Phil Steele picks USF to win Big East

Noted college football guru Phil Steele has made a pretty bold prediction in his 2012 College Football Preview.

Steele says USF will win its first ever Big East title.

I have to say, I am not surprised to see Steele make this pick. As you guys know, I moved USF all the way up to No. 2 in my post-spring power rankings. The more you study what USF has returning, the more you convince yourself this team has a shot at winning a title. Yes, we all know about the history, about stumbling in Big East play and choking away games they should not.

But generally, it is hard to pick against teams with 1) a four-year starter and quarterback; 2) a huge senior class with the potential for at least 15 starters; 3) and a team with four Big East home games. That is the logic Steele has used in making this pick. But more than winning the Big East, Steele also predicts USF will end the season ranked for the first time and be one of the most improved teams in the nation.

He has the Bulls at No. 20 and says, "(Skip) Holtz won two CUSA titles with less talent that he has here."

Steele has two other Big East teams ranked in his Top 40 -- Louisville at No. 34 and Rutgers at No. 40. Steele concedes he may have picked the Scarlet Knights to win the Big East if Greg Schiano had stayed on instead of leaving for the Tampa Bay Bucs.

Here is how Steele predicts the league to shake out:

1. USF

2. Louisville

3. Rutgers

4. Pitt

4. Cincinnati

6. UConn

7. Syracuse

8. Temple

For those wondering, Steele had Pitt winning the Big East and going to the BCS in 2010 and 2011.

Steele has an incredible amount of information in his preview, and I will fill you in on more in the coming weeks. His 2012 College Football Preview hits newsstands June 5.