<
>

Fans make their teams' case

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
With the Big East so wide open and every team feeling like it has a chance, I asked my dear readers to make their team's case this week. I got replies for every team except Rutgers. I guess Scarlet Knights fans can't muster enough optimism after their 1-4 start. Anyway, here are the best of the responses (one per team):

Pittsburgh

Marc from Waynesburg writes: Pitt will win the Big East. Pitt has the most talent and complete team along with USF, but now Pitt owns the tiebreaker and thus has the clearest road to the BE championship. Pitt is deeper and more talented than the rest of the league (excluding USF) with the exception of quarterback. With Stull making his 6th start and the receivers getting more time to work with Stull the passing game should improve. Last year with any passing game we would have been a bowl team. I am now uncertain about Wannstedt and I feel that maybe the conservative game plan was the lack of trust in the QB as turnovers have hurt Pitt as much as the teams they play. With the agressive game plan against USF and the success it brought I think we will start to see a new Pitt team that is not afraid to take a few chances and keep other teams unbalanced and thus the Pitt defense will continue to improve as they are getting some rest while Pitt is enjoying a T.O.P. advantage.

Connecticut

Chris from Wallingford, Conn., writes: UConn's case is as good as anyone's for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, they probably have the best running game/defense combo in the league. It's an absolute joke that Donald Brown is not being mentioned in the same breath as Javon Ringer. Their ground game can control the game like no other team in the Big East. Is their defense the best in the leauge? Maybe not, but it's certainly one of the top 3. So, by far the top running game and a top 3 defense gives them as good a chance as anyone. Another important thing to look at is the remaining schedule. The Huskies remaining road games are against Rutgers, 'Cuse, and USF. They should win 2 of those. They play most of the tougher teams in the league at home (Cincy, WVU, and Pitt). If they go 2-1 in those games, they're likely staring at 5-2 in the league, which just may be good enough in the mess that is the Big East this year.

West Virginia

Rob from Pittsburgh writes: WVU...the reasons are simple: 1. They have an outstanding leader and athlete at quarterback in Pat White who has already experienced winning the Big East more than once. 2. Even though they have struggled a bit and lost a couple of games that they shouldn't have, don't lose sight of the fact that they have, for the most part, undergone a complete coaching staff transition. The impact of this cannot be underestimated but it seems that the coaches are getting better coaching as a team and the players are starting to get a handle on the new verbiage and signals. 3. Though starting 7 freshmen on defense, it seems that this side of the ball is getting better and better and the offense will not continue to struggle forever. Makes sense to me...it sure will be interesting though!

South Florida

Jarrod from Tampa writes: I understand USF has played less than mediocre in multiple games (Pitt, FIU, and UCF) but they have shown how talented they are at the same time. Barring anymore serious injuries and assuming Jim Leavitt can set them straight, I think USF can win out the rest of the season. UConn at home and WVU playing less than stellar this year it is conceivable. But the real question is could they compete in a BCS game?

Cincinnati

Jonathan from Cincinnati writes: The Bearcats will win the Big East for three big reasons. 1) Favorable schedule: UC will host USF, who they always seem to matchup well against, and Pitt, who UC has never beaten but could be due for a Wannie screwup. They do have to travel to Morgantown and Louisville, but my second point should clear up why they will win those games. 2) Fantastic Coaching: Brian Kelly is making a great pitch for National Coach of the Year, getting his team through multiple injuries at QB. They also don't allow this team to have letdowns or look-aheads past so-called weaker opponents. 3) Heart: This team has so much positive energy and desire to win, combined with a ton of experience defensively, they find ways to win games and beat down the competition. Hopefully everyone can agree with me and see that the Cincinnati Bearcats are the favorite to win the Big East Championship!

Louisville

Logan from Louisville writes: If our Cardinals had finished off the Huskies last week it would have been a lot easier to defend the claim that Louisville might win the Big East, wouldn't it? However, I still see a lot of potential with a vastly improved defense and a great combination of power and speed in the running game. Having played with him in high school a couple of years, I know Hunter Cantwell can be absolutely stunning when healthy. It should be interesting to see how he does with Scott Long returning and a healthy offensive line. Louisville plays two very winnable nonconference games next, so maybe they can build momentum going into the South Florida game. You would expect them to collect wins against Syracuse and Rutgers as well. So their league position will largely come down to the games against Pitt, WVU, and Cincy with the latter two coming at home. Right now the Cards should be thinking, "Why not us?"

Syracuse

Unknown Optimist from Atlanta writes: We hung with Pitt, who beat USF. Pitt will stumble because that is what they do very well. WVU's two losses were against teams with ball control games and SU has an outstanding group of backs that will keep White and Co. off the field. Plus we are coming off a bye week so we are fresh. Going off of that we only have two games in October so we'll be ready for a November run. "The Express" movie is premiering and that is the edge our players need mentally. USF is beat up on the defensive line so SU will ball control and run on them. UConn showed they are just above 1-AA with their schedule and SU's only win is against 1-AA Northeastern at this time. Rutgers is of old and we will go back in time and beat them straight up. Every team in every conference always struggles with someone (i.e. Oregon ST. is USC's thorn). SU has Louisville's number and on paper they should win, but in the Dome in front of parents and friends we just know how to beat them. Cincy is the tough one. SU's defense line is horrible, but they are on QB No. 4 or 5 or something like that so that equalizes. Our passing will kick in to compliment our running and did I mention we will have a new coach announced by then? This new coach factor is HUGE. Look at Ron Zook's run at Florida as a lame duck coach. The pressure is off, they become more loose. Robinson will go for broke, become more creative, shed his boring NFL coaching style and ask himself why he didn't do it earlier.