<
>

Top duos in the Big East

Tavon Austin (1) and Geno Smith (12) are on the watch list for the inaugural Pony Express Award. David Butler II/US Presswire

Eric Dickerson and Craig James formed the "Pony Express" in their SMU days, a dynamic duo that will forever stand as one of the best in college football history.

Now the two are teaming up for the inaugural Pony Express Award, which will honor the top two- and three-player tandems from across the nation. According to the press release, the top tandem or trio will be honored for their "work ethic, desire, on- and off-field leadership and playmaking ability to best fuel their team."

The West Virginia duo of Geno Smith and Tavon Austin is the only Big East representative on the list. Understandably, expectations are high for Smith to have a 3,000-yard season and Austin to have a 1,000-yard season under new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen.

But I am surprised that the Cincinnati tandem of Zach Collaros and Isaiah Pead are not at least on the watch list. Collaros threw for 2,902 yards last season en route making the Big East first team at quarterback. Pead ran for 1,209 yards and made the second team at running back. You could even extend this out to a trio of Collaros, Pead and D.J. Woods, in line for a 1,000-yard season with the departure of Armon Binns.

Others from the Big East who deserve mention:

West Virginia defensive ends Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller. Irvin ranked No. 2 in the nation last season with 14 sacks, and Miller added nine, making them one of the top sack duos in the nation. They both ranked in the top 30 in the NCAA stats.

Others with potential:

Kendall Reyes, Jesse Joseph, Connecticut. Reyes put together a good season in 2010, making the All-Big East first team with 10 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks, while Joseph led the team with 8.5 sacks.

Victor Anderson, Jeremy Wright, Louisville. No question Bilal Powell leaves big shoes to fill for the Cardinals, and it might take two running backs to fill them. Anderson had a nice spring as he attempts to overcome injuries that have slowed his progress. Wright was out for the spring game with a sports hernia. Though he is not fully recovered yet, he is expected to be healthy in time for spring practice.

Tino Sunseri, Ray Graham and Mike Shanahan, Pittsburgh. If Todd Graham can get the same results in his first year at Pitt that he did at Tulsa, then there is the potential for 3,000 yards from Sunseri and 1,000 yards each from Graham and Shanahan. Last season, Tulsa ranked No. 5 in the nation in total offense, No. 13 in passing offense and No. 15 in rushing offense.

Chas Dodd, Mark Harrison, Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers. With all the talent the Scarlet Knights have at the skill positions, there is the potential for a solid season. You can add Savon Huggins to the list, but that all depends on how he performs during fall practice.

Mikhail Marinovich, Chandler Jones, Syracuse. The two defensive ends return to their starting positions and have a chance to become leaders on defense and wreak more havoc than last season. Jones was an All-Big East second-team selection last season.

B.J. Daniels, Darrell Scott, USF. Daniels finished last season much better than he started, and expectations are for him to pick up where he left off. If Scott can come in and contribute the way many anticipate, this could be one of the best tandems in the league.