While you were out enjoying July 4, ESPN Insider began its Blue Ribbon preview series with the Big East. Insider teamed with the Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook for a comprehensive look at every team in the nation. You need an Insider subscription to read each preview, which includes information on offense, defense, special teams, newcomers and analysis.
I am providing you a paragraph of analysis so you can get just a little glimpse about what is being said about each Big East team. And in case you missed it, here are my two impact Big East games.
Cincinnati: One of the good things about being in the Big East is that there is no monster team capable of dominating the league. If the Bearcats make a modest improvement, they'll find themselves in position to grab a bowl berth and maybe even make a run at the top of the conference. There is still plenty of work to do, and Cincinnati needs another couple recruiting classes to create the depth and competition necessary to contend perennially, but things look good.
Connecticut: Working in their favor are a veteran defense and a friendly early-season schedule that will buy them some time to find the right weapons. With the Big East down, the Huskies could remain a major player while rebuilding their offense. But they'll have to find some playmakers to do it.
Louisville: (Charlie) Strong authored a good start to his tenure. Now, he must begin the hard business of building continuity and making progress. There is talent on this team, but its youth and inability to lead right now could make for some rough spots throughout the year. Louisville is headed in the right direction under Strong, even if this year's record might not reinforce that statement.
Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh is taking a chance by surrendering the reliability of (Dave) Wannstedt for the potential of (Todd) Graham. But the goal is a championship, not just a bowl berth, and the school believes Graham is better suited for that pursuit than was his predecessor. (It also thought (Mike) Haywood was more likely to achieve that.) We'll find out soon if change is a good thing for the Panthers.
Rutgers: In the end, Rutgers' success may hinge on one factor: "How well we are able to run the football,'' (Greg) Schiano said. "I know we'll be able to throw it.'' The feeling here is that Rutgers will fare much better than 2010, but there are too many "ifs" to project the Scarlet Knights as anything more than an upper-tier Big East team. A conference title would be a surprise.
Syracuse: Syracuse plays in a competitive but non-dominant Big East. It wouldn't be a shock if the Orange competed for the conference crown, but it also wouldn't be a surprise if it remained in the middle of the pack. ... Syracuse won't have the surprise factor working this time around, but it will have the confidence born from last year's 8-5 team. The Orange may not reach the Big East penthouse this season, but it won't fall back into the cellar, either.
USF: The race for the title should be pretty interesting, and it's possible five wins might take it. USF can't be considered a favorite, because there are too many variables that can cause worry, but the Bulls have the potential to be a solid team and should play in another bowl. Whether that is of the BCS variety depends on how well the second 22 fortify the starters.
West Virginia: If the Mountaineers can develop depth at the front end of the 3-3 Stack, they'll be in good shape. If not, get ready for a season of arena football. No matter what happens on the field, there will be plenty to watch and consider off it. The Mountaineers hope the soap opera ended in June, but situations like this tend to have plenty of action in the sequels.