Big East Title - Up For Grabs Once Again
By Jeff Frank
Sports Analyst, Inside the Numbers
Let's Be Frank
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There has been a three-way tie for first- place in the Big East each of the last two seasons. That may or may not happen in 2012, but one thing is for certain: any one of last year's seven members has a chance to be crowned king of the conference. The winner will be a squad that has yet to take home the title of Big East champions.
Time now to take a team-by-team look at the league with predicted SU overall and conference records for those wagering on over/unders for total victories.
8) TEMPLE (30-1) - The Owls are 15-2 ATS in non- conference games the last four years.
Offense - The Owls return just two full-time starters from last season. Nevertheless, they do bring in Montel Harris, Boston College's all-time leading rusher to help offset the loss of Bernard Pierce.
Defense - Temple gave up just 16 ppg in the MAC, one point fewer than in 2010. However, the defense allowed almost a full yard more per play. With the loss of their top four tacklers, along with the move to the Big East, the Owls will see a huge rise in their defensive numbers.
Prediction - Temple has finished above .500 ATS each of the last five seasons. That won't be the case in 2012 (3-8, 2-5).
7) CONNECTICUT (20-1) - The Huskies are 13-2 ATS as home underdogs the last seven years.
Offense - Last year's offense was extremely similar to the 2010 version except the offensive line allowed 41 sacks compared to 15 the season before. If the line improves and a new quarterback emerges this offense will surprise.
Defense - The defense allowed 29 ppg in league play last year even though the team ranked 3rd nationally against the run. This year the line loses both tackles so the rush numbers will rise.
Prediction - The Huskies will improve on last year's 4-8 ATS mark (5-7, 3-4).
6) CINCINNATI (9-2) - The Bearcats are 5-9 ATS in Big East play the last two years.
Offense - The offense averaged 33 ppg last season but only 25 inside the conference. That Big East number could even be less in 2012 with the loss of seven starters.
Defense - The defense chopped off 12 points from 2010 allowing just 22 ppg in league play last year. However, the unit gave up only 11 fewer yards per game. Four of the top seven tacklers depart, including the leading tackler and both interior linemen.
Prediction - One year after having one of the biggest turnarounds in college football, the Bearcats will have a disappointing campaign - both SU and ATS (7-5, 3-4).
5) SYRACUSE (25-1) - The Orange is 4-11 ATS off a SU win the last three years.
Offense - The Orange had its finest offensive output since 2003. Look for the club to maintain that number even with the loss of running back Antwon Bailey.
Defense - Last year's defense allowed 27 points or more in nine of the 12 games compared to just three in 13 contests the year before. Expect the unit to be much stronger this season with the additions of junior college transfers to solidify the defensive line.
Prediction - Syracuse will have a much better ATS record than last year's 3-9 mark (6-6, 3-4).
4) RUTGERS (5-1) - The Scarlet Knights are 12-6 as road underdogs the last six years.
Offense - The offense ranked 118th nationally with 2.75 yards per carry, just one year after going for 2.72. If the offensive line does not improve, it will be difficult for this offense to mount a threat, especially with the loss of Mohamed Sanu, who accounted for almost 50 percent of the team's receptions.
Defense - Rutgers led the league in both scoring and total defense with just four of its top 10 tacklers back from 2010. This year, nine of the top 11 return, which will keep the Scarlet Knights in the running for top defensive honors.
Prediction - Rutgers will not sneak up on anyone this season so its 8-4 ATS record will tumble down (8-4, 4-3).
3) PITTSBURGH (11-2) - The Panthers are 10-3-2 as road underdogs the last five years.
Offense - Last year was a disaster as the offensive line allowed 64 sacks. Still, the team managed to average the same 27 points per game in league play it did in 2010. With a healthy Ray Graham, look for the Panthers to reach the 30-point mark that eluded them last year.
Defense - Pittsburgh has allowed 24 ppg or fewer every year since 2000. It might be a struggle to keep that streak intact with a very young and inexperienced front seven.
Prediction - The Panthers finished 8-4 to the under last season. They will have many more overs this year (7-5, 4-3).
2) LOUISVILLE (2-1) - The Cardinals are 8-1 as road underdogs the last two years.
Offense - The Cardinals averaged 28.5 ppg over their last six games after going for just 16 in their first seven. However, they only averaged 12 more yards per game in those final six contests. If Teddy Bridgewater can cut down on his interceptions, the offense will remain strong.
Defense - Louisville's defense has been outstanding under Charlie Strong and this year's group should continue that tradition.
Prediction - This is the Cardinals most experienced team since 2004 when they went 11-1. However, the extra hype will prevent a solid ATS record (8-4, 4-3).
1) SOUTH FLORIDA (7-2) - The Bulls are 8-3 ATS as road underdogs but 5-12 as road favorites the last five years.
Offense - The Bulls improved from 24 ppg to 29 even with just four returning starters. This year eight come back to Tampa, which means another big boost in scoring.
Defense - South Florida allowed 28 ppg in league play last season. The last time that happened the number dropped to 21 the following season. Look for the Bulls to lead the league in most defensive categories.
Prediction - South Florida is a vastly improved team from a year ago, which will translate into more SU and ATS victories, including the game versus Florida State (10-2, 5-2).