devey; receiver Marcus Rucker (525 yards receiving, three TDs); linebacker Akeem Davis (68 tackles); safety Cannon Smith (50 tackles)

Key returners: Quarterback Jacob Karam (1,895 yards passing, 14 TDs, 3 INTs); running back Brandon Hayes (576 yards rushing, six TDs); receiver Keiwone Malone (476 yards, three TDs); defensive lineman Johnnie Farms (38 tackles, 9.5 TFL); defensive lineman Martin Ifedi (7.5 sacks, 11 TFL)

What they bring to the Big East: Memphis initially was added in large part because of its successful basketball program, which would lessen somewhat the impact of losing Pitt, Syracuse and West Virginia. But the football-basketball split has made that point meaningless. At least the Tigers were improved in 2012, a big change from recent history, when it was one of the worst teams in college football.

Did you know: Memphis ended the season on a three-game winning streak for the first time since 2007.

SMU Mustangs

2012 record: 7-6

Bowl appearances: 15

Key losses: C-USA Offensive Player of the Year Zach Line (1,278 yards rushing, 13 TDs); defensive end Margus Hunt (eight sacks, 11.5 TFLs); linebacker Ja'Gared Davis (77 tackles, 11 TFLs); receiver Darius Johnson (787 yards receiving, five TDs); linebacker Taylor Reed (97 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 14.5 TFL)

Key returners: Quarterback Garrett Gilbert (2,932 yards, 15 TDs, 15 INTs); defensive back Kenneth Acker Jr. (50 tackles, 15 passes defended); receiver Jeremy Johnson (679 yards receiving, three TDs); linebacker Randall Joyner (93 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 8 passes defended)

What they bring to the Big East: Houston and SMU make a nice pair from Texas as the western-most programs in the league. SMU has gotten itself back to respectability after the death penalty sent the program into the doldrums. June Jones is one of the savviest offensive minds in the game, so the Mustangs are sure to bring a little razzle-dazzle to a league that is generally dominated by defense.

Did you know: SMU just played in its school-record fourth straight bowl game, and has posted back-to-back bowl wins for the first time in school history.