Early Big East predictions for 2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

The 2008 Big East football season is officially in the books. So it's time to look ahead, with some very early predictions for the 2009 season:

1. Uphill climb: For the first time this decade and way before Miami made its run, the Big East won't have a Top 10 team in the preseason polls. Pittsburgh had an outside chance to make it there but ruined that with an unimpressive bowl performance. The league will still be looking for respect at the start of next year without a team that's viewed as elite come late August.

2. Pitt is it: Pittsburgh will hold off challenges from West Virginia, Rutgers and Cincinnati to win the Big East, assuming LeSean McCoy stays put. The Panthers will need better quarterback play to get it done, but otherwise they have the fewest question marks of any league team going into the offseason.

3. Overhaul in Morgantown: Without Pat White under center anymore, the West Virginia offense will hardly resemble the zone-read option attack formulated under Rich Rodriguez. The Mountaineers will go to more of a true passing-based offense with the strong armed Jarrett Brown at the controls. Look for more multiple-receiver sets and fewer quarterback keepers.

4. Doug Marrone will be a hit: The first-year Syracuse coach has already impressed fans with his unending enthusiasm for his alma mater. With a more dynamic offense and some key returnees on defense, he'll have a promising first season at the helm. We're not talking eight or nine wins here, but he could notch four or five. And most importantly, the Orange won't finish last in the Big East because ...

5. Louisville lags behind: Things will get worse before they get better for Steve Kragthorpe's team. With a severe talent deficit and road trips to West Virginia, Cincinnati, South Florida, Kentucky and Utah, the Cardinals will struggle to match this year's 5-7 record.