Thursday, May 16, 2013
Poll: League darkhorse
By Matt Fortuna
Teddy Bridgewater. Other. Tommy Tuberville.
Now it is time to tell me who you think is the league darkhorse this season.
Louisville is the clear favorite after winning the Big East last season and appearing in most post-spring top-10 polls nationally. Rutgers won a share of the league title last season. Cincinnati did, too, and has won four of the past five, while UCF is widely considered the most ready-made team making the jump from Conference USA.
So we'll cross off those four. Who ya got?
We're not necessarily looking for a team to run the conference table. But challenging for the conference crown or making a surprising leap to a respectable bowl game will do.
Houston: Tony Levine enters his second season at the helm with a pair of new coordinators and arguably the top receiving duo in the conference in Deontay Greenberry and Markeith Ambles. But is there enough under center to get those two the ball where and when they need it? David Piland sits atop the quarterback depth chart, but will be pushed in fall camp.
SMU: The pairing of June Jones and Hal Mumme will make for very interesting theater. The staff has raved about Garrett Gilbert's progress since last season, and that offensive experiment should be nothing short of fascinating to watch. Whether that's in a good or bad way remains to be seen.
UConn: One of the nation's best defenses last season loses four starters to the NFL draft. One of the nation's worst offenses returns all five offensive line starters, its starting quarterback and its top running back after adding a new offensive coordinator. Regardless, anything short of a bowl bid in Year 3 under Paul Pasqualoni after consecutive 5-7 campaigns will be looked at as a disappointment.
USF: The preseason No. 2 team from last season went 1-5 in conference play for the second straight year, and coach Skip Holtz lost his job in the process. New coach Willie Taggart has made a splash throughout Tampa, Fla., upon his arrival. He has a quarterback situation that is less than ideal, but on the other side of the ball welcomes Aaron Lynch, who could be one of the top defensive ends in the nation. Will the process be fast-tracked in Year 1?